Discrimination. With the possible exception of “paedophile”, few pejoratives are as emotionally loaded and irrationally employed. To be targeted with this label produces guilt by accusation, with precious little engagement of rational faculties. Yet the fact is that discrimination is not only everywhere, it is most often a profoundly GOOD thing. It is only mis-discrimination that produces the negative attitudes that have erroneously become synonymous with the base term. Somewhere along the way in the past 50 years this logical non-sequitur started our western culture down the rationally incoherent slippery slope that has lead to our current state of stifling political correctness around such topics.
In a democratic system the electorate constitutes the sovereign lawmaker. Political correctness not only suppresses open and honest academic discourse, it also stifles the ability of the general electorate to freely propose and debate a variety of competing legal positions. In such a democracy we hold certain fundamental principles. One of them is the equality of rights, also expressed as equality before the law. “Discrimination” as commonly employed is then any situation where those rights are impinged upon without cause or justification.
For instance, it was formerly held that women and “Indians” (a term who’s ridiculousness stood revealed when real Indians from India began showing up on the west coast) were legally unfit to vote because they (allegedly) lacked the mental capacity. Over time both of these views were exposed as ludicrous nonsense, but the key point is in the details of the reasoning.
Discrimination against “Indians” and women was unfounded discrimination. The rationale for the discrimination was shown to be utterly baseless, and for this reason both morally and legally repugnant. However lets carefully note two other classes of persons in our society: children and Downs syndrome individuals. Both are denied the vote and many other legal rights, and the justification given is for largely the same reasons initially given for such denial applying to “Indians” and women. This too is discrimination. Is it morally, ethically or legally wrong? Certainly not. The key difference is that in one case the justification is true, and in the other it is false.
Frequently within the political discourse of today we see this vital distinction conflated, and nowhere more noticeably and to the greater detriment of society than in our public conversation concerning the merits of religion.
When Danish cartoonists publish drawings that satire the violent nature of Islam the immediate reaction of many is to accuse them of discrimination. Is it discrimination? Of course it is. But so what? That is the wrong question to ask. The correct question ought to be: “Is it JUSTIFIED discrimination?” The mere fact that Muslims the world over reacted to the cartoons with violence, and now assassination attempts, self-evidently demonstrates the very point that the cartoonist was drawing attention to. There were no assassination attempts against John Cleese when Monty Python made “The Life of Brian.” The inescapable fact is that all religions are not equal. Some religions contain intrinsic doctrines of hatred and violence, while others teach peace and tolerance. Making this discrimination is becoming an increasing matter of security and survival, but our irrational reactionary response to the mere hint of “discrimination” places such vital discourse outside of the mainstream. This must change.
Anyone who thinks that Islam or Hinduism are religions of peace simply have not read the relevant holy texts. The Koran dictates that “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you may dislike it” (2:216) and “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you.” (9:123). The inescapable conclusion of the Bhagavad Gita is that a divinely ordained cast system (dharma) dictates the moral duty of a certain class (the Kshatriya or warrior class) to wage violent warfare against their enemies, even if they are kin. These are transparently not doctrines of peace. Anyone who thinks that the teachings of Islam and Hinduism are as non-violent as Buddhism, Jainism, the Shakers, Quakers and the Amish is either deluded, ignorant, or stupid.
Of course the pro-social or anti-social consequences of a particular doctrine in no way indicate the truth or falsity of the doctrine. However they do speak volumes about how tolerant the rest of us can and should be of such doctrines. Few people argue that we should be tolerant of NAZI ideology, however equally few people have a problem with tolerating belief in Santa Clause, despite the manifest falsity of both belief systems. It is time that – as a secular society – we recognize that some religious doctrines are more like the former, while others are more like the later. Jihadist Islam clearly falls within the first class, and the Amish clearly fall within the latter. Intolerance and discrimination between the two is not only desirable, it is necessary if global society is going to survive the 21st century.