In his editorial in the Washington Post this Friday Charles Krauthammer points out that tolerance can not be a one way street. Using the uproar caused by the Pope’s critisism of the violent efforts to spread the word of Islam as an example of this Krauthammer makes this obvious yet often forgotten point well.

First Salman Rushdie. Then the false Newsweek report about Koran-flushing at Guantanamo Bay. Then the Danish cartoons. And now a line from a scholarly disquisition on rationalism and faith given in German at a German university by the pope.

And the intimidation succeeds: politicians bowing and scraping to the mob over the cartoons; Saturday’s craven New York Times editorial telling the pope to apologize; the plague of self-censorship about anything remotely controversial about Islam — this in a culture in which a half-naked pop star blithely stages a mock crucifixion as the highlight of her latest concert tour.

In today’s world, religious sensitivity is a one-way street. The rules of the road are enforced by Islamic mobs and abjectly followed by Western media, politicians and religious leaders.

Tolerance is a good thing, necessary to maintain a good society, open to progress and allowing its citizens freedom in their pursuit of happiness. But tolerance must be mutual, otherwise it turns into self-contempt. Twisted in such a manner “tolerance” could mean the end of the tolerant and allowing society we cherish.