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.
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 (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Harvard University Press
April 24, 2012
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