Stephen Franks on tolerance

Stephen Franks writes about some trips overseas working in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. He compares that experience with that of working Pakistan and in Turkey.

70 years of Soviet atheism has given Uzbekistan what Turkey is losing (officially secular state power co-existing with a mild Sufi Islam).

They’ve stayed mostly secular, despite infiltration and threats from neighbouring countries. They beat out a determined mainstream Islamist challenge 10 years ago, with no apologies for seeing it as a life and death matter.

It is challenging to one’s liberal beliefs to work out how the relative freedom and security of such countries could survive with the religious tolerance demanded by “Western” values.

10 years ago I did a job in Pakistan. Its intellectual life is dictated by the risk of prompt death for anyone who challenges Islamic orthodoxy, even if the mullahs represent only a small percentage of the population , and few of the qualified people who keep the country running.  

For how long can a country survive if it tolerates those who do despise tolerance. How does it stop gaining a critical mass (which may be less than 5%) people whose religion says toleration by a ruler is sinful, with death and martyrdom as the proper responses to deviation, heresy, apostasy?

I felt last week what I feel every time I walk from Auckland International to the Domestic terminal. It is a huge privilege to be here. And this was added gratitude that I do not have to reconcile the diametrically conflicting certainties that drive so many ignorant people in our countries.

Stephen is dead right. Every time I come back to NZ I feel the same way.

Strangely, the only other two places in the world where I have felt at home are Fiji and Israel. The Fiji experience was something I still can’t quite fathom. Most people’s view of Fiji is coloured by beaches and the resorts…most only arriving and leaving through Nadi. Most people say they don’t like Suva, yet when I first went to Suva after more than 46 years away from the country it just felt like home.

It is strange what makes one feel at home. It is sad, from my perspective, that increasingly that feeling of NZ being home is waning.


– Stephen Franks

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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