Sunday, April 03, 2005

Illiberal Culture and Democracy

The New York Times Magazine this week has a truly fascinating article on Dutch member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She's a former Muslim feminist from Somalia who is highly critical of Muslim culture and it's potential impact on Dutch democracy. Hirsi Ali herself is interesting given the fact that she doesn't fit the conventional left-right spectrum in the Netherlands and given her bravery in the face of numerous threats to her life. (She was a friend of, and collaborator with, Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered by an Islamist last November.)

But the article raises even more interesting questions about how a liberal democratic society accommodates an illiberal culture that is growing within its boarders and that threatens the foundations of democracy. I don't study comparative politics, so I can't say anything insightful about this. However, it seems to me that we all ought to consider the paradox of a multicultural society, whose very principles embrace diversity, being forced to consider intolerant measures to preserve tolerance.


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