Why, then, should we be commanded to "respect" those who insist that they alone know something that is both unknowable and unfalsifiable? Something, furthermore, that can turn in an instant into a license for murder and rape?
So true. First, this is a fundamental problem with religion, beyond anything incredibly vague. If we begin with a statement such as, "I believe an intelligent higher power is at large in or one with the universe.", we might get a lot of agreement. By the time we are into specifics of Jesus, Muhammad, Trinities, holy books, carbon dating, and so on, we have opened up a can of worms that simply will not settle. Many religions seem, to me, to be fundamentally incompatible.
The author discusses various activities of book burnings, disrespect, and the undertone of violence, and says:
This has to stop, and it has to stop right now. There can be no concession to sharia in the United States. When will we see someone detained, or even cautioned, for advocating the burning of books in the name of God? If the police are honestly interested in this sort of "hate crime," I can help them identify those who spent much of last year uttering physical threats against the republication in this country of some Danish cartoons. In default of impartial prosecution, we have to insist that Muslims take their chance of being upset, just as we who do not subscribe to their arrogant certainties are revolted every day by the hideous behavior of the parties of God.
Indeed, there can be no concession. Religion and principles it espouses cannot be forced upon people, but Islam is not the only offender. How many public policies are justified with invoking "God" in the United States? There are restrictions on liquor, a fight against abortion, crusades against pornography, statutes against sodomy, and even pickets protesting Harry Potter. But the Christians of the United States are far more numerous than the Shia, so they don't feel the need to resort to violence (with exceptions), but the pursuit of a theocratically-driven secular policy agenda isn't significantly better. Moreover, the social assumption that those not subscribing to a belief set should be ostracized furthers an agenda of homogenization in the country that is dangerous. Homogenization quells discourse and stifles creativity.
So I agree: there can be no concession, but we must all agree to live in a secular world, not just the Muslims. So when you claim a moral authority, be prepared to argue it from a universal principle. That murder is wrong is not contested (quacks aside), despite the Ten Commandments. But that doesn't mean we will or should approve of stoning adulteresses to death. Universal principles.
I've had the pleasure recently, in Utah, of meeting a LOT of very devoted religious people who also seem to have found a balance between living their faith, even promoting their faith (since almost every Mormon goes on a mission for two years, usually at around 19 years of age), and yet accepting a secular world around them. I can respect any belief set that can respect the right of others to believe otherwise. When a Muslim can say that as well, I welcome them into society with open arms. When they cannot - whether they deny that principle a cry for immediate Jihad, or a whisper that a true revolution must wait for the rise of a Caliph to lead them - then I reject that. And we all should.