Should We Tolerate Intolerance?

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Below is the intervention read by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, representing Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 14 “Tolerance and non-discrimination II, including: Combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, also focusing on intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions”, Warsaw, September 30, 2015.

Intervention by Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa

OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Working Session 14

To what extent can we tolerate intolerance?

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates.

We are gathered here in order to discuss how to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion or belief in the exercise of fundamental freedoms in all fields of life, including equal rights of believers and non-believers.

However, these fine intentions cause us to be confronted with the paradox of tolerance. In the words of Karl Popper:

If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

Fortunately, this paradox lends itself to an easy resolution: In order to defend tolerance, we must have the courage to remain intolerant towards intolerance, with vigilance and diligence.

We, the defenders of human rights, democracy and free, secular societies have no obligation to be tolerant of those with different ideological aims. OSCE pS cannot have any obligations to be tolerant of ideologies, organizations or individuals opposed to fundamental OSCE principles.

Suppose we have a religion that has a core tenet that adherents of other religions, such as Jews and Christians, are to be condemned, and non-believers or adherents of other religions even more so. The fundamental right of freedom of belief grants anyone the right to believe so; this is not an issue. However, there is no fundamental right to act in accordance with such beliefs, for doing so would limit the freedom of others, which is not permissible in a society protecting fundamental freedoms.

Ladies and gentlemen, in defense of our free, secular societies, we have the right to not tolerate religious mandates to despise Christians, Jews or others. This directly implies the right to not grant any privileges to organizations promoting such views, to have them controlled by our security organizations, and to have them dissolved under the law, discrediting their leaders and their ideology.

BPE thus recommends:

  • That our security organizations investigate the ideologies of any and all religious groups.
  • That any religious group promoting anti-Semitism and similar views be re-categorized as political.
  • And that any such group be held legally responsible for how they motivate their members.

For links to previous articles about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, see the OSCE Archives.

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