Friday, September 10, 2010

Anything but Liberal

Susan Jacoby on Multiculturalism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
I find myself in a lonely place in relation to many liberals, political and religious, because I cannot accept a multiculturalism that tends to excuse, under the rubric of “tolerance,” religious and cultural practices that violate universal human rights...
I do not agree with everything Hirsi Ali has to say — about Islam or the United States — but I strongly agree with the essential point she makes in Nomad:
Here is something I have learned the hard way, but which a lot of well-meaning people in the West have a hard time accepting: All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not. A culture that celebrates femininity and considers women to be the masters of their own lives is better than a culture that mutilates girls’ genitals and confines them behind walls and veils or flogs and stones them for falling in love. . . . The culture of the Western Enlightenment is better. (italics in the original)
It is understandable that American liberals, and particularly religious liberals, are wary of anyone who makes negative public judgments about other faiths. There is a long history of disrespect for various minority cultures and religions in America, although the Constitution and the First Amendment — products of Enlightenment secularism and Enlightenment-influenced religion — have (usually) stopped the disrespect from turning into bloodshed..
But it is one thing to recognize the legal right of all Americans to believe whatever they want and quite another to maintain that all belief systems are compatible with democracy. In a free society, religion should be no more immune to criticism than atheism, and the First Amendment does not give anyone carte blanche to violate secular law in the name of faith. This crucial distinction applies to all religions, not only to Islam.'
More here.

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