The new religious intolerance Overcoming the politics of fear in an anxious age

Martha Craven Nussbaum, 1947-

Book - 2012

"What impulse prompted some newspapers to attribute the murder of 77 Norwegians to Islamic extremists, until it became evident that a right-wing Norwegian terrorist was the perpetrator? Why did Switzerland, a country of four minarets, vote to ban those structures? How did a proposed Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan ignite a fevered political debate across the United States? In The New Religious Intolerance, Martha C. Nussbaum surveys such developments and identifies the fear behind... these reactions. Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history, and literature, she suggests a route past this limiting response and toward a more equitable, imaginative, and free society." -- Provided by publisher.

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Subjects
Published
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2012.
Language
English
Physical Description
xiii, 285 p. ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780674065901
0674065905
Main Author
Martha Craven Nussbaum, 1947- (-)
  • Religion: a time of anxiety and suspicion
  • Fear: a narcissistic emotion
  • First principles: equal respect for conscience
  • The mote in my brother's eye: impartiality and the examined life
  • Inner eyes: respect and the sympathetic imagination
  • The case of Park51
  • Overcoming the politics of fear.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Law and ethics scholar Nussbaum's title refers to anti-Muslim feeling in the West since 9/11, not to intolerance based in religion. Fueling that hostility is fear, which Nussbaum asks us to consider a narcissistic emotion. The tactics she advises for quelling this fear include cultivating egalitarian principles about religious liberty; observing "non-narcissistic consistency" in applying the law to religious believers, institutions, and practices; and sympathizing with others' perspectives. She draws on philosophy (Socratic and Kantian) to discuss principles, on American jurisprudence to exemplify non-narcissistic consistency, and on literature (Lessing's Nathan der Weise, George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, and Marguerite de Angeli's Thee, Hannah! and Bright April) to illustrate sympathy. Lastly, she shows how the tactics she advocates have been working out in the case of Park51 or, as it's lamentably (and falsely) known, the ground-zero mosque in lower Manhattan. The proudly archliberal Nussbaum writes very lucidly and can't help enlightening concerned readers, including those expecting explanations of harsh so-called Muslim beliefs that the title seems to promise. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Nussbaum (Univ. of Chicago) guides readers toward an ethical response to the fears that have fed attacks on Muslims and others, and bred toxic religious persecution. Nussbaum asserts a moral calling to provide principles for democratic practice. Her analysis includes science, classic philosophy, constitutional law, and reflection upon the lessons of ancient Athens, Socrates, and Aristotle. Nussbaum proves that the role of political philosophy is essential and practical, "offering insight" to society so that people can think more carefully. Fear is central to religious intolerance, and although natural and necessary to survival, fear is the most base and thoughtless of human emotions. The dynamics of fear lead to hypocrisy and persecution of religious minorities. In times of fear and anxiety, people make rules that are self-serving, ill-informed, and arrogant, applying to others but not oneself. Nussbaum's survey of legal and philosophical developments confronting equal respect for conscience and impartiality seeks the ultimate goal of living an "examined life." Nussbaum erects principles that are essential to a good life: inclusiveness, respect for diversity, seeing through the eyes of others, and developing the creative imagination. Timely, powerful, and articulate, this is a book that everyone should read. Summing Up: Essential. General readers; upper-division undergraduate students and above. General Readers; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. A. R. Brunello Eckerd College Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Nussbaum (Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law & Ethics, Univ. of Chicago; The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future), among our most original social thinkers today, enters the debate on anti-Muslim discrimination with a voice of established authority. She invites us to examine disputes about women's use of the burka and the construction of an Islamic-initiated "multifaith community center" near New York's Ground Zero. The author's argument for tolerant accommodation falls within the "Socratic and Christian/Kantian" commitment to live an examined life in relations with religious minorities. In pursuit of this goal, Nussbaum considers the psychology of "narcissistic" fear, the jurisprudence of religious freedom, and the power of imaginative empathy in fiction. She supports her argument through a demand for consistency, progress, and precedent, using examples that move comfortably from the life of Rhode Island's founder, Roger Williams, through novelist George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, as well as relevant Supreme Court arguments. The parallels she draws between past anti-Semitic and present anti-Islamic sentiment are convincing. The "new" religious tolerance is less new than we might imagine. VERDICT This powerful and profound book is useful to anyone seriously concerned with religious pluralism and civil liberty.—Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ.-Erie [Page 84]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history and literature the author looks at the new religious intolerance of Islam--from protests against a proposed Manhattan Islamic center to the banning of minarets in Switzerland--and offers a way back to an equal and free global society.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Examines the new religious intolerance of Islam--from protests against a proposed Manhattan Islamic center to the banning of minarets in Switzerland--and offers a way back to an equal and free global society.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Nussbaum (law and ethics, U. of Chicago) identifies a rising tide of fear and animosity towards Muslim immigrants in the United States and Europe and considers the proper ethical response to such developments. She surveys contemporary developments of anti-Islam sentiment and, drawing from philosophy, history, and literature, urges us to adopt a political commitment to equal respect for all, rigorous critical thinking about arguments that make Islam into an exception in religion, and a systematic cultivation of the imaginative capacity to understand the perspective of those that are different in religion or ethnicity. She also addresses these topics in the context of a case study of the controversy over the Park51 Center, the Islamic community center in New York City that has been irrationally derided by opponents as a "victory mosque" that profanes "Ground Zero." Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history, and literature, Martha C. Nussbaum takes us to task for our religious intolerance, identifies the fear behind it, and offers a way past fear toward a more equitable, imaginative, and free society, through the consistent application of universal principles of respect for conscience.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

What impulse prompted some newspapers to attribute the murder of 77 Norwegians to Islamic extremists, until it became evident that a right-wing Norwegian terrorist was the perpetrator? Why did Switzerland, a country of four minarets, vote to ban those structures? How did a proposed Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan ignite a fevered political debate across the United States? InThe New Religious Intolerance, Martha C. Nussbaum surveys such developments and identifies the fear behind these reactions. Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history, and literature, she suggests a route past this limiting response and toward a more equitable, imaginative, and free society.Fear, Nussbaum writes, is "more narcissistic than other emotions." Legitimate anxieties become distorted and displaced, driving laws and policies biased against those different from us. Overcoming intolerance requires consistent application of universal principles of respect for conscience. Just as important, it requires greater understanding. Nussbaum challenges us to embrace freedom of religious observance for all, extending to others what we demand for ourselves. She encourages us to expand our capacity for empathetic imagination by cultivating our curiosity, seeking friendship across religious lines, and establishing a consistent ethic of decency and civility. With this greater understanding and respect, Nussbaum argues, we can rise above the politics of fear and toward a more open and inclusive future.