Monday, August 15, 2005

Why tolerate the hate?

That's the title for an op-ed in the New York Times, talking about how the British are about to expel a hate-preaching cleric.

It's an old debate, and we're still working out the answers. In a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-racial world, the watchwords are harmony, tolerance, mutual respect. But as the author of the article Irshad Manji says, "Why tolerate violent bigotry? Where's the "mutual" in that version of mutual respect?"

Or to quote Thomas Jefferson, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." We need to be vigilant against the spreaders of hate and lies in all areas of society...
But let's not draw the line at terrorism. Why not bring it to racism as well?

And before you give a yes and amen to that, think about what it means. It means that when your friend makes a racist joke, you've got to scold him. And when your mom asks you if your Indian housemate at university stinks, you've got to scold her too!

Wait a minute, you say. I'm not going to condemn them for a thought, only for discriminatory action. Or you say, well, that's not that serious, and they probably didn't mean it anyway. They're really nice to Ahmad and Sanko, so they can't really be racist!

So where do you draw the line? I know I'm still working out my personal line, so don't expect me to help you there. But I do know that one of the big mistakes you can make is to assume that there's one single correct line for every person to obey, and expect to take action only when you can find that line. And the other mistake, in the other extreme, is to take no action at all, because well, you've got to respect that maybe that guy's line is in a different spot.

My position: You know where your line is, so act on it. If someone can prove you wrong, can show that your line's out of position, apologise, repent, make up for it, and then move the line to where it should be!

What do you think?

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