Tony Blair recently proclaimed, "I regularly read the Koran, practically every day." He further opined that the Islamic prophet Mohammed had been "an enormously civilizing force."
What to make of this? Getting beyond the knee-jerk revulsion to such comments, it may on balance be a good thing that Blair is apparently studying up on Islam. After all, many of our current problems can be traced to a failure of Western policy makers to grasp the basic tenets of Islam. For example, in explaining US support for jihadis in Afghanistan against the Soviets, Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter's National Security Advisor), poo-pooed any suggestion that Islamic fundamentalism poses a threat to the West:
Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.
Similarly, Israel supported Hamas in its early days, in an ill-advised attempt to create a counterweight to Arafat and the PLO.
Underlying these boneheaded decisions was a total failure to understand that Islam is not merely a religion in the Western sense, but rather an all-encompassing belief system that divides the world into two "Houses" -- the House of Islam and the House of Unbelievers -- and requires Muslims to wage an ongoing jihad against the unbelievers until they either convert to Islam or submit to Islamic law. While not all Muslims subscribe to these principles, the jihadis surely do, and their position is not without support in Islam. So when a fellow as bright as Tony Blair tell us he reads the Koran every day, it is logical to expect that he may be getting a clue.
But the smart money is otherwise. Not only is Blair's description of Mohammed as "an enormously civilizing force" something of a bad sign, but so is Blair's ardently pro-Palestinian wife, Cherrie Blair, who undoubtedly influences him. But probably the most sure-fire sign that Blair's study of Islam will not lead him to speak more plainly about its fundamentally militaristic nature is that, as Middle Envoy for the UN, Blair is now increasingly traveling in "internationalist" circles, which almost inevitably leads individuals to toe the Saudi-funded line on the nature of Islam and its attendant real-world implications.
What is the long-term solution? It's a cliche, but the obvious point is that we need to end our (and therefore the world's) dependence on oil. Until that happens, the discourse on Islam, and the policies we puruse with Muslim nations, can never be disentangled from the fact that Muslims control the global supply of energy.