For tolerance to effectively work, it must run both ways
One of the most important elements of the modern democratic state is tolerance: tolerance of religious difference, of social choices, of political variations. We take this tolerance so for granted that we forget that for tolerance to work, it must be mutual. For example, in 19th century England, Roman Catholicism was not accorded the some toleration that a range of Protestant sects and Judaism were accorded until the Catholic Church decided to tolerate other religions. This should always be the social contract that governs official toleration. The United States, not having an official church, has always been tolerant of a wide range of religious and social arrangements – the exception being refusal to tolerate Mormonism until their tenet of polygamy was abandoned.
Today, tolerance is being challenged again by a group that does not enshrine tolerance – militant Islam – in the United States and in Europe. We, in the west, have practiced tolerance toward Muslim immigrants with the hope that this value will rub off on them. Alas, it has not, and lawmakers are up against a serious dilemma. They can either appease the intolerant as they have tried in Europe or refuse to tolerate the intolerant. It has taken the Europeans a while, but they are starting to prosecute batterers and murderers of wives and daughters under the umbrella of “Islamic family honor.” There are also moves foot to ban polygamy, which until recently was a hush-and-pretend issue financed with welfare payments.