[lit-ideas] Re: More on Bigoted Muslim Cab Drivers

  • From: John Wager <jwager@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 27 Nov 2010 17:36:03 -0600

Lawrence Helm wrote:

The concept of tolerance permits us to practice any sort of belief we like as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of anyone else. When a Buddhist immigrates into the U.S., he is not going to have a problem with this concept. But a Fundamentalist Muslim will. He is going to immigrate knowing full well that he is going to violate the concept of toleration. He is going to infringe on the rights of others and he knows it.

Bear in mind that we are talking about "Fundamentalist" Muslims.

I suspect that the most important word in the above is not "Muslim" but "fundamentalist." My personal experience with fundamentalism came from the local Baptists, not the local Muslims, but it was probably very similar. Any position that requires non-believers (or believers in another tradition) being bound by the revealed truths of the "fundamentalist" believers is basically the same, whether it's Muslims asking for sharia mediators or Baptists closing the local bowling alley because people under 21 were caught playing pool there. (The laws of Starke, Florida, were mostly written by the 3,000 or so Baptists in the town of 3,200.)

Karen Armstrong's book /The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam// /does a good job of identifying the common threads of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She's not trying to make a political point in her analysis, really, so it's a good starting point at understanding beyond polemics.

On a more political point, the main problem with all kinds of "fundamentalisms" is that they seem to require everyone to subscribe to a system of beliefs that everyone in fact do not subscribe to. If 100% of a population believed in Islam, it might be quite democratic to make law entirely based on the Qu'ran. But if even a few citizens do not subscribe to that system of beliefs, until they do, the foundation for law should be some system that does not require their buying into that religion. Take your pick here: contract theory, or human nature, or some other justification for government, but the result is the same: There should always be a provision in law so that non-believers in a system of belief are not required by law to act as if they do.

Buddhism isn't very conducive to fundamentalism, but the three traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism all seem to be much more prone to succumbing to the false inclusiveness of law over belief. This is really a very astounding position, when you think about it, because the whole idea of "revealed" truth present in these three traditions says that God has revealed in a special way to only some people certain fundamental truths or duties. If fundamentalists really took revelation seriously, they would not want those to whom God has not (yet) revealed these truths to be held accountable for them, yet time and again these fundamentalists violate their own concept of "revelation" rather than practice the tolerance that such a conception of revelation would require.

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