Nigel Nelson says we should listen to Tony Blair when he says religion is at the heart of most conflict

Readers of a nervous disposition who wince at the sound of loud noises should look away now.

That’s because I’m going to say something complimentary about Tony Blair, and nowadays indulging that kind of heresy provokes howls of blood-curdling outrage.

I’m not talking about the ex-PM’s self-serving guff justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq which was as shameful as the shambles it created.

But I do think TB is right when he says almost all the world’s conflicts have religion at the heart of them. He set up his Faith Foundation to study this.

Western leaders who come from backgrounds where religion plays little part make a huge error in believing a political solution is all that’s needed to end a crisis.

We know that this very scary bloodletting in Iraq is mostly about differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

But so it is in Syria and Libya. Wars in Yugoslavia and Chechnya had a religious dimension, as did an earlier one in Northern Ireland.

And if Israelis and Palestinians are ever to live peaceably together Jews and Muslims must learn to do so too.

So by failing to fully appreciate the impact religious hatreds have on disputes we miss finding the right long-term answers to them.

The essential difference between Muslims is that Shias believe the prophet Muhammad’s successors should come from within his family while Sunnis don’t.

This may seem a triffling matter to non-Muslims, and certainly no reason to saw off someone’s head.

But in the Middle Ages Protestants and Catholics burnt each other at the stake and launched vicious wars for something seemingly more trivial – the status of a drop of wine and a lump of bread.

Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity. So perhaps violent fanaticism is part of religion’s evolution. And Muslims are going through now what Christians did then.

If only Tony Blair stuck to the problems of the present instead of excusing himself for the mistakes of the past he might get his message through.

This country has largely turned its back on religious belief. But our security depends on guarding our backs from those who haven’t.

And it’s not heresy to say so.—3737183#ixzz35IxwIwaH


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