Sunday, September 10, 2006

Zero Tolerance for Intolerance

In a penetrating review of Ian Buruma's Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, Dutch novelist Leon de Winter--no fan of van Gogh personally--says that Buruma has missed the real message of Van Gogh's death in a misunderstanding of the nature of tolerance. De Winter believes that Islamist supremacism is the problem, that conflicts with European Muslims result from a fundamental refusal "to accept Islam's status as a minority religion in a superior but 'infidel' environment: secular Europe." In other words, until fundamentalists become tolerant of secularism, they ought not be tolerated themselves, because the belief system represents a genuine threat to the future of free society. It is a thesis devastating in its simplicity. De Winter quotes from Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies to support his conclusion:
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them."
Unfortunately, the full text of de Winter's review is only available online to paid subscribers of the Wall Street Journal. However, you can read an earlier De Winter article about Van Gogh on this link to his Hudson Institute website, or order the Buruma book from Amazon here: