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Negativity Of Toleration

Zubair Ahmad

By Jakob De Roover
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 282, Rs. 995.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 9 September 2016

There is a kind of negativity which is inherent to ‘toleration’, and so has it been all through with ‘liberal toleration’. Unfortunately, there have been far too few studies on the conceptual moorings of ‘toleration’ which only makes one wonder when commentators and scholars will start respecting the differences rather than merely tolerating them. Although Roover recognizes the negativity of liberal toleration, he doesn’t tell us anything about the negativity that ‘toleration’ as a concept is impregnated with, but he does introduce us to the negativity that ‘liberal toleration’ as a model of containing conflict and managing diversity is imbued with. Roover suggests that the contemporary liberal model of toleration is not only deficient in obviating the resurgence of religion in the public sphere, but it inherently carries in itself certain forms of intolerance towards the entities which fail to conform to the public/private distinction. Researching the contemporary with what I may call conceptual etymology, Roover tries to explain how and why secularism in the contemporary form remains incapable of obviating the current conflict and managing the presence of religion in the public sphere and how it carries certain forms of intolerance. This question remains the focus of this book. The public/private distinction, Roover argues, originally remains a Protestant Christian theological doctrine which acquired certain forms of intolerance towards the nonconforming entities, which have remained wedded to it once it emerged from the confrontation of confessional and anti-confessional movements. The triumph of anti-confessional Christian movement, argues Roover, gave rise to a normative model of secularism and toleration which brought in an essential religious/secular distinction. This normative model gradually evolved in the contemporary model of secularism and toleration through the secularization of Christian freedom and the separation of the religious and secular. Roover therefore perceives the crises of secularism not as the confrontation of Public/Private category distinction with external threats (resurgence of political religion) or the religions which do not recognize or allow this fundamental liberal category distinction (like Islam), but because of the theological moorings of the religious/secular category distinction of secularism itself which otherwise appears to be a non-theological secular idea. This category distinction however remains a problem in itself as the clear demarcation of boundaries between the religious and secular is increasingly hard to establish and the definition of the religious simultaneously necessitates the definition of the secular which has largely remained ...

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