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November 19, 2004

A Crack in the Egg Shell

Of all the pieces about Theo Van Gough assassination, Andrew Stuttaford's "How Enlightenment Dies" is among the most compelling:

Crucially, the Dutch appear to have abandoned teaching the mutual tolerance, however rough-and-ready, that is essential to the functioning of a free society. Instead they opted for the walking-on-eggshells sensitivities of multiculturalism, and a state of mind in which open debate, if someone somewhere could deem it offensive, was a danger, not a delight. In a country that was drawing many of its immigrants from traditions where notions of tolerance had little or no part to play, the consequences should have been obvious. If liberal democracy is to survive in all its noisy acrimony, all of its citizens — even the most disaffected, even the most devout, even the B's — need to develop a thick skin. In Holland, nobody showed them how. To Van Gogh, multiculturalism was farcical. And for Van Gogh it was a farce that turned lethal.

I offer that quotation by way of partial response to a comment that Zein Cesar Majul made upon my previous mention of Van Gogh. The truth is, with its patchwork excuse making and accusational reversal, I'm not sure how to respond to this:

Perhaps the reason we don't have incidents such as the killing of Van Gogh is because as a society, we are much more "accepting" of how other cultures behave. Moreover, most thinking people make a distinction between cultural modalities and general ideal constructs such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Van Gogh chose to generalize from a specific cultural practice common to many societies both muslim and non-muslim and label it as "Islam." Muslim jusrists have over the years spoke out against forced marriages and female circumcision. This has had little effect, as most educational institutions in muslim countries have become secularized and those that are not, will not deal with issues that are socially controversial. The muslim community (over a billion strong) has more than its fair share of fanatics. By definition, a fanatic may not be reasoned with and will adhere only to his own code of conduct. Van Gogh left himself open to all comers in this regard. Perhaps the Netherlands should institute polygraph tests for immigrants and asylum seekers to ascertain if they are of firm intention to abide by the laws of the society they are moving to and pledge fealty to its government and institutions.

As an afterthought, perhaps we are just more used to this kind of stuff. The USA is a rather violent place where perhaps more killings like this occur than we are aware of or care to remember. How long will it be before we all forget what the Oklahoma bomber's motive was?

Posted by Justin Katz at November 19, 2004 11:52 AM

By definition, a fanatic may not be reasoned with and will adhere only to his own code of conduct.

I guess that depends upon your defintion of fanatic, and what that fanatic believes. For instance, I am a fanatical believer in gravity. Thus I would stick to my "code of conduct" of not jumping off high cliffs. Yet, I would not think that makes me unreasonable.

Posted by: c matt at November 19, 2004 3:04 PM

It would appear that the US has many parallels with the Dutch. How many jihaddies have been uncovered here? Worse, how many peoplein the US advocate the murder of those with differing opinions? One need but browse the Democratic Underground to wonder how tolerant we are as a society. The recent election and its aftermath gave us additional evidence of the toleration that exists within certain segments of society. Perhaps America will wake up before we wind up travelling down the path Europe is speeding along.

Posted by: Thomas J. Jackson at November 21, 2004 12:13 AM