The Fortuyn case and liberal contradictions

I suppose the point should be made explicitly—the contradiction between “tolerance” and “multiculturalism” in the Fortuyn case illustrates a genuine insoluble contradiction within liberalism. There’s no “true liberalism” that can resolve it.

Both tolerance and multiculturalism say that one system of habit and attitude is as good as another. What happens though when two systems, say Islam and flamboyant homosexuality, conflict? Tolerance says that the tolerant system—the one that doesn’t care about what other people do—wins. So in tolerant Holland, homosexuality wins because those who wish can abstain, and Islam loses because it insists its standards apply even to those who reject it.

But what is tolerant about insistence on indifference to what other people do as a moral principle? If Dutch tolerance insists that Islam—a system of life that has satisfied hundreds of millions for centuries—transform itself for the benefit of a few homosexuals, how can it call itself tolerant? It’s not, in any ultimate sense. As Fortuyn suggested, Dutch tolerance is only the demand of a particular culture that (like Islamic culture) insists that those who live under its rule toe whatever lines it draws.

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