A Plea for Intolerant Politics

Just yesterday there was the sad news of a beating and sexual harassment of Nong Darol Mahmada, an activist of the Religious Freedom Association (AKKBB) and Facebook friend of mine by the Front for the Defense of Islam (FPI) in a courtroom in Jakarta during FPI’s trial for the “Bloody Monas” incident. And I ask myself a question: have we not had enough?

Everybody today talk about how we must teach the “false/militant/anarchist/fascist/terrorist” groups of Islam to have more tolerance, to know how the real cultural politics of the world works, how today we should all be modern and adapt the liberal politically correct stance of freedom and tolerance. Some, like the JIL, etc, choose to engage in verbal criticism of militant Islam. Others take the softer side of flaunting how beneficially peaceful it is to adapt a fashionable Zen-Buddhist style of spirituality in Islam. Both strive for only one thing: to right the wrongs of a militant Islam and bring them towards the romantic dream of a politically- and spiritually-correct tolerant Muslim utopia.

But why is it all conceived as a problem of a lack of tolerance from a perverted religious belief? Do we not dare to say that this is a problem of a severe flaw in our democratic legal system, a very real political problem instead of an abstract, spiritual one? There are very few things that I think are more miserable than the idea of suggesting a spiritual healing and liberal democracy lessons for such actors of violence. One of them is the idea of preserving these minority militant groups in the name of justice: “Let us tolerate their violence because everyone deserves a chance to speak out!” Is such stupidity not the ultimate proof that all these romantic discussions of religious difference and tolerance do nothing but blur and displace of from the real question: that of politics?

What about restoring the dignity of democratic politics without cultural tolerance? Do we not dare to admit that there are certain limits of democracy, of liberal freedom, that can never be crossed? Why are we today very afraid to admit that liberalism, multiculturalism, pluralism, etc. are actually far from benign sunshine-and-daffodils utopias of universal equality, but itself consist of inherently superior attitudes to those of fundamentalist people? The correct lesson to learn from Derrida is not the common one that strives for more equality by means of deconstruction, but instead an honest one in which one is willing to realize the boundaries of deconstruction and celebrate the hierarchic opposition when it is politically not possible to accept the Other.

We have had enough lessons of tolerance and all those stupid spiritual-correctness. What we need today are strict legal codes of discretion and protection of our citizens. I would be personally severely disappointed if no legal action is taken to defend Nong in her courtroom incident this past Monday. If there is a past that I am missing right now, it would be the past in which the authoritarian ex-president of Indonesia, Suharto, can easily ban organizations at his will. Would it not be nice if the same banning happen right now to all of the anarchist Muslims?

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2 Responses to “A Plea for Intolerant Politics”

  1. “What about restoring the dignity of democratic politics without cultural tolerance? Do we not dare to admit that there are certain limits of democracy, of liberal freedom, that can never be crossed?” No we don’t dare. There’s nothing else. If democracy doesn’t work, what’s left?

    I know you’re suggesting that removing the multiculturalist command from politics would restore democracy, but in reality it would expose it. Democracy can’t cope with the present world. Multiculturalism’s a quick and ugly way to keep things running.

    At the risk of a cheap and incomplete metaphor, we need Java, but everyone’s still writing native code and just pretending it runs on different platforms. The pretense can’t be surrendered. We couldn’t face it.

    By we, of course, I’m talking about America/the West. I don’t know if the same rules apply directly to other countries (of Indonesia I know nothing), or if they’re inheriting the limitations from Western pressure. Either way, there’s certainly something to what you’re arguing.

    Intolerance has its virtues, but they’re expensive and fragile.

  2. Bonni Rambatan Says:

    That is here what I am talking about: we know precisely it does not work that sweetly, but nevertheless we act like it does to “keep things running” as you say.

    I’m not here suggesting a move to chuck democracy out the window, but instead to restore its original dignity without the political correctness shit. If you remember the roots of democracy by way of historical analysis, you will notice that “tolerance” was never something it valued — “equality,” on the other hand, has always been, but before tolerance set in, the concept was fully known to be a real, political one. Multiculturalism, I’m afraid, is but a move to blur out the real political questions and replace them with questions of politically correct values like tolerance.

    I’m aware how pretenses are crucial. But is it not time to look for another, more effective, perhaps more honest pretense? To quote Žižek, “Maybe we just need a different chicken.”

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