In a speech delivered at New York’s 9/11 Memorial Museum Tuesday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Americans that there is significant support for Islamic extremists and their beliefs among Muslims around the world.

Blair said that while the majority of Muslims “detest extremism,” the percentage that harbor “dangerous” religious prejudice is still large and would have to be rooted out if the threat of Islamic violence were to be quelled.

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“The conspiracy theories which illuminate much of the jihadi writings have significant support even amongst parts of the mainstream population of some Muslim countries,” said Blair.

“There are millions of schoolchildren every day in countries round the world – not just in the Middle East – who are taught a view of the world and of their religion which is narrow-minded, prejudicial and therefore, in the context of a globalized world, dangerous.”

Blair also said that attempts to attack Islam’s prejudicial ideas may be considered to be attacks on all Muslims — not just attacks on extremists — but that those concerns have to be overcome in order to address the issue.

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“If large numbers of people really do believe that the desire of the USA or the west is to disrespect or oppress Islam, then it is not surprising that some find recourse to violence acceptable in order to reassert the ‘dignity’ of the oppressed,” he said.

“If young people are educated that Jews are evil or that anyone who holds a different view of religion is an enemy, it is obvious that this prejudice will give rise, in certain circumstances, to action in accordance with it.

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“The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential part of fighting extremism.”

By James Haleavy