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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CLUELESS CHARLES: The Prince of Wales intends to lecture the United States about the need for "tolerance" in dealing with Islam. Until quite recently, Britain's celebration of diversity (for the non-politically correct, the very sound of this pretentious phrase now carries the force of an emetic) insured that Muslim radicals could with impugnity call for the overthrow of the British government. That the Brits under Blair are finally cracking down might be taken of evidence that they are finally beginning to understand that pluralism — the genuine article — must be practiced by all parties if it is to have any force or even any meaning. The essence of pluralism finds individuals with strong commitments (religious, moral, ideological) willingly sitting down with individuals with different (yet equally strong) commitments. Pluralism "works" when all such individuals, without sacrificing their own beliefs, show themselves capable of encountering beliefs they may find repugnant, even as they respect those who hold those beliefs. Whisper to Charles: Pluralism is impotent when beheading is an option. Not to put too fine a point on it, but jihadists tend — rather decisively — not to be pluralists. Remember how the Taliban dealt with the massive Buddhas carved into stone walls? Dynamite. So what kind of craven mindlessness is required for Charles to use this moment in history to counsel "tolerance" toward this crowd? Yes, yes — not every Muslim is a terrorist; we all know the catechism. Yet the challenge now is not for the West to become more "tolerant" of Islam, but for Islam to emphatically stand against the vicious, murderous virus in its own body politic. For that to happen will require Islam to undergo the kind of transformation that Western culture experienced during the Renaissance, which gave birth to the structures of consciousness which ironically make it possible for Charles, on the one hand, to realize the genius of pluralism, while, at the same time, being so clueless and confused about his own culture and the threat it faces. This is a time to remember Sir Karl Popper's "paradox of tolerance," according to which the enemies of tolerance are themselves not subject to the protections 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."
Somewhat less abstractly, I'll simply ask: Isn't there a polo match that needs a grand marshall, Your Majesty? Hurry home.