Monday, September 13, 2010

New Republic editor defends as ‘fact’ his claim that ‘Muslim life is cheap’

By Sahil Kapur Under fire from prominent journalists, the top editor of the influential magazine New Republic on Monday apologized for suggesting that Muslim Americans be denied First Amendment rights, but stood by his broad claim that members of the Islamic faith don’t much value human life.

“[My] other sentence is: ‘Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims.’ This is a statement of fact, not value. In his column, [the New York Times’ Nick] Kristof made this seem like a statement of bigotry,” wrote Marty Peretz, TNR’s editor-in-chief, in a blog post titled: “An Apology.”

“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,” Peretz defended. “There is no hatred in my heart; there is deep anxiety about the dangers of Islamism.”

In his Times column Saturday, Kristof excoriated Peretz’s September 4 blog post, elevating the controversy over the TNR editor’s initial remarks. “Is it possible to imagine the same kind of casual slur tossed off about blacks or Jews?” Kristof wrote. “How do America’s nearly seven million American Muslims feel when their faith is denounced as barbaric?”

The issue of American attitudes toward Muslims has lately been elevated in the national discourse due to widespread public opposition to the planned Islamic center several blocks from Ground Zero and one Florida pastor’s now-canceled plans to publicly burn copies of the Quran on September 11.

[A]t some point,” Kristof added on his Times blog, “criticisms morph into racist stereotypes and slurs, and the suggestion that Muslims don’t value human life and maybe don’t deserve First Amendment protections is just that, a slur. It should be offensive to all of us.”

The Peretz comments were also criticized by, among others, James Fallows of the Atlantic as unrepresentative of US mainstream journalists and by the UK Guardian as an example of “hatred” against Muslims taking root in American public discourse.

Peretz has for years come under fire from a host of journalists and commentators for ostensibly painting all Muslims with a broad brush of negativity. He, however, maintains that his sentiments are legitimate and not based in intolerance

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, a relentless and vociferous critic of Peretz, argued in March: “Marty Peretz spits out the most bigoted sentiments of this type -- and he's been doing this for years, as is well known -- and very little happens, because, for multiple reasons, this specific type of [anti-Muslim] hate-mongering remains basically permitted in American political discourse.”

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