What "extremist" means to some

Michaael Gerson has an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the inauguration of Tony Blair's new "Faith Foundation": The Faith That Moves Tony Blair. The article begins:
The American kickoff of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation last week unintentionally revealed the mountain of misunderstanding the former British prime minister has undertaken to scale. At an event designed to further mutual religious sympathy, two of the panelists -- including the president of Yale University, Richard Levin -- casually asserted that religious Americans who support pro-life restrictions on international family planning aid are as doctrinaire and exclusionary as Saudi extremists. Pro-life Catholics and evangelicals? Wahhabi extremists? What's the difference?
Gerson is quite sympathetic to Blair's project and its aims. Blair's key concern is to avoid "extremist and exclusionary" religion and to promote tolerance. Of course, it all depends on what you mean by extremism. Clearly for some who are on board, the promotion of the sanctity of human life from conception is so obviously extremist that it can be casually and offensively dismissed as part of a public presentation of the initiative. I get the feeling that there is no part in the pan-faith group hug for us.

Gerson does not allude to Tony Blair's own voting record on abortion and seems to have let him off rather lightly in the post-conference conversation. Apparently Blair argued that what they said could not have been what they intended. So that's all right then.

See also John Smeaton's comments.

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