The other day, I had the privilege of watching the television while a smarmy Muslim condescendingly downplayed the significance of the 9/11 mosque controversy. His argument consisted of something along the lines of “Is this what our national dialogue has been reduced to?” As though almost to say that Americans were too culturally insensitive and bigoted to allow the building of a mosque which would overlook Ground Zero. And to be sure, most people who support the building of the mosque adopt this pompous position, pretending that if we truly are tolerant and accepting of other cultures, we should be able to accept the building of an Islamic temple over a building ruined by an Islamically-motivated mass-murder. Surely, they argue, we are beyond squabblings and sensitivities, and we should be able to just accept cohabitation with other cultures.
It is this attitude which precisely highlights the problem with the doctrine of tolerance. While those who accept a multicultural postmodern perspective agree that acceptance must hypothetically occur amongst all in a racially diverse and religiously pluralistic society, the logical mechanics of tolerance suggest that the direction of tolerance can only exist toward one group in any clash of cultures. (more…)