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The €”Limits of Liberalism”


There is a very interesting discussion I would like to draw your attention to. It’s about the ‘limits of liberalism’, especially with regard to the (proposed) new British legislation concerning criticism of religion. According to Jonathan Freedland—as he wrote in yesterday’s Guardian—there is a conflict between two values


one that liberals have cherished for centuries and another acquired much more recently. The ancient, almost defining liberal ideal is freedom: of expression, of movement, of protest. The newer value is an approach to society’s minorities that aims to go beyond mere tolerance, and reaches for understanding and sensitivity.


As a matter of fact, as Freedland made himself clearer by giving an example,


[s]top one in the street and ask if artists should have the right to say what they like, and the answer will be yes. Ask if Muslims or Sikhs or Jews have the right to have their feelings respected, their differences understood, and the answer will be yes again.


This means that


in the 21st century these principles, both noble, keep colliding. We want free speech but are flummoxed when someone uses it to demean Arabs and Muslims (witness Robert Kilroy-Silk). We want to be sensitive to a disadvantaged ethnic minority, but hesitate when that entails compromise on values that are precious and timeless, like the right to stage a play.


Is the conflict which Freedland pointed to a genuine one? This is what Norman Geras has to say. (Very, very interesting …)

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