Blair: We must 'root out teaching that inspires hatred or hostility'

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El GhanyFormer PM Tony Blair is advocating for stronger teaching on cross-cultural respect around the world

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged schools across the globe to teach "the virtue of religious respect".

In an article for the BBC News Knowledge Economy series, Blair argues that "education is a security issue", and without a commitment to fostering respect and understanding between children of different faiths, we risk "worsening ideology in the long term".

His call comes in response to the latest crisis in the Middle East, as Islamic State (IS) continues to enforce a radical Islamic agenda. Young people in particular – even those from the West – are being encouraged to join the jihadi cause.

"There is no doubt that force is needed to confront a group like Isis; it is a group of people who fight without hesitation, kill without mercy and die without regret. of the most important questions this generation of leaders faces [is]: how we uproot the thinking of the extremists, not simply disrupt their actions," Blair writes.

"Because unless we begin to confront the underlying causes each time we take on a group like Isis another will quickly arise to take its place."

Blair, whose Faith Foundation was set up to help counter religious prejudice, contends that millions of children around the world are taught daily "a view of the world that is hostile to those of different beliefs".

"They [schools] teach a view of the world that warps young and unformed minds, and places them in a position of tension with those who think differently," he says.

"The challenge we face is to show young people who are vulnerable to appeals from terrorists that there is a better path to having their voice heard; that the only future that works is one in which people are respected as equals, whatever their faith or their culture."

He is calling for "incubators of radicalism" to be countered by "honesty and openness".

Blair says: "All the fighting will be for nothing if we leave this process of the generational deformation of the mind undisturbed, at the same time as we spend billions on security relationships to counter the very threat we allow to be created.

"This should be a common global obligation...Nations should feel the pressure to promote respect and to eradicate disrespect."

Blair's words have been echoed in an article written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, published in Prospect Magazine today.

Archbishop Justin Welby argues that conflicts around the world "have to be tackled ideologically" and that force alone will not end the violence currently plaguing the Middle East and elsewhere.

"Religious leaders must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space. Religious justifications of violence must be robustly refuted," he writes.

"That is, in part, a theological task, as well as being a task that recognises the false stimulation, evil sense of purpose and illusory fulfilment that deceive young men and women into becoming religious warriors.

"The aim of our violence must be to prevent the alteration of facts on the ground, and to establish safe space. Defending ourselves through air power is both unlikely to succeed and questionable in its long-term effect."