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TNR's Marty Peretz Attempts 'Apology' For Column Bashing American Muslims

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Last week, New Republic editor Marty Peretz, who typically views the world's Arab population in the same way that Washington, DC police see foster dogs, added to his compendium of racist bilge in a column :

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.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof went off:

For a glimpse of how venomous and debased the discourse about Islam has become, consider a blog post in The New Republic this month. Written by Martin Peretz, the magazine's editor in chief, it asserted: "Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims."

Mr. Peretz added: "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."

Thus a prominent American commentator, in a magazine long associated with tolerance, ponders whether Muslims should be afforded constitutional freedoms. 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?

It seems that Kristof's takedown did what many, many other entrees in the world of Peretz criticism could not -- it hit close to home. And today, Peretz offers up what purports to be an "apology."

Nicholas Kristof and I do not see the world--and America's role in it--in the same way. I have sometimes expressed my disagreements with his opinions vociferously (vociferousness is my business). But in yesterday's The New York Times, he quotes two sentences that I recently wrote--one of them genuinely embarrasses me, and I deeply regret it.

The embarrassing sentence is: "I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse." 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. My recent comments on the twisted Koran-hating reverend in Gainesville will give evidence of that. So I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me.

There's a lot to unpack here, such as Peretz's studious avoidance of the sentence Kristof leads with, his whole "I wrote that, but do not believe it" construction -- but I'm most interested in this bit: "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. My recent comments on the twisted Koran-hating reverend in Gainesville will give evidence of that."

As I said last week, many people who have defamed those Americans who simply want to gather in a place they own in Manhattan to pray, as they are entitled to, by virtue of their Constitutional rights, are finding in Terry Jones a convenient way to launder their bad karma. Peretz is using the very script I wrote: "This level of bigotry is unacceptable! It's so declasse in comparison to our own bigotry, which is a refined, 'Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte' form of despicableness."

Obviously, we have the media to thank for this. By elevating Jones and his point of view to worthiness, it shifted what is acceptable conduct further toward the rabid fringes. And now, Peretz wants to wash himself clean by saying, "Hey, at least I don't think burning the Quran is okay!" Slate's Jack Shafer says: "Don't let Marty Peretz off the hook."

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