Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Overcoming fear of living in fear

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!...Link

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

No comments:

Post a Comment