People who set fire to embassies, or indulge in other violence following insults to their religion, have their reasons; their conduct is not to be thought of as senseless. So argues Stanley Fish at the New York Times. In summary, his argument is that those responding in this manner don't accept the First Amendment (to the US constitution), or any hard and fast distinction between religion and civil life or between words and blows. They aren't attached, in fact, to the principles of liberalism. They feel assaults on their religion as a wound to the heart - 'a blow that is properly met by blows in return'. But it is not because they're beyond reason; it's 'because they worship God and truth'.
Of course, Fish is right to a degree: there are other belief systems than liberalism, and they too have their internal reasons. It's as well to try to 'get inside' these even when you don't share them, to try to understand how others see the world. Yet, there are serious deficiencies in how Fish presents the case. I'll pass by some obvious simplifications and inaccuracies in the way he characterizes liberalism, in order to focus on what is most glaring in his piece, at least to me. This is that he just gives two different sets of reasons, two different systems of belief, without any effort to rank or adjudicate them. Whether that is because he sees them as merely alternative outlooks without any common measure or on some other account, I won't go into.
In any case, there is one way of thinking about the world which makes room for the beliefs of others up to the point where they threaten specific harm; and there's another way of thinking about the world which, on Fish's view of things, doesn't do this, because it treats its own assumptions as authoritative, as defining limits on speech that oblige everyone. And I shall suggest that, even though any outlook does have its reasons (such as they are), one which claims universal authority over what people may believe, or say they believe, over what reality must be for everyone, under threat of violence should they refuse this, lays down an ultimatum to non-believers which is bound to be met by refusal, and/or the force of law to constrain its monopolizing claims, and/or force tout court where it wages violence against perceived unbelievers. Liberalism has a big advantage in this respect since, without neglecting the importance of looking for the truth, it allows that there are many ways towards it and even that individuals are free not to acknowledge it. There is one common measure then between liberalism and fanatical religion, though it's not the only one.