I was about to pile on to Mark’s, Jonathan’s, and Mike’s witty curses directed at Marty Peretz’s loathsome remarks about Muslims when I saw that one of Mark’s commenters (Larry Birnbaum) had linked to an apology Peretz recently posted. Time to retreat? No. Time to remind people of Peretz’ original argument, whose bigotry went way beyond two sentences and which his apology by no means takes back.
Here’s the original—apologies for the long quotation:
…In fact, there has not been a single rally or demonstration in America aimed at Muslim or Arab interests or their commitments to foreign governments and, more likely, to foreign insurgencies and, yes, quite alien philosophies. I suggest that this is largely the case because Americans are so fearful of being accused of bias, however the injustice of the charge might be.
This is certainly not the situation in Britain and France, Germany and Denmark, Holland and Spain where a demo against the Arabs or the Pakis or the Algerians or the Moroccans or the Turks and Muslims more generally is a regular feature of the political landscape and where parties win parliamentary seats precisely because they campaign with Islamists and islam [sic] as the targets.
I want to believe that Muslims are traumatized by the unrelieved murders in Islamic lands. Frankly, the only demonstration against a mass killing (after all, they happen nearly every day) I’ve read about was last week in Pakistan when some 30-odd people, not designated and not guilty of doing anything except going to a Shia shrine were blown right then and there. A day or two after two bombs went off taking the lives of what turned out–you can read it about in the recent Tehran Times–to be just under one hundred Shi’ites in two town different towns.
This intense epidemic of slaughter has been going on for nearly a decade and a half…[ellipses in original] without protest, without anything. And it has been going for decades and centuries before that.
Why do not Muslims raise their voices against these at once planned and random killings all over the Islamic world? This world went into hysteria some months ago when the Mossad took out the Hamas head of its own Murder Inc.
But, frankly, 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 honor 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.
So: Peretz’ argument (and remember the original headline: “The New York Times Laments ‘A Sadly Wary Misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans.’ But Really Is It ‘Sadly Wary’ Or A ‘Misunderstanding’ At All?”) was this:
(1) Americans should not apologize for our own anti-Muslim bias since our politics has been less openly hostile towards Muslims in general and Muslim immigrants in particular than is common in Western Europe, where xenophobia is more mainstream;
(2) On the other hand, maybe being anti-Muslim is not bias at all but an understandable and proper fear that Western societies feel in the face of “alien philosophies” (i.e. Islam);
(3) two signs of this philosophy’s alienness are that
(a) “routine and random bloodshed…defines their brotherhood [i.e. Islam],” with the billion or so Muslims who’ve never killed anyone apparently not to be counted; and
(b) Muslims don’t hold demonstrations when total strangers in other countries whose residents happen to be majority Muslim kill other strangers in those countries.
Peretz then made a comment about the First Amendment that he has later indeed apologized for in what he himself describes as an “apology for one sentence.” In the rest of his non-apology apology he says this:
The other sentence is: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims.” This is a statement of fact, not value. In his column, Kristof made this seem like a statement of bigotry. But on his blog, he notes that he concurs with it. “Peretz makes some points that are valid, and I agree with him that Muslims haven’t said nearly enough about those Muslims who kill other Muslims—in Kurdish areas, in Iraq, in Western Sahara, in Sudan, and so on.”
Every week brings more and more gruesome evidence of this, in the the Middle East and Central Asia and elsewhere. The idea that in remarking upon the cheapening of Muslim lives I was calling for the cheapening of Muslim lives, as some have suggested, is preposterous. There is no hatred in my heart; there is deep anxiety about the dangers of Islamism, and anger at the refusal of certain politicians and commentators to adequately grasp those dangers, but there is no hatred, none. In these unusually inflamed days, I am glad to say so clearly.
Peretz has not apologized for, in fact has repeated, his original claims concerning why we should be alert to the “dangers of Islamism”: that Muslims are by the nature of their religion prone to mass murder; and that random Muslims don’t feel inclined to cry out specifically against those killings in the world whose perpetrators or victims happen to be Muslims. Kristof never read Peretz’ statement about Muslim life being cheap as a statement that it should be cheap. He read it as a statement of bigotry that tarred a billion Muslims as potential murderers, or at least sympathetic to murder, because Peretz regards them as holding others’ one another’s lives cheap. Kristof continues to read Peretz’ position this way, and continues to be appalled both by that position and by Peretz’ absurd implication that Kristof in any way endorses it. And he’s right to be appalled. Given a chance to reflect on his bigotry, Peretz has chosen to repeat it and to claim that it represents legitimate “anxiety,” nothing more. He hasn’t begun to understand what the problem is—and clearly has no intention of trying. There is plenty of hatred in Peretz’s heart. He’s simply gotten so used to feeling it that it seems to him like reason.
May Peretz spend the afterlife in an endless library whose entire collection consists of back issues of Tikkun.
And, to touch him where it really hurts: when he dies, may the New York Times publish no obituary.