Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Multiculturalism And The Tolerance of Hate

Irshad Manji, in today's NY Times:
As Westerners bow down before multiculturalism, we anesthetize ourselves into believing that anything goes. We see our readiness to accommodate as a strength - even a form of cultural superiority (though few will admit that). Radical Muslims, on the other hand, see our inclusive instincts as a form of corruption that makes us soft and rudderless. They believe the weak deserve to be vanquished.

Paradoxically, then, the more we accommodate to placate, the more their contempt for our "weakness" grows. And ultimate paradox may be that in order to defend our diversity, we'll need to be less tolerant. Or, at the very least, more vigilant. And this vigilance demands more than new antiterror laws. It requires asking: What guiding values can most of us live with? Given the panoply of ideologies and faiths out there, what filter will distill almost everybody's right to free expression?

Neither the watery word "tolerance" nor the slippery phrase "mutual respect" will cut it as a guiding value. Why tolerate violent bigotry? Where's the "mutual" in that version of mutual respect? Amin Maalouf, a French-Arab novelist, nailed this point when he wrote that "traditions deserve respect only insofar as they are respectable - that is, exactly insofar as they themselves respect the fundamental rights of men and women."