Right of Reply: Tolerance is not dangerous

The Mumbai attacks rightly make us question our unequal treatment of minority cultures.

mumbai attack candles 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
mumbai attack candles 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
I was appalled by Caroline Glick's flagrant butchering of truth and theory in her article "The jihadist-multicultural alliance" (December 2). It is this kind of misrepresentation of ideals and fear-mongering conflation of unrelated facts that so readily contributes to the perpetuation of prejudice and stereotypes in our world - a world badly damaged by fundamentalist terror and in desperate need of a nuanced toleration. Multiculturalism does not protect or defend jihadists. Understood by any legitimate political philosopher in international academia or legislator in a multiethnic state, multiculturalism is the idea that recognizes the importance of group identity and traditions in our increasingly globalized world. Though as a philosophy it has its flaws, multiculturalism is not an apologist "quasi-religion." It is the ideal that protects language rights for French-Canadians; it is the doctrine that allows tribal sovereignty for the Native Americans; it provides the exceptions that allow state sanctioning of parochial schools. Though Glick would have us believe that the evil multiculturalists are the bulwark of jihad, "predicated on... a basic belief in the inherent avarice of the West," the proponents of multiculturalism simply hope to enable cultural groups the freedom to practice their innocuous customs without government interference and socialization. In fact, without the lenient assistance of multiculturalism, Jews would not be able to butcher kosher meat in most countries of the world - as most Western democracies consider kashrut's procedures anathema to the standards of animal rights. Ironically enough, even Jews need the multiculturalists to protect our rights to our sacred traditions. Conversely, Glick wants us to believe that tolerance is dangerous. That by accepting diversity, we are putting good citizens of the world at risk. That by expecting better moral standards of coexistence, we are condoning a fatal double-standard. That unless we demonize all Muslims in all parts of the world, we are somehow "blithely dismissing" the horror in Mumbai. NO ONE is justifying the bloodbath in Mumbai. No one ever deserves that kind of slaughter - not the Israelis, nor the Americans, nor the hundreds of Indians who lost their lives and the families that are sorting through the wreckage. We cannot see Mumbai's events as anything less than the gruesome epitome of systematic terror. However, such a tragedy rightly makes us question our unequal treatment of minority cultures within larger communities. Though we now know that those who committed treacherous murder in Mumbai were fundamentalist Muslims, there is simply no justification for the continual mistreatment of Muslim minorities around the world. These terrorists do not speak for the larger population of faithful - just as the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), Abhinav Bharat ("Young India" of the September 29 bombing) and the extremists of the 2002 Gujarat slaughter, all Hindu terrorist groups, certainly do not speak for Hindus at large. Thus, Glick is horrifically wrong to imply that Fareed Zakaria thought Hindu Indians "had it coming," as she is wrong to accuse Martha Nussbaum of dismissing history as a multiculturalist magic trick. Zakaria and Nussbaum bravely support equality for the Muslim minority, pointing out past and current injustice bestowed upon this religious group in the subcontinent. Every religious group has its extremists - but no group should suffer from the murderous crimes of the radicalized few. BEYOND HER misrepresentation of multiculturalism and her plea for intolerance, Glick's failed logic commits an even graver error: Her article conflates the atrocities and agendas of diverse Muslim groups across the Middle East, echoing the Bush administration's willful confusion to generate one solid front in the war on terror. We must be clear: India is not Pakistan, is not al-Qaida, is not the Taliban, is not Gaza, is not Iran. Jihadist groups may exist around the globe, but they are not unified as a global phenomenon. These are highly separate issues that require understanding - we need to know where these groups are different and still be unwavering in our desire to end radical religious violence. Instead, Glick sees it prudent to lambaste the outgoing Olmert and incoming Obama administrations - two leaders who bravely seek to achieve peace in the face of reactionaries who would have us essentialize Islamic "evil" into one united front. At the end of her article, Glick refers to multiculturalists' influence that has "repeatedly stymied Western attempts to confront the jihadist threat head-on." If these Western attempts are at all like the indiscriminate conflating of all Islamic groups into one unified and omnipotent enemy - as her article suggests - we can be thankful that the voices of reason have stalled such battles. Anyone with respect for Mumbai's victims and abhorrence of the violence will readily admit that there is nothing near as pernicious as the jihad terror that caused the cruelty. However, I would be willing to give fear-mongering, conflation and rampant prejudice a distant second. The writer is a graduate student at the London School of Economics.