Protest Over Honoree’s Remarks about Muslims

Protest Over Honoree’s Remarks about Muslims

 A recent article posted by Editor Martin Peretz in The New Republic in response to a poll taken on a proposed Muslim community centre near ground zero has received angry responses by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that the very man who quoted that Muslim life is cheap where he questioned the worthiness of Muslims of the first amendment is being honoured despite writing;


"….Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honour these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse".

The article was criticised by New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof who described the article as an example of how "debased and venomous the discourse about Islam has become.


In his article in the New York Times he writes;


“Is it possible to imagine the same kind of casual slur tossed off about blacks or Jews? How do America’s nearly seven million American Muslims feel when their faith is denounced as barbaric"?

This is one of those times that test our values, a bit like the shameful interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the disgraceful refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe”.

 The Atlantic’s James Fallows characterized Peretz’s words as "an incredible instance of public bigotry in the American intelligentsia." He posts in his article;


“Around the world, Martin Peretz would be seen as one of "our own," for people in the press and at his magazine. He is an American, and a prominent member of the media. So by his standards, we should raise our voices to say about one of "our own," this is wrong. Rather than seeming to condone the sentiments through silence, or to grant their author a pass because of his connections and standing, we should, again, say: This is wrong, and un-American. Anyone saying such things does not speak for "us".

All said and done with a flimsy apology by Peretz who writes after being criticised by others for the “embarrassing sentence” about the First Amendment, he stood by his other comments.

“I wrote that, but I do not believe that. I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever. When I insist upon a sober recognition of the threats to our security, domestic threats included, I do not mean to suggest that the Constitution and its order of rights should in any way be abrogated. I would abhor such a prospect. I do not wish upon Muslim Americans the sorts of calumnies that were endured by Italian Americans in connection with Sacco and Vanzetti and Jewish Americans in connection with communism.


Nevertheless staff on Harvard’s campus is not appeased and are calling on the university to withdraw the honour in light of the blog posted. Abdel Nasser Rashid, president of the Harvard Islamic Society, sent a letter urging the Social Studies Department to rescind the honour,  signed by numerous student groups and delivered to the department. Harvard responded stating that that Mr. Peretz’s assertions were;


Distressing to many members of our community, and understandably so”, but that it would not revoke the honour.


 It stresses that it was imperative that the university protect and affirm free speech, including the rights of Dr. Peretz, to express his views and also to those who disagree with him.


Peretz was not able to be reached however he issued a statement to the Globe maintaining


“I was a faithful Harvard teacher; the notion that I have to defend myself when students who I’ve taught over 40 years are honouring me is really a little stupid".