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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The State of Pluralism in the U.S.

Columnist Jane Eisner responds to the following sentence, uttered on an American radio station: "It's so hot the Muslim men are taking the towels off their heads to wipe their faces!" Eisner notes:
The bigotry in that remark was matched by its ignorance. Not all Muslims are Arab, and not all Arabs wear the headdress known as the keffiyeh. And it's an entirely different faith, Sikhism, whose adherents wear turbans.

Such subtleties are too often lost on the average American, and despite all the fine words and noble intentions uttered since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the continued lack of knowledge about and respect for Islam and other religions is appalling.
Eisner goes on to argue that "[t]rue pluralism demands that we acknowledge our differences as well as celebrate what we have in common" (emphasis added). The distinction between tolerance (a passive acknowledgment of the existence of minority groups) and pluralism (the active engagement of minorities such that a climate of mutual respect may develop) has been made convincingly by my colleague, Valarie Kaur.

Eisner closes with the following thought:
We can respond to an ever-more diverse world by digging in and shutting out, or we can respond to it with the strength of character demanded of true pluralism.

Our choice.

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