Outwardly, Ramadan upholds the ideal of open-mindedness. But it’s an open-mindedness that avoids critical thinking and making judgments. His call for embracing multiplicity and diversity is about avoiding the challenge of intellectual clarification and moral judgment. Yet his celebration of diversity is deceptive, too, because his cheering of difference is actually oriented only towards those whose views echo his own. His acceptance of ‘all outlooks’ certainly does not extend to classical liberal thought; indeed, it’s worth noting that the only strong argument consistently pursued through his book is a critique of the liberal virtue of tolerance.…In line with the values transmitted by the therapy culture that is currently widespread in the Western world, Ramadan wants, not toleration, but respect, validation and uncritical acceptance. That is why he, like numerous other multiculturalists, rejects tolerance on the ground that it is patronising or is ‘not enough’.Ramadan’s claim that people do not want to be tolerated is another way of saying that they don’t want to be judged – but they do want to be affirmed. In his own way, Ramadan gives voice to the Western therapeutic imagination’s estrangement from making value judgments. Contemporary Western culture’s refusal to judge goes hand-in-hand with its celebration of the therapeutic value of affirmation and boosting self-esteem. This sensibility inexorably leads to the affirmation of individual and group identities, an act which has become something of a sacred duty in recent years. It is this gesture of granting respect-on-demand which constitutes the real insult these days, since it does not actually take people seriously. It is about making people feel good about themselves rather than seriously engaging with them – and that is the real form that patronising ‘intellectual charity’ takes today.
This grabbed me because it can also be read as a succinct summary of everything I’ve been trying to say with regards to the whole “spiritual-not-religious” phenomenon. I see too much of a tendency to gravitate toward pat answers, to value echoes over dissonance, to seek out those who can be counted on to tell you what you want to hear. Criticism and confrontation don’t have to be seen as disrespectful; indeed, as he says here, it seems more condescending to avoid them for the sake of a superficial peace.