In an otherwise solid article, the Tundra Tabloids disagrees with the author on one point, ancient Roman law stands head and shoulders above Islamic law, and in many ways. But the one point the TT wants to address mentioned in the otherwise good article, is that where Roman law allowed for all different religious beliefs to flourish as long as they didn’t pose a threat to the empire, Islam stamped out all other religious belief, and still does, while allowing for only small societies of those deemed “of the book” to exist in order to periodically plunder them. KGS
“The ‘proud tradition’ would have surprised the several thousand Jews massacred in Grenada in 1066.”
Our understanding of modern jihadism has been compromised by a false narrative in which a noble religion has been “hijacked” and distorted by extremists.
These Muslim renegades, so the tale goes, are just old-fashioned totalitarians who warp Islamic doctrine in order to justify their violent grab for power. Accompanying this story is the parallel historical myth of a pristine Islam that allowed Christians and Jews to practice their faith, thus demonstrating tolerance at a time when Christian Europe was mired in anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and bigotry. Andalusian Spain has particularly been evoked as an example of an interfaith tolerance unknown to Christians, as President Obama claimed in his June 2009 speech delivered in Cairo, when he extolled Islam’s “proud tradition of tolerance.”
As many historians have shown, the historical facts of Islamic rule in Spain and elsewhere belie these claims. The “proud tradition” would have surprised the several thousand Jews massacred in Grenada in 1066, or the 300 Christians crucified, per Koranic injunction, in 818 during a three-day rampage of killing and pillaging in Cordoba, or the 700 Christians slaughtered in Toledo in 806. These are just a few examples of numerous Muslim massacres of Christians and Jews in Spain, whose lives were circumscribed by prohibitions on everything from the sorts of animals they rode to the height of their houses.
Apart from these inconvenient facts claims of Muslim tolerance suffer from a failure to consider more thoroughly the very notion of tolerance. In fact, there are two kinds of tolerance: the tolerance of principle, and the tolerance of expediency. Confusing the two, as both apologists and propagandists for Islam do, amounts to a rhetorical bait-and-switch.
The tolerance of principle is an ideal that took centuries to develop, for it runs counter to the more usual human habit of distrusting and excluding those who are different. Its origins lie in the intellectual curiosity of the Ancient Greeks. Despite their chauvinism and disdain for “barbarians,” the Greeks nonetheless were curious about peoples different from themselves in a way impossible to document elsewhere at that time. Indeed, the “Father of History,” Herodotus, later earned the scornful nickname Philobarbaros (barbarian-lover), because of his interest in the customs and culture of other peoples. Later, such curiosity evolved into an acknowledgement, evident in Stoicism, of a universal human nature more essential than differences of custom or language. This recognition in turn made easier the “live and let live” attitude that characterizes true tolerance. It holds that the strange differences among peoples are not as important as the similarities of human nature.
Such is the idea most of us mean when we speak of tolerance. It rests on a philosophical principle: people share a human nature that entitles them to certain rights, one of which is to live according to their lights without interference from others who live differently. The only restriction is that their way of living doesn’t interfere with other ways.
American tolerance has been a mix of principle and expediency. Expediency was an important factor, at first because of the variety of Christian denominations in the Colonies, and later because of immigration. As someone once put it, early America comprised “islands of intolerance in a sea of tolerance.” Yet the tolerance of principle, an inheritance of Classical civilization and post-Reformation Christianity, has always been in our cultural DNA, no matter how frequently it was violated by bigotry and prejudice. Despite these failures, we managed to achieve the ex pluribus unum, a civilization that accommodates a great variety of differences while demanding only that we all adhere to the rights and rules of the Constitution.
But this American ideal of tolerance drew the line at including any ideology or group identity that challenged the rights of others to their way of life, or that contradicted the fundamental political principles of the Constitution. However, contemporary identity politics and the multiculturalist fetishizing of cultural difference have combined to redefine tolerance in America. Today our traditional toleration of other ways of living has morphed into the demand that we approve of them, foster and support them, and even acknowledge their superiority, no matter how inimical to the American order or our Constitutional rights. Also, tolerance has become a convenient rationalization for those whose beliefs have atrophied into indifference. Because they stand for nothing, they demand we tolerate anything and put up with everything.
These distortions of traditional American tolerance have characterized our encounter with Islamic jihad, most recently in the “Ground-Zero mosque” controversy. The traditional Muslim tolerance of expediency has been repackaged as the tolerance of principle, despite the fact that Islamic doctrine does not allow for that principle and indeed scorns it. The American tolerance of principle has degenerated into the demand for approval, easy to extort from people who have no core beliefs worthy of defense. Worse yet, we acquiesce in Muslim demands that we show a tolerance for Islam that Muslims rarely if ever extend to Christians or Jews, and we afford Islam a protective sensitivity and respect never allowed to Christianity or Judaism. This is the cringing appeasement that people like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg dressed up as “tolerance.”