Wednesday 23 August 2017

Tolerance, an under-rated virtue, is the way to guard against the worst extremes

First Minister Peter Robinson with members of Muslim community during his visit to the Belfast Islamic Centre in Wellington Park, south Belfast
First Minister Peter Robinson with members of Muslim community during his visit to the Belfast Islamic Centre in Wellington Park, south Belfast

Toleration can be regarded as a bit of a woolly virtue – worthy, of course, but on the dull spectrum. In fact, it takes determination to be tolerant.

It is easier by far to be extremist, especially for those in politics, where adopting a colourful position helps them to become memorable. Varying levels of extremism have propelled politicians through their careers, from Nigel Farage in Britain, to Geert Wilders in Holland, to Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. In the North, Ian Paisley made his name as a diehard, although he discovered the art of moderation in later life.

His successor, Peter Robinson, encountered a spot of bother recently after appearing to defend a born again Christian preacher who denounced Islam as satanic, in a sermon at a Belfast church which the First Minister attends sometimes.

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