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Tolerance and Democracy

Expanding upon your diverse comments regarding Bill Moyers' interview with Bruce Bawer, consider these two arguments from the blog discussion:

Posted by: Toscha | May 19, 2007 01:11 PM: is beyond hypocritical to criticize an ideology or faith that is, according to you, anti-democracy, and then turn around and state that democratic freedoms (to say, vote for your elected representatives) should not be extended to people who profess this faith or ideology! Bawer holds democratic values as the end all be all, but in the same breath admits these values do not work when it comes to a certain segment of the population. Democracy means giving everyone a voice and adequate information and accepting the will of the people. Not, giving everyone who agrees with you a voice and ensuring the will of the people reflects your values.

Posted by: M. Costello | May 19, 2007 09:16 PM:

It should be noted that Muslims are quick to insist on their rights in Europe, but equally quick, and in large numbers to denounce others who exercise those rights. The Danish cartoons episode is but one example of this. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is ok, except when criticism of Islam is involved. Such is the Muslim notion of democracy at work, and such is the notion of Muslim democracy.

What do you think?

-Can democracies ever be too tolerant of other cultures and their beliefs?
-When, if ever, does tolerance become appeasement?

Photo: Robin Holland


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- When, if ever, does tolerance become appeasement?

I would hazard this response: That it is a matter of the intention made in the action.

As for the notion of tolerance, as such may be expressed within the context of a fundamentally democratic society, I think it is typified in the original statement[1], "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I suppose, it is a matter of principle.

[1] attributed, perhaps incorrectly, to Voltaire, and variously translated

Values they do define so strictly nonunderstandably, they express them as principles of decency, but these are the goats on both sides of every religion, the institutions full of goats while the sheep in their own little temples cannot abide by this.

Good folks get run over by the judgmental laws and punishments twisted into the sacrifice that the sheeps' God said he neither desires nor seeks, mercy is hard to make into a law, but I suspect it is missing from these values.

You all keep your faith in reason and your right to be and say what you wish, regardless of values imposed by secret harlots pretending to be white robed leaders for the decency of Allah, God, and the Red White and Blue (Now they gots those powerful men in blue who once tortured me for three days to show me that words they spoke to me "You have the right to remain silent" mean nothing, but I showed them what this means, and found the truth that maks brave men die free. Plus it improved my pen.

Just sending a short one in poetic form to get to my points quicker. Good luck and stand together on that merciful side every time you see the goats bleating about stoning the whore or removing the rights of queers, Islams and atheists.

(From a real Christian, who married a beautiful atheist and have lived in happy peace by avoiding values or sacrifice, but rather do as I was told and seek mercy, tolerance, patience, love, and heed the warning to hold a very strong suspicion there is a wooden beam in my eye. I surely cannot see all your splinters, if they be, and wish you well).

-When, if ever, does tolerance become appeasement?

When it goes against your your own best interst. the best example I can come up with is the example of global warming. The fact we, as a society, still insist on dumping all manner of hamfull polutants into our air and water which we know is harming us, our childeren, and our future grandchildren. We do this because of the fear put in us that it will harm our economy or our lifestyles. This is a pathetic reason not to clean up our act.

-Can democracies ever be too tolerant of other cultures and their beliefs?

First off I don't beleive a demcracy is a free society. I beleive that a democracy has a tendency to be a "mob-rule system". There are benifits to this, but I think this it a distinction that has been forgotten/ignored far too often in our Republic. I beleive that the only case in which a free society can be too tolerant of any of it's sub-cultures is when that sub-culture is at such extreme odds with the main culture that it induces violence within the society. I beleive that this logic can also be used when measuring an external threat.

How can you initiate democracy, in a Middle Eastern country where the majority of residents honestly believe that "Allah" chooses better leaders than elections would choose? You can't. If you give the people the right to vote, they'll just vote it away.

How can you maintain democracy, in a Western country where the majority of residents honestly believe that "God" would choose better leaders than elections can choose? You can't. No matter how hard you fight for democracy, the anti-democratic majority will just throw it away.

In America we seem to have a substantial minority, between 20% and 30%, who believe that Bush was chosen by God and therefore it doesn't matter that he lost both elections. If this anti-democratic minority grows past 50%, America's democracy will be a thing of the past.

I don't live in Europe, and I haven't read Bawer's book, so I don't agree or disagree with his claim that a rapidly growing minority of Europeans do not want democracy. It doesn't strike me as an implausible claim, however, especially since I've seen so much anti-democracy sentiment here in America. I do agree that if European countries can delay or prevent the end of their democracy by limiting the immigration of people who want theocracy, then they should do so.

"Religions are now and have always been, businesses and, as such, are no better nor different from any other corporations and trans-nationals in that all are dictatorships and none are in any form: democracies." Al Buono

Your point is well taken, Al. One of the things that troubles me as a pastor about some of the established Christian ministries in the North American evangelical world is that they are passed on from father to son just like the local bakery or tire store used to be.

I note that Jerry Falwell's son(s) are now ensconsced at both Liberty U and TR Baptist Church. Franklin Graham succeeds Billy at BGEA (prompting TIME mag a few years ago to say "Franklin takes over the family business.") Michael Schuler takes over for Robert at the Crystal Cathedral. Here in Canada, Ron Mainse has taken over the 100 Huntley Street TV empire from his father, David.

I'm troubled by the perception that arises from this kind of "passing of the torch." What are the assumptions behind such? What are the financial realities behind such? Who guards against the prospective abuses inherent in such deals?

In my view, such d'vpments add to the growing credibility problem that is facing North American Christianity.

"Religions are now and have always been, businesses and, as such, are no better nor different from any other corporations and trans-nationals in that all are dictatorships and none are in any form: democracies." Al Buono

Your point is well taken, Al. One of the things that troubles me as a pastor about some of the established Christian ministries in the North American evangelical world is that they are passed on from father to son just like the local bakery or tire store used to be.

I note that Jerry Falwell's son(s) are now ensconsced at both Liberty U and TR Baptist Church. Franklin Graham succeeds Billy at BGEA (prompting TIME mag a few years ago to say "Franklin takes over the family business.") Michael Schuler takes over for Robert at the Crystal Cathedral. Here in Canada, Ron Mainse has taken over the 100 Huntley Street TV empire from his father, David.

I'm troubled by the perception that arises from this kind of "passing of the torch." What are the assumptions behind such? What are the financial realities behind such? Who guards against the prospective abuses inherent in such deals?

In my view, such d'vpments add to the growing credibility problem that is facing North American Christianity.

Democracy ain't really democracy unless is provides protections for the minority. It is not simply the "will of the people." We agree in this country, well let's say in theory we agree in this country, that no law may violate the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

We are able to have democracy within the Constitutional protections, it is not a free for all, nor would we want it to be. It is a necessary condition to extend rights, not just tolerance, to those you disagree to participate in democracy. If you want the right to believe what you believe, you must not try to impose your believes through violence or other types of corrosion on others.

I think a lot of people see a very stark duality of views that you're allowed to have: one is a boundlessly 'free' and 'open' attitude that ALL views and opinions and cultures and peoples and religions, etc. are healthy and necessary for the continued thriving of a Democracy. Basically, everything is allowed, and let everything in. Openness no matter what is the key idea here. The other opinion is a sort of tribalistic, close-minded, xenophobic and isolationist view, that is suspicious of ALL new ideas, philosophies, cultures, etc. Here, NOTHING new is allowed, and things remain static and conservative in a very deadlocked sense. Closed Off is the key idea here.
I think neither of these two opposing viewpoints really represents the proper path to a healthy and sustainable Democratic system, whether its at the level of a family, a village, a city, a region or a nation. A lot of times if you ever dare to put forth the idea that perhaps some particular ideas are genuinely harmful to the continued survival of democratic ideals, or that a particular culture has elements of it that are so relentlessly close-minded and authoritarian that it can mean a lot of bad influence on a society trying to follow Democracy, a lot of people will be taken aback and say to you "What are you? Some kind of racist or xenophobe? How could you possibly be so [fill in the blank here]-phobic?"
On the other hand, people with a rigidly conservative and static mindset, thinking that all outside and new and changing influences (and life is all change) are bad, and things MUST be kept the same, will be taken aback when you propose turning over and even getting rid of long-held and deeply held beliefs and values, saying to you "What kind of person are you? Do you have no morality or ethics or sense of yourself?"
An element of each of those responses is true, but Democracy is much more balanced and complicated than these two polar opposites of "Everything is okay, let everything in" and "Nothing new is okay, keep everything out".
To me, the idea of Democracy, REAL Democracy, is an equal and open discussion of What is good and healthful for the community AS A WHOLE. Not as individuals, but as a whole. Of course, individuals are to the community as cells are to a body, so if they aren't happy and healthy and made to feel needed and welcome, the community hurts. This sort of philosophy might be called 'Ecology as Democracy', or 'Democracy as Ecology'. Our community, whatever we may define it as, is an ecosystem, so what can we do to make sure is sustains itself in the future, for the benifit and health of all its life into the future? I think if we start from that reasoned viewpoint, instead of this kind of 'Jihad versus McWorld' extreme debate (as Benjamin Barber has termed it), we will be able to make better and more truly Democratic decisions about what is good for our community, what is not so good, what we want to keep in, what we want to keep out, and so forth.

It is not at all "hypocritical" to speak out against the horrors chronicled by Bruce Bawer and many others. Bawer's input into this incredibly important debate is crucial for the rest of the world to become aware of this pending nightmare.

We are frogs in a boiling pot of water. Some of us are jumping up and down, while others are trying to keep those of us who can feel the heat from getting out of the pot.

We in the free world MUST wake up, or we will end up like Europe. Some of us could have told Mr. Bawer about this situation before he left the American shores for what was a sad pipe dream.

Acharya S


My experience with conservative Christians is that they are by in large, not opposed to mass slaughter and cluster bombs. And then they will tell you that it was all in the name of the Lord.

Onward Christian Soldiers. Give me a break! Save your charity for the innocent Iraqi orphans whose parents, brothers and sisters have been murdered by soldiers of many faiths.

You have yet to convince me that religious conservative/fundamentalists, regardless of their faith, are not narrow minded, intolerant, self righteous and violent.

The "Political Christian Right" has hijacked Jesus and ignored his teachings.

I am not nearly so articulate and clear thinking as Morgaine Swann and Ralph Davis. I do agree with Morgaine, that we need a lot less faith and a lot more doubt. I think I am a bit more optimistic than Ralph.

We should be looking for ways to create paths of dialogue between all conservative/fundamentalist religions instead of finding ways to denigrate and dehumanize each other.

Violence begets violence. Help us break the chain.

Whad'a'ya say Rick where should we begin. C'mon, suggest something.

I would like to suggest that we all visit a Mosque and invite the Imam and ten of his parishioners to join with ten Christians and/or Jews to share a meal. Can you set that up for us Rick.

Blessings and peace to you and yours,

George, I think you may be looking in the wrong dictionary. The actual definition of religious conservative is closer to "someone who holds to the traditional beliefs of his or her faith." This definition applies equally to conservative Christians and Muslims, but there are some key differences between the two. For example, besides the whole Jesus being the Son of God thing, Christians don't typically go around committing mass murder at the direction of their religious leaders with the expectation that they'll end up in Heaven being serviced by 72 virgins. And I'll bet that you won't find a full quarter of the conservative Christian population in the US believing there are circumstances in which suicide bombings are acceptable as is the case with American Muslims. Conservative Christians tend to be interested in more peaceful pursuits such as contributing massive quantities of their time and money (according to a recent Syracuse University study more than anyone else) to charitable causes that try to bring an end to suffering in the world. Now, I know that for practitioners of the art of moral equivalency such as you and Bill Moyers, this may be a fine distinction between the two belief systems. But I think the rest of us can tell the difference between the true religion of peace and a religion of hate and violence.

The irony that any open, secular and democratic society is being threatened by religious conservative/ extremist abuse because of it's liberal tolerance of religious diversity and political freedom will apparently largely define our future.

Religious contradictions to secular principles and economic realities, ( imagine Christ as Capitalist ), unless addressed in rational, national dialog, will inevitably result in persecution, repression and violence.

Things that Islam and Christianity have in common, beyond their lineage to Abraham and their penchant for periodic brutality, is their inability to distinguish belief from knowledge, and their fear driven, self serving sucking up to an absurdly vindictive and violent God. It's a convenience for the manipulations of political ideologues.

As long as these accepted notions of our "spiritual" origin persist, until we're willing to face our profound ignorance with calm humility, we're destined to suffer while we learn.

Perhaps it's just our lot. The universe, as we see it, is a rather slam bang event.

In my haste to write, I made errors in my previous post and wish to correct and simplify with this new post.

In a democracy of freedom or equality, we must never tolerate inequality. It must always be opposed not with hatred, anger, or violence, but with compassion and love. To love all things equally, no matter the uncertain measured differences we think of others, is our salvation. Nature's truth of equality has the power on it's own, to someday with patience, unite and make all things one.


Morgain Swann-thank you for your excellent comment. I agree wholeheartedly. Or I should say I think I agree.
"The last thing we need in this world right now is faith. We need doubt, and lots of it."

The conflict we are having in the world right now is not a conflict between religions. Islam and Christianity have the same source, being variations of the Abrahamist belief. They are no more different than Christianity and Mormonism, which also has a book of revelation that succeeded the teachings attributed to Jesus, while building upon that foundation.

The problem is Fundamentalism, which is a thought process rather than a belief system. Anyone can be a fundamentalist - even an atheist. People go through roughly 3 stages of moral development. Reward and punishment drives a young child. Around 8-10, morality is derived from an external source: "It's the LAW!" "Those are the RULES!" "It's in the Bible/Koran/Torah." This stage is typified by concrete thinking and loves absolutes and clear dichotomies - white/black, love/hate, good/evil. Most people never outgrow this stage, though we theoretically have the capacity to do so in our late teens.

The third stage involves the capacity for abstract thought. That ability allows the individual to consider that either they, or their external authority, might be mistaken. People in the second stage are extremely threatened by the suggestion that their source of authority might be fallable. Their entire world concept depends on concrete rules, even when those rules are not actually in the sacred book of their choosing. They'll defend their misconceptions with their lives.

There is no basis in the Bible for discrimination against gays nor any prohibition of abortion, but many Christians don't know that. There is nothing in the Koran that allows or encourages women to wear the hijab or the burka. The Koran states that women should be educated as men are, so why is the Taliban tearing down girls' schools? Why is Richard Gere in trouble for kissing an Indian woman when nothing in any scripture anywhere prohibits kissing? They assume that these prohibitions, which are really only based on someone's opinion, are justified in their external authority, but they aren't.

People in the second stage often don't actually read their religious texts, or if they do, they don't have the education or the context to understand them. Notice that the Christian fundamentalists hate Liberals for their "moral relativism" - that's just another way of saying that Liberals can question authority, and entertain the thought that they might be wrong.

The last thing we need in this world right now is faith. We need doubt, and lots of it. A person with enough distance from an idea that they can allow that it might be wrong doesn't go to extremes. You aren't going to strap a bomb to yourself, kill a filmmaker, or even pass a draconian law if you know that you might be mistaken in your beliefs.

The whole concept of our government is that none of us can claim to have absolute moral authority. You can believe you do, but as an American, you agree to act from a rational base that assumes equality for all in the public sphere. Can we ever be too tolerant? Of belief, no. Of behavior, yes. A politician who tries to undermine the Constitution they took an oath to defend is not fit for office and should be removed. It doesn't matter if he took that action based on his religion - it matters that he has violated the social contract that holds America together. That's not discrimination - it's justice.

Right now, we have people violating their oaths and their responsibilities as Americans in droves. The military is supposed to protect the Constitution, not George Bush. So why, when he breaks the law, have they not stepped in to stop him? Why has Congress not acted on his numerous illegal actions? Why are we allowing him to seize unprecedented powers with virtually no opposition?

Christians are now complaining that they are being oppressed, but the truth is that they have been oppressive for 2,000 years. No one is trying to give them less freedom than anyone else. They have had an unfair advantage that we are now trying to eliminate so that everyone has equal treatment. They are pitching a fit - no one with special privileges wants to lose their advantage - because the playing field is becoming more fair.

The question we are faced with is how to move a majority of people into a higher level of cognitive and moral functioning. How do you give an entire nation, or religious sect, critical thinking skills? How do you convince a zealot that they might be wrong? I don't know how to do that, but I do know that until it happens, we need to get those people out of positions of power and away from weapons they can use against people who don't agree with them. Civilization depends on it.

In a democracy of freedom or equality, tolorance of indifference or inequality must be opposed. Not with hatred, anger, or violence, but only with compassion or love. The love of all things equally no matter the uncertain measured difference of belief, is our salvation. The freedom of equality has the power on it's own, to someday with patience, unite or make all thing one.


"...linking of Christian conservatives with Islamist fundamentalism is feckless and just plain mean;"

With all due respect, Rick, religious conservatism/fundamentalism of any stripe, by definition, is myopic, rigid and intolerant.

excellent. fantastic. true. If you are not gay, be quiet because you have no idea what that reality is.

I really enjoyed the piece on the growing problem of religious intolerance on the part of European Muslims; however, I would like to take issue with one statement made by Mr. Bawer. While I don't deny that Jesus loved everyone, I think it is ahistorical to claim that a first century religious Jew would find homosexuality acceptable. Otherwise, Mr. Bawer's comments were right on target. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about Mr. Moyers. His linking of Christian conservatives with Islamist fundamentalism is feckless and just plain mean; and, by the way, regardless of one's opinion of the late Jerry Falwell, the man is dead. Mr. Moyers should heed his mother's advice about not speaking ill of such people. It's tacky.

The American immigrant to Europe Bruce Bawer needs to wake up and smell his hypocrisy! Mr. Bawer, an American, who is in Europe, it seems as a gay rights asylum seeker, would have us believe that multi cultural Europe, is being invaded and destroyed by what he considers its very anti-thesis i.e. the enclaves of anti multi cultural Muslim immigrants. His solution to his perceived threat to Europe's multi culturalism which he admires is for Europe to become less multi cultural. His solution to the threat faced by Europe's multi culturalism is to stop being multi cultural and to expel Muslims. His reasoning is that Muslims--are defined by the Koran--and the Koran is the anti thesis of multi cultuarlism.

Mr. Bawer points to the inability of Muslims to integrate into European mainstream society as evidence of Koranic teachings. He therefore having accused the Koran itself--makes all Muslims problematic---forget the few extremists. So there is no conversation, no room for dialogue or debate. He does not need to explore whether Europe's multi-culturalism idealism of today is something evolved of many opposing ideas solved through inclusion and not through the expulsion that Mr. Bawer advocates. To make his far reaching accusations to cover an entire creed, religion and many cultures--he takes into focus a few specific cases. He points particularly to the murder of the Director Theo Van Gogh by a muslim fanatic who was angry with the film "Submission" made by Van Gogh in collaboration with the Somalian Ayan Hirsi a film in which Ms. Hirsi projects the tribal customs of Somalia in which she grew up and thrived until she left and that interpretation Islam onto all of Islamdom of 1.2 billion people and of course the Koran and the Prophet. Bawer,does not surprisingly focus on the assassination of the Dutch politician Pym Fortuyn, hugely popular and winning from Rotterdam (majority Muslim city) who was openly homosexual and was murdered by a Dutch animal rights activist. And Mr. Bawer points to the enraged mobs of Muslims shown on television in Europe and around the world when cartoons of Mohammed were published in Denmark and France. He does not consider the law in Denmark that makes ridicule of Jesus a crime---or the law in Europe as a whole which makes denial of the holocaust a crime. Therefore what we protect as sacred is multi culturalism--what you regard as sacred is a crime.
Let's take a pause here--and focus on Europe's long tradition of multiculturalism. Mr. Bawer glibly talks about a tradition of hundreds of years of multi culturalism in Europe. How long has Europe been multi cultural? What happened there 12 years ago in South East Europe-with the ethnic cleansing in the ex-Yugoslavia-what happened in Europe 60 years ago with the Holocaust with the killing of Jews and Romas and other percieved "Outsiders"; and the death of 20 million Russians? And what happened in Europe over the hundreds of years of Mr. Bawer's so called multi culturalism. And that was in Europe. Inquisition and witch burning. Not so many years ago. And what did Europeans do all over the world in those hundreds of years? Or rather up till less then fifty to a hundred years ago--Belgium in the Congo--Holland, in Indonesia the bastion of multi culturalism in Bawer's view; France, in Algeria, Germany--in South Africa and in Europe, Britain in 80 percent of the world including India, China, Middle East and Africa and the country now called the United States; and Spain in South America. And the inquisition? And what was the role of his chosen place of asylum Norway during the multi cultural anti Semitic proceeding of 60 years ago. Never mind.
He places homosexuality as his prism as lead indicator for testing a socieity's multi culturalism. He is right. Yet he does not seem to be interested in seeing the discrimination towards himself as a means for empathizing or trying to go beyond easy anwsers and recriminations. Perhaps his inability to empathize come from more then just being an idiot and may be becaues the discrimination he may have faced--may not have been significant--white, male, educated, middle class, christian as he is. He does not seek to view the root cause of his own acceptability in Europe as Europe's long journey through understanding root causes of real threats and perceived threats. He seems to take Europe's multi culturalism as a fact in itself and part of its creed always. History plays no role in his analysis. Policies hold no interest for him.
Policies, for example which marginalized people and created anger and myths. And which created terrible consequences and retaliations. For example why did Europe consider a particular group as a cause for the Bubonic plague. The answer may lie in social and economic policies--emanating from deeply held prejudices that then had consequences that happen when people live in "enclaves" inhuman conditions in ghettos--or are only allowed access to certain sectors of the economy--the consequences only provided for evidence to further the prejudice and bigotry

As long as the discussion of competing values assumes that those values are necessarily foundational or ontological, then I don't see how the values clash (between the right to be open and tolerant versus the right to be closed and intolerant) can be resolved.

If, instead, you take a more modest view of our "rights" as constructed rights, based on cultural preferences that may or may not have some foundational grounding, then it is much easier to say that we won't allow closed, intolerant views to flourish.

This somewhat skeptical view towards rights, however, just isn't an option even for a person like Bruce Bawer since he sees his particular religion as being foundational.

The way I see it, if you're not into equal protection under the law, freedom of speech, negative freedom, one-man-one-vote, majority rule/minority rights, etc. for EVERYONE, you should avoid taking up residence in liberal democracies. Now there's plenty of room within those limitations for cultural variation; no one's telling any group they have to change all their traditions. But we have recourse for dealing with people who disagree fundamentally with how society is organized: they're called laws. The threefold choice for members of foreign cultures is the same as for everyone else: you can follow the law of the land, violate it and accept your punishment, or pack up and head for a place where the laws are more to your liking.

Dear Bill,

Bruce Bawer’s view is very exaggerated, in my humble opinion. I am another American in Norway and have witnessed so much prejudice and racism against foreigners, those from Middle East in particular. Just look up “Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen” on the net and read how they forced her to resign from her post as the director of immigration office here.

I do not advocate Islam or any other religion and despise fundamentalism. However, I would never offend other’s believes or draw a caricature of their respected figures no matter how much I disagree with them.

I now look forward to your program every week and am grateful that is available on line.

Kind regards

another american in Norway

Our own society has struggled with the question of who shall share equal rights under the constitution. In the last 50 years we have made great strides in the notion of inclusive diversity. All people are equal under the law. Though it can be demonstrated that "equal justice" still includes racial bias, the ultimate democratic, socially equal, just and tolerant, democracy has yet to be achieved. The work goes on and the goal is reachable. I am optimistic and confident.

If Islamic women are allowed equality and still (by secret ballot) welcome their own enslavement, I would be willing to accept that my views are in the minority and I have a lot of lobbying to do.

If Sharia law were established in the U.S. (As it could be. I believe that governments are established by the will of the governed majority. It would be only an extremely remote possibility) I would have to locate to a country whose government would tolerate my views or die here in the revolution for equal rights.

I think it's ridiculous to make statements attributing a particular viewpoint to a group as large and diverse as the Muslims. There isn't a single Muslim notion of democracy. Much of the conflict within Muslim societies is over the idea of Islamic governance and what that should be. M. Costello would be better served if he wrote "those Muslims who ..." than to make blanket charges against an entire faith. Looking at the statements of a James Dobson, am I entitled to attribute homophobia to all Christians?

Unsurprisingly then, I side with Toscha, and agree that such hypocrisy is unacceptable. If, as US public diplomacy asserts, we believe in exporting our values (freedom & democracy), then we have to tolerate different expressions of those values. True democracy in Egypt might be expressed in the form of a Muslim Brotherhood-led regime, in place of the personal authoritarian rule of Mubarak. We have to realize that assuming the power and responsibility of government tends to change ideologues into pragmatists, and that it's better to tolerate the risk of rule by imams in Egypt than to continue to support a brutal dictator, thus undermining these values we profess to believe in so much that we have to bring their benefits to the rest of the world. But it can't just be when it's convenient. When the State Department asks the government of Qatar not to air a historical TV mini-series about the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet occupation, an act inconceivable in the United States, it undermines our position on freedom of speech in other countries. Every time we act to undermine our public rhetoric, we not only diminish the credibility of the current Administration, but of the ideas themselves. The Bush Doctrine has given democracy a bad name in the Middle East, a fact we will have to work with and against for decades after he's left office.

While I agree with Mr. Bawer in a general sense though I think he does cast a net too wide, as the Economist remarked.

In today's two minute news bite world, only those with the loudest voice or violent action get heard on the MSM. Moderate Muslims are out there. We just need to stop giving voice to the extremists and listen/empower the moderates.

So many things feed the flames of extremism. We need to fan the flames of the true Muslims, those that seek justice, equality, security and a better life for their children.

I hope Bill Moyers will soon bring Riane Eisler into this discussion. She has long posed the Domination/Control---Partnership/Respect continuum as an analytical tool to help sort out which cultural practices (including our own) lend themselves to a humane world and which do not. If "majority rule" is considered the epitome of democracy and a majority wants to dominate and subordinate women or commit other crimes against humanity, then the pedestal on which democracy sits needs some serious re-thinking. Eisler's continuum provides a useful tool for sifting through the issues of differing cultural practices.

The Islamic system is one of coercion and fear and intolerance. If Muslims refuse to adapt to a free society, they need to be expelled. This capitulation is a dangerous thing, because it invites the rise of fascists and racists. Moslems need to rise and fight against this oppression.

I think Bill entirely ignored the context of Bruce's vantage point. I'd like Bruce to write his next book about Israel in the European experience. For example, successive German governments say they have an historical obligation to Jews due to the Holocaust that creates a special relationship with Israel, to the extent that a few years ago a Syrian immigrant was expelled from the German parliament and his own party for comparing IDF tactics to Nazi tactics. He, a Semite, was condemned for anti-semitism for demanding human rights for Semites. There seems to remain a deep identity crisis in Europe about, as the Pope says, its Christian identity, or vice versa. My experience of Muslims in the US is that they generally can't wait to escape the imam's clutches, well-meaning or not, but are driven there when the wider society turns overtly against them: Maine Muslims are predominantly Somali: what are they supposed to think when the US sponsors the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia?

Tolerance is extending freedom to others. Appeasement is when you restrict your own freedoms to avoid offending others.

We already have plenty of appeasement on the books in America; there are plenty of laws about public displays of what some people consider to be obscene, for instance. The question that we need to ask ourselves is: how much appeasement do we want to have in our society? Where do you draw the line between banning public nudity and requiring that women wear headscarves?

Religions are now and have always been, businesses and, as such, are no better nor different from any other corporations and trans-nationals in that all are dictatorships and none are in any form: democracies.
They are top down autocracies, ruled by one person plus a board, all humans whose goals are growth and wealth at all costs; who manipulate with often esoteric ruses and control with self-serving laws and ritual diversions from truth by the insistence on faith. They are a controlling force, market driven and extremely competitive, in which the will and any true direct participation of the common, unordained people is the least consideration.

I had a hard time with this. One of the challenges of a pluralistic society is how to allow people with different values to express those values without trampling the rights of others.

Being both democratic and pluralistics raises a greater challenge. What happens when a majority is able to impose its views on the minority? Obviously this happens all the time. But what if the majority wants to overturn democratic principals? According to "the majority rules" they should be able to...

It seems then you need a strong supreme court to protect the principals of democracy which are in your nation's constitution (or the equivalent). Of course, eventually it may be possible to populate the court with enough "anti-democrats" that this protection would go away.

How is Israel going to deal with the fact that its Arab population (i.e. Israeli citizens of Palestinian or other Arab descent) is projected by demographers to become the majority in the next few decades? What if they then want to turn over the occupied territories back to thje Arabs? How will the US react when Hispanic voters have the majority (which may happen in the next several decades) and want to make Spanish the official language? Can you let them by virture of their majority votes? It's a tough one, and sometimes very scary, but I don't think it's limited to the situation in Europe.

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