Fortuyn’s murder should have put an end to the character assassinations of the advocates of freedom. Nope. Instead they’ve only grown more sophisticated. Nowadays when someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali assails Islamic fundamentalism, the clever thing to do is call her a fundamentalist–because she’s so uncompromising in her insistence on liberty, get it? In this spirit, a hijab-clad Dagbladet staffer compared Storhaug’s call for Muslim women to “take the hijab off and embrace freedom” to “the rhetoric of the bearded fundamentalists” – thus equating an advocate for the victims of forced marriage and honor killing with the perpetrators of these barbarities.
As Dagbladet reader Hans-Christian Holm cogently put it, Norway’s media are engaged in “a sick tolerance competition, in which whoever tolerates the most intolerance wins, and the one who suggests that we perhaps should not tolerate so much intolerance is automatically branded as the most intolerant of all.” Storhaug’s own concern, as expressed in an email the other day, is that the relentless demonizing of persons like herself by those who are determined to suppress open liberal debate about these vital issues can only strengthen the hands of both right-wing nativists and Islamists.
How difficult should it be to recognize that tolerance has to be reciprocal if a free society is to function? You can recognize people’s right to beliefs you find repugnant without recognizing their ability to force other people to bend to them. Or at least you should be able to.