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   The new religious intolerance
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Nov 2012

Every religion advocates ‘tolerance’ and yet religious intolerance has been on the rise. The undercurrent of religious intolerance is seemingly so strong to even challenge the prevailing religious symbols and practices. Banning of burqa in France, Belgium and Italy; regulation on headscarf in Germany, Holland and Spain; and restriction on constructing minarets with mosques in Switzerland are indicative of the manner in which islamophobia has gripped the world post 9/11. At times there might be real security issues but the fact that people have started fearing those who dress differently or who look strangers is something worth worrying about.

Martha C Nussbaum who is Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago argues the culture of fear threatens the constitutional and ethical foundations of liberal democracy. Fear is also somewhat of a political construct, targeting Muslims as its scapegoat. In reality, they have become scapegoats for people's economic insecurities. Failure of education to acquaint children with the world’s major religions at an early age has added to the prevailing anxiety.

Our current climate of fear shows that people are all too easily turned away from good values in a time of crises and invariably target minorities. Christians will not target Christians even while knowing that one amongst them murdered 76 in Norway, because they only have fantasies about Muslims being dangerous. Nusssbaum is convinced that countries most threatened by the economic crisis will see the most alarming growth of intolerant politics towards minorities.

Part philosophical and part persuasive The New Religious Intolerance advocates tackling the root cause of religious hatred through compassion and imagination. How often has this been said without tangible shift in the politics of hatred? That entire Europe has become less tolerant of religious heterogeneity may have strong bearing on the deep economic crises it is currently passing through. But will economic security alone lead to religious tolerance is a matter of deep conjecture? Whether dissociating politics from religion help us rise above the politics of fear?  Without doubt there are forces that see power in sustaining fear amongst communities, not allowing the fear of living in fear disappear from our lives!

The New Religious Intolerance
by Martha C Nussbaum
Belknap/Harvard University Press, London
285 pages, US $ 26.95


 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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