On “Tolerance”

“The connotations of ‘tolerance’ are deeply problematic. Allow me to elaborate on this point: the root of the term ‘tolerance’ comes from medieval toxicology and pharmacology , marking how much poison a body could ‘tolerate’ before it would succumb to death. Is this the best we can do? Is it our task to figure out how many ‘others’… we can tolerate before it really kills us?….I don’t want to ‘tolerate’ my fellow human beings, but rather to engage them at the deepest level of what makes us human, through both our phenomenal commonality and our dazzling cultural differences. If we are to have any hope of achieving anything resembling a just peace in the future, that examination needs to include both the greatest accomplishments of all civilizations, and also a painful scrutiny of the ways in which the place of privilege has come at a great cost to others.”

Omid Safi, in the introduction to the fantastic Progressive Muslims: On Jusice, Gender, and Pluralism

In his 1997 commencement speech at DePaul University, Elie Wiesel made a complementary remark:

I believe… that intolerance is the enemy of learning, and it is the enemy of progress, the enemy of humanity. Now what is the opposite of intolerance. Not tolerance. Tolerance is a word that has a condescending tone. “I tolerate you.” The opposite of intolerance is respect. We must respect one another, not in spite of our differences, but because of our differences.

Engage. Examine. Respect. Peace.


Bloomberg speech

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?” Bloomberg asked. “That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.” Mayor Bloomberg