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The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age Hardcover – April 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Belknap Press; 1st edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674065905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674065901
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


With a palpable sense of moral urgency, Martha Nussbaum explores the pathology of the Islamophobia sweeping the West since 9/11. Her diagnosis amounts to a dire warning that the failure to overcome the fear of religious and cultural difference threatens the constitutional and ethical foundations of liberal democracy. (Paul Mendes-Flohr, University of Chicago Divinity School)

Martha Nussbaum persuasively demonstrates that what we need to tackle the root causes of religious hatred is not only broad minds but also open hearts capable of compassion and imagination. A passionate and encouraging book! (Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief)

The recent brouhaha over a proposed Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan provides a case study for philosopher Martha Nussbaum to explore American bias against Muslims--how religious bigotry works, what fuels it, and how it can warp our personal and policy decisions...Lucid and forceful, Nussbaum marshals the masters of moral philosophy--primarily Locke and Kant--as well as a host of literary and historical voices to propose an approach to religious difference that honors both difference and our shared humanity. This is a plainspoken but profound and even challenging book. (Kate Tuttle Boston Globe 2012-04-29)

The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age is an excellent book that deserves a wide readership. Nussbaum has provided liberal societies with a road map out of fear into a more inclusive society, and she has put us all--Muslims and non-Muslims--in her debt...Nussbaum writes in accessible, engaging language, and contemporary examples drawn from films such as Fatal Attraction and Invasion of the Body Snatchers ensure that a general readership will feel involved in her scholarly analysis of how fear of Muslims is being deliberately manufactured in our societies. (Maleiha Malik Times Higher Education 2012-04-26)

Nussbaum, among our most original social thinkers today, enters the debate on anti-Muslim discrimination with a voice of established authority. She invites us to examine disputes about women's use of the burka and the construction of an Islamic-initiated "multi-faith community center" near New York's Ground Zero. The author's argument for tolerant accommodation falls within the "Socratic and Christian/Kantian" commitment to live an examined life in relations with religious minorities. In pursuit of this goal, Nussbaum considers the psychology of "narcissistic" fear, the jurisprudence of religious freedom, and the power of imaginative empathy in fiction. She supports her argument through a demand for consistency, progress, and precedent, using examples that move comfortably from the life of Rhode Island's founder, Roger Williams, through novelist George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, as well as relevant Supreme Court arguments. The parallels she draws between past anti-Semitic and present anti-Islamic sentiment are convincing. The "new" religious tolerance is less new than we might imagine. This powerful and profound book is useful to anyone seriously concerned with religious pluralism and civil liberty. (Zachary T. Irwin Library Journal 2012-04-15)

The New Religious Intolerance is a vigorous defense of the religious freedom of minorities in the face of post-9/11 Islamophobia. (Giles Fraser The Guardian 2012-06-30)

Nussbaum is one of America's leading liberal thinkers. In The New Religious Intolerance, she turns her attention to the rise of antireligious—and specifically anti-Muslim—zealotry since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (Damon Linker New York Times Book Review 2012-07-22)

Martha Nussbaum continues her critical reflection on the ways in which a democratic society can practice justice and provide well-being for all its members. As we have come to expect, she compellingly combines erudite critical analysis with intense moral passion...Her acute analysis of social fear carries her all the way back to Aristotle, who pondered how people can manufacture fear by imagining that a threat is close at hand...Nussbaum summons us not to abdicate responsibility in the face of programmed hysteria. Important steps can be taken to counter such amorphous anxiety, but those steps require resolve, imagination and engagement. Nussbaum's appeal is not only to government policy makers but also to religious types who have responsibility for nurturing sympathetic imagination and for disciplining the inner eye. (Walter Brueggemann Christian Century 2012-09-24)

Martha Nussbaum is a professor of law and ethics. In this short and beautifully argued book, she brings the two disciplines together as she focuses on the wave of Islamophobia that is sweeping across America and Europe...[The New Religious Intolerance] should be required reading for those who have to adjudicate on questions of civic conformity and religious dissent. (Nicholas Sagovsky The Tablet 2012-10-06)

Martha Nussbaum eloquently speaks for, and continues, this tradition [of liberality] in her book The New Religious Intolerance. She pleads for the use of our 'inner eyes,' for that 'curious and sympathetic imagination' that is adept at 'recognizing humanity in strange costumes.' Like Trilling, she illustrates this liberal imagination with works of literature--in her case ranging from Lessing's Nathan the Wise all the way to the children's books of Marguerite de Angeli. We can't all be novelists or poets, but some of their imaginative skills are essential if we are to combine the stern, singular legal and political requirements of equal freedom with the baggy, polyphonous reality of social and cultural diversity. (Timothy Garton Ash New York Review of Books 2012-11-22)

Nussbaum guides readers toward an ethical response to the fears that have fed attacks on Muslims and others, and bred toxic religious persecution. Nussbaum asserts a moral calling to provide principles for democratic practice...Nussbaum proves that the role of political philosophy is essential and practical, "offering insight" to society so that people can think more carefully. Fear is central to religious intolerance, and although natural and necessary to survival, fear is the most base and thoughtless of human emotions. The dynamics of fear lead to hypocrisy and persecution of religious minorities. In times of fear and anxiety, people make rules that are self-serving, ill-informed, and arrogant, applying to others but not oneself. Nussbaum's survey of legal and philosophical developments confronting equal respect for conscience and impartiality seeks the ultimate goal of living an "examined life." Nussbaum erects principles that are essential to a good life: inclusiveness, respect for diversity, seeing through the eyes of others, and developing the creative imagination. Timely, powerful, and articulate, this is a book that everyone should read. (A. R. Brunello Choice 2012-12-01)

The value of this book the meticulous way it charts an ethical path through the maze of laws and legal judgments governing the exercise of religion in the West. (Malise Ruthven International Affairs 2013-04-01)

Martha Nussbaum seeks to explain how politics in Western countries, especially in America and Europe, is increasingly shaped by Islamophobia...She shows deep concern over the growing decline of religious tolerance, undue haste to promulgate laws that perpetuate stereotypes about culture and religious practices, and unwarranted political campaigns and referendum generating enormous anxieties and mistrust about Muslims all over the world...This is an extraordinary piece of scholarship that deploys intellectual resources of various disciplines, and addresses perhaps some of the most vital questions of our time regarding citizenship, freedom of religion, multiculturalism, and issues of interfaith relationship. Without doubt, scholars of all major disciplines will find this book indispensable in their understanding of the modern world and the challenges that it faces today.
(Mujibur Rehman The Hindu 2013-07-08)

[Nussbaum] makes an insightful contribution on the widening spread of prejudice in the West. It singles out Western intolerance directed against Muslims. (Mowahid Hussain Shah The Nation (Pakistan) 2013-11-21)

About the Author

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.

More About the Author

Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in Law, Philosophy, and Divinity.

Author photo by Robin Holland

Customer Reviews

Highly recommend it for both classroom and personal reading.
Dany Doueiri
It would be better stated as "The New Religious intolerance toward Muslims mostly in Western Europe and to a lesser degree the United States."
Mark bennett
None the less, I found the book well written and fascinating.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carol Crystle on January 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written book which draws on history to present the West's past history of religious intolerance, psychology and anthropology to examine why we are intolerant of "the other," and philosophy to provide the theoretical foundation for tolerance. Yet somehow Ms. Nussbaum misses the mark. Her book is too intellectual in its treatment of the context in which anti-Muslim intolerance has arisen. For the past 15 years our papers have been full of tales of jihadist violence in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. No echoes in her book of the janjaweed attacking in the Sudan, of Sunnis attacking Shia in Iraq, of Taliban stoning women taken in adultery, of a teenager shot in Pakistan because she wants girls to be educated. We read nothing in her book about Muslim jihadist attacks in the U.S., Spain, and Great Britain. We read nothing about growing Muslim minorities in many European cities; we hear nothing in her book about the murder of a Dutch filmmaker who dared to criicize the Muslim treatment of women. In short, her book is well-written but somehow doesn't really come to grips with what is really going on in the Western-Muslim conflict.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bruce on August 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book represents an attempt by Martha Nussbaum to provide an ethical framework for the treatment of religious minorities in the western world. She draws upon many sources, including Greek philosophers, early American leaders (e.g. Roger Williams), U.S. jurisprudence, including a number of Supreme Court decisions and even literature. She analyses several of the legal approaches and compares them, before putting forth her own derivation of an appropriate ethical basis for approaching minority religious groups within a larger society. She then uses this ethic that she has developed to analyze the situation of Muslims in the US and Europe, which takes up a large portion of the latter half of the book. She also uses the situation of minority Christian and Jewish groups in the US, both to develop her argument, and to attempt to show how it can be applied. I found her development of the ethical basis for approaching minority groups tightly argued and compelling. The application to Muslim groups within the US and Europe is messier and less clear cut, but to my mind, largely successful. None the less, I found the book well written and fascinating. I would think that many people who would disagree with some of her argument or conclusions would still find the analysis useful and interesting. If you are interested in the issues this book addresses, I would highly recommend it. I also note that she largely avoids or concisely explains philosophical jargon, which makes for much easier reading for the general reader (compared to many more academic philosophical works.)
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48 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Mark bennett on July 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The title is somewhat inaccurate. It would be better stated as "The New Religious intolerance toward Muslims mostly in Western Europe and to a lesser degree the United States." No small irony that someone who talks so much about multiculturalism ends up writing what amounts to a book with an extremely narrow cultural, geographic and religious focus.

The book brings up popular controversies in the west such as burqas, minarets and the so-called "ground zero mosque". Then it makes a bunch of really obvious philosophical arguments in favor of religious tolerance.

There is a certain amount of ugly American triumphalism in the book. A tendency to see the American model as somehow being superior in the context of religion. She wants to present the American ideal of Nationalism as some sort of cure to the problem. And suggests Europe should adopt it. But (also ironically) the multiculturalism she represents utterly rejects that sort of shared national belonging on its face. And the idea that the strength of America these days is "shared political ideals" deserves a skeptical look in the face of all the deep political divides in America today.

She holds out the idea that the only limit on minority religious expression should be considerations of public order and safety. Of course in saying that, she avoids the long and complicated history of restrictions on *majority* religious expression which have gone to the supreme court many times.

She pushes the idea of secular civil culture as a solution. But doesn't see that for many people, the establishment and promotion of such a culture effectively becomes a state religion by another name.
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Format: Paperback
Nussbaum sites India and Turkey as examples of tolerance and pluralism here.

Lets see.. India is tolerant and pluralistic because of Hinduism./Dharmic religions. The Dharmic religion of India, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Parsies etc) are very Indian in nature and tolerance and pluralism is the nature of this culture. The leftists of JNU are the ones who are splitting India up based on Caste politics and religious politics.

Islamic invasion saw India under tyranny for 700 years where Islamic iconoclasm of destruction Hindus place of worship saw to it the entire North India is full of mosques instead of Hindu temples... No wonder the Hindus are still fighting to reclaiming their temples like in Ayohdhia.

The Indian leftist govt headed by an Italian Catholic family of Sonia Maino (India's own Eva Peron) have controlled the monies of Hindu temples and used it to send Muslims for Hajj Travel.. IS that want Nassbaum wants for the US? Let the govt control all church funds and use that money to send the "Minority" Muslims for Hajj travel?

India was under Islamic tyranny for 700 years (the last 1000 years) followed by 300 years of Anglican tyranny and then 65 years of Socialist leftist tyranny.

Finally we now have Modiji and many Hindus have found some reprieve. India's self titled "Intellectuals" from west Bengal IMO should be merged with Bangla Desh and let the rest of India mange without these leftists. ... Its cruel to split the Bengali up. Like the merger of Berlin..West Bengal should be merged with Bangla Desh.

India had its first elections recently in the Internet Decade... in a way this is like the French revolution for India... The leftists from the Bastille have been taken down by the proletariat! A small window of liberty for the Hindus of India! Good for them!
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