Why we must not tolerate intolerance

Oct 14, 2018 by

by Benedict Rogers, UnHerd:

You read about antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism in the newspapers almost every day at the moment. Intolerance is on the rise throughout the world and it would seem Western democracies are not immune from such hatreds. As the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said in a debate in the House of Lords last month:

“Antisemitism, or any hate, become dangerous when three things happen. First: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second: when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three: when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so.”

He concluded:

“All three factors exist in Britain now. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. That is why I cannot stay silent. For it is not only Jews who are at risk. So too is our humanity.”

He’s right about the rising tide of religious and racial intolerance, fuelled by populism from the far-Right and the far-Left. It’s driven by a mix of factors and manifests itself in the form of identity politics, religious nationalism and extremism. The result is discrimination and persecution.

The intolerance is widespread. Few places are untouched. Here is an illustrative but by no means exhaustive run through:

In Burma, mainstream democratic politicians pander to militant Buddhist nationalists, resulting in a genocide of Muslims. In Indonesia, moderate Muslim politicians play the religion card and flirt with ultra-conservative clerics. India is led by a Hindu nationalist with a record of stoking hatred of religious minorities.

In Pakistan, where the notorious blasphemy laws have been a source of grave injustice for four decades, the new prime minister Imran Khan, on first appearance no extremist, is bolstering his religious credentials in ways which do not counter intolerance. On 7 July this year, at a rally of Muslim leaders, he promised to defend the blasphemy laws.

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