Should we tolerate intolerance?

24 Aug

I went into the bookstore today and flipped through Newsweek. One of the articles caught my eye. It talked about how schools/universities were being shut down in Iraq due to the threats facing teachers, professors, and students (especially female students). It reminded me of another article a while back that informed us the Taliban was now targeting teachers and aid workers. And then another article giving us a nice list of how jihadists are now interpreting the Koran in concern with whom one should be allowed to kill for the greater good, even inadvertently. The conclusion: Anyone. Children, bystanders and civilians. They have basically become exempt from any constraint concerning the subjects.

I’ve always been a believer in education. I believe that an informed population will be more capable of making sound judgements and exercising their will in an accountable fashion. Education is a right that any manner of attempting to mislead or bar people from this is a crime as offensive as stealing. It goes without saying that aid workers deserve protection. One reason education and aid are under attack is because the extremists believe that they support the government the United States helped foster. But there is another, and even less charming reason…

Many professors in Iraq have been killed or have escaped the country, crippling their higher education system. The reason given for their prosecution is because most professors are more secular and thus less likely to take sides in the sectarian conflict. Neutrality and sense is not an option here. It seems to have become an issue of ‘You are either for us, or against us’.

This provokes a question: One of the greatest assets of western culture has been it’s tolerance for individuality, for multiple viewpoints. What, then, should western civilizations (and those with systems influenced by western thought) do in the face of a group that is showing intolerance for others? Should we tolerate intolerance?

Is there any other way out?

The Dutch are gradually losing their tolerance not only for Muslim extremists, but the general population of Muslims as well.

 

related articles:

Iraq’s endangered schools: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20226576/site/newsweek/

New Taliban rules target teachers, aid workers: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16127078

The guidebook for taking a life: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/10/weekinreview/10moss.html

Dutch muslim women protest “mixed swimming”:http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2003-09/16/article07.shtml

Dutch to ban muslim veils: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20738763-1702,00.html

The flawed options in Darfur, note paragraph three: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2007/08/23/2003375491

 

 

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