Questions Concerning "Tolerance"

December 29, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On December 29, 2002 The New York Times reported that "the [conference on multiculturalism and children], at the Interfaith Center in New York, opened with an invitation to chant and dance to an African song... Tolerance was, by unspoken assent, an absolute virtue, right up there with Faith, Hope and Diversity... Then one participant, with radical Islamist groups in mind, raised a question: Must we be tolerant of those who are intolerant of us? The question revealed the enormous burden that tolerance has been made to bear in our society, and not simply since Sept. 11, 2001... Politically, tolerance was initially focused on the legal status of various religions and denominations, rather than the accepted prejudices. Race segregation, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, exclusion of women, homophobia and the like only came under the purview of tolerance much later, largely in the radical 1960s... Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, [states], 'It seems to me that tolerance, like diversity, amounts to moral flag-waving,' he said. 'No one is for tolerance as a general value, because in any situation that actually arises, one's tolerance is extended only to those groups you wish to include. What tolerance is, is a solution to a political problem, a policy usually urged in a culture which is no longer monolithic.'"