Tolerance

Auckland University’s Geoff Kemp has an excellent article in the Herald this morning about Winston Peters and tolerance. Dr Kemp writes:

His core argument was this: a country which stands in a European democratic tradition of valuing tolerance and freedom of speech cannot admit those people who come from traditions which do not endorse these values in the same way because they cannot be trusted to uphold, rather than undermine, democracy.

This is altogether broader than acting against terrorism. Its message is that if you are a present or prospective migrant from a non-Western country you are unlikely to be as tolerant as we are, so we don’t have to tolerate you.

So when New Zealand First’s leader insists that migrants must “affirm their commitment to our values and standards”, and then says Islamic “alien values” are inimical to those standards, it is hard to avoid hearing him say that New Zealand cannot tolerate Muslims at all, particularly when he added that the moderate and the militant fit hand-in-glove “everywhere they exist”.

This looks more like the curtailment than fulfilment of a tradition of tolerance.

Make no mistake: what Winston Peters said last week was a grave threat to the very freedoms he purported to champion; freedoms that Kiwis hold very dear. One can only hope that his vitriol is not, as he hopes, rewarded by a bounce in the polls.