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This article was reprinted with permission from New Voices.
A brouhaha at Brandeis
If alma mater indeed means “nourishing mother,” Martin Peretz has had a hungry week.
Peretz, editor-in-chief of The
New Republic and a 1959 Brandeis alumnus, has come under fire from the
university’s current students for a column he wrote recently questioning
whether American Muslims deserve First Amendment rights. Several
campus activist groups have joined in cosponsoring a petition, which
has garnered almost 500 signatures, demanding that Peretz apologize for
what they call his “appalling” words.
Peretz wrote the column
for The New Republic on Sept. 4, wherein he criticized the lack of
American Muslim outcry regarding sectarian conflict in the Middle East.
He ended the column by casting doubt on the intentions and value of the
Muslim community in the United States.
“Muslim life is cheap, most notably
to Muslims,” Peretz wrote. “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.”
Brandeis students offered little response
to Peretz until Sahar Massachi, a senior and the lead writer of campus
progressive blog Innermost Parts,
read about Peretz’s column on another blog. Massachi recognized Peretz
speaking in a Brandeis venue in the picture that accompanied that blog.
“That was a punch in the gut,” Massachi
said of the photo. “That image haunted me. A day or two later I came to
the decision that we have the obligation and the opportunity to stand up
for our values and say, ‘Hey Marty Peretz, this is not OK.’”
Massachi believes that Peretz’s column
betrays Brandeis’s values, as the school was founded in 1948 to accept
minorities that had been barred from going to other colleges. He
mobilized another progressive group he leads, the Justice League, to
start the petition, which the group posted on Sept. 10. The petition is titled “From Brandeis to Marty: A Letter.”
claimed that Muslims don't value human life… and that you wish to strip
them of their First Amendment Rights,” the petition states. “That was
unacceptable, irresponsible, and wrong. Mr.
Peretz, your name and likeness is used in our admissions materials…
Attacking people’s First Amendment rights is un-American,
un-Brandeisian, and unethical.”
The Meaninglessness of My Fast
Read about one young woman's non-fast this past Yom Kippur.
"I’m under medical supervision while they root out an infection in my
right lung, so fasting this year was a moot point. Weeks of agonizing
about whether I’d try this year, what I’d do about, were no longer a
concern when the oxygen mask was slid over my face."
Peretz did not respond to several New Voices phone calls and emails for comment.
Senior Jon Sussman, the first signer of
the petition, said that this issue is particularly pressing now because
of Islamophobic acts that have occurred across the country recently and
because of fallout from the heated debate over Park 51, the planned
Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero.
“This wave of Islamophobia is sweeping the
United States and Peretz’s comments are coming out at this time as part
of this wave,” Sussman said. “As a Brandeis alum [sic] we have
something of a responsibility to say [to Peretz] that we strongly
denounce these Islamophobic comments.”
Peretz’s apology came on Sept. 13. He began by writing that his questioning of Muslims’ First Amendment rights “genuinely
embarrasses me, and I deeply regret it... 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.”
Read the rest.
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