“Muslim life is cheap.” WTF?

On Saturday, Marty Peretz, owner and editor of the by-no-means uninfluential The New Republic published a column to which the Internet (and the husband) drew my attention just today.

Here’s the money slice-o-awful:

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…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.

The rest of the piece is also loathsome, but honestly, that’s enough right there to stop any thinking American in their tracks. Indeed, this is one of those passages that is so wrong, in so many, many ways, that one almost doesn’t know where to begin to unpack it.

But I’ll give it a shot.

A) Apparently the First Amendment is not so much an unalienable right as a privilege. You know, like when a sovereign ruler grants his or her subjects a privilege? As opposed to when a democratic republic serves to protect its citizens’ rights? Good to know! Especially coming from a magazine editor.

B) Muslim life is cheap, “most notably to Muslims” — you see, Muslims frequently kill other Muslims, so that means Muslim life is cheap.

So what, then, are we to think of Christian life? How many Christians have been killed by the majority-Christian American forces since 1776? For instance, as we’ve swanned about the Middle East in recent years, have we been carefully differentiating between the Arab Muslims and the Arab Christians? Because while every American soldier should surely know by now that Muslim life is cheap (having been involved in wars that have taken so many of them in the past decade), they may not know about Christian life. I would submit that sheer casualty numbers indicate that American Christians find Christian life to be very cheap indeed.

Oh and hey, what about that other bastion of Christianity, Ireland? Peretz points in particular to the situation between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims in Pakistan (and, one presumes, by implication, elsewhere) where the former slays the latter, and the latter the former, often and in gorily impressive numbers — you know: Just like the Christians of Ireland! Who for many years killed each other quite gleefully! And Irish Americans often raised funds for the cause of more killing! Yup, I would have to conclude that to the Irish, and Irish Americans, Christian life is cheap.

Aaand C) “Why do not Muslims raise their voices against these at once planned and random killings all over the Islamic world?” – Ah yes, the question forever asked.

Here’s the answer: THEY HAVE AND THEY DO. Want to know what just a handful of Muslims have to say about “planned and random killings all over the Islamic world?” My very own post about the topic might be of service: Muslim responses to extremism.

Money quote from that post, in a fatwa issued by one of the world’s leading Sunni theologians, Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, a Muslim whose life is apparently cheap and who hails from (Mr. Peretz might like to note) Pakistan: Terrorism is terrorismviolence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts.

But rather than continue to listen to the loathsome (and, for my part, sadly Jewish) Marty Peretz, let’s listen to American Muslim, author, NPR contributor and interfaith activist Eboo Patel:

Can you believe that, at one point, women couldn’t vote in America? That Japanese American citizens were put in detention camps because of the actions of the Imperial Japanese Navy? That Jackie Robinson was spat upon on the baseball diamond because of the color of his skin? That there were quotas on Jews at Ivy League Universities? That mosques were opposed across the country and a shocking number of people suggested a Muslim should be disqualified from the Supreme Court or the Presidency because of his religion?

Oh yeah, that last one is still happening. But one day, I promise you, we will be as ashamed of the way American Muslims are viewed and treated in 2010 as we are of Japanese internment and Jim Crow. America’s promise is meant for everyone or we are not America.

…American history is an arc toward freedom, dignity and inclusiveness for all. That will include Muslims, sooner or later. Everyone knows you can’t stop that arc. And everyone knows that those who try to throw the arc off-course are recorded and held up in history books years later as an example to kids of who not to be like. They are the demons of American history.

Eboo’s right — people like Peretz are the demons of American history, and we should be ashamed of them. It’s up to us to cast them aside, so that we can get on with the business of perfecting our union.

And finally, as a Jew, I would suggest to Mr. Peretz that after publishing this screed, he might want to say a special prayer for forgiveness next week on Yom Kippur — if only because announcing that someone’s “life is cheap” tends to be the kind thing that leads to lives being taken.

It’s no wonder that American Muslims say that they are afraid as never before.


  1. It looks like The New Republic is trying to return to the days when they could, as a serious conservative magazine, rail against desegregation. Contrast – “the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.” with “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.”. Note the similarities. If there’s a buck to be made by dressing hatred in pseudo academic respectability, TNR is there to make it.

  2. As a regular reader of TNR’s blogs, I have learned not to take anything Peretz says seriously. TNR has some good writers, like Jonathan Chait and John McWhorter, but to read all the blogs you occasionally encounter Peretz. Whenever reading a Peretz piece, you have to shut down your outrage button and just nod your head and say “Hmmmmm” and “Uhhh, yeah” without trying to make sense of it. I sincerely hope Peretz soon hands ownership of the magazine over to someone else. He’s the cantankerous old man in the driver’s seat.

  3. Well written Em. One of your better ones.

  4. ee, I’m sorry you had to write that — but I’m glad you did.

  5. All life is cheap, made so by the indifference and ignorance of groups who look out for their “own kind” at the expense of others. Strangely, human life is supposed to be of a higher value, and while many “Christians” go on-and-on about the “sanctity of life,” they are not loathe to see someone put to death or bothered enough to reach out to those left bereft of shelter and sustenance by the vagaries of life. When you can place people so easily in boxes, it is even easier to assign those boxes little value, and pay them no mind. Marty Peretz should be ashamed of his ignorance; the reason he can’t hear the Muslim outrage over the killings is because he’s not listening.

  6. I saw red as I read that excerpt by Peretz. Muslim life is cheap because they kept getting killed so they would abuse the privilege of the First Amendment? I weep at the ignorance of this country.

  7. StarrySquid

     /  September 8, 2010

    Great post, Emily. Thanks for speaking out.

  8. Alan Ryan

     /  September 11, 2010

    As a schoolboy, I was made to read the entire Old Testament, verse by verse; it contains a great deal of religiously motivated massacre. I also had to do a lot of medieval history, and read more than I wanted about the behaviour of crusaders wading in Muslim blood when they captured Jerusalem, and the murder of Rhineland Jews on their way through Germany. Are we now to engage in a competition as to whether Jews, Christians, or Muslims are the more infected with a taste for mass murder and genocide? It seems astonishing that we’ve got to this lunatic pass.

  9. Ed Marshall

     /  September 11, 2010

    Josh, that wasn’t the New Republic, it was National Review. TNR’s sorry decent has some sort of nadir being another National Review but that wasn’t TNR, it was Bill Buckley and his magazine.

  10. Satish Iyer

     /  September 12, 2010

    BRAVO !

  11. Cynic

     /  September 13, 2010


    The New Republic has never been a conservative magazine, of any variety. The quote you offer is taken from William F. Buckley in The National Review – all they share in common is the acronym ‘TNR.’ Nor is it out to make a buck – it’s a notorious money-loser. Moreover, Peretz alienates many of its subscribers. There’s no question that this whole episode has been damaging both to TNR’s credibility and to its business model.

    If you want to excoriate Peretz for his intemperate and immoderate views, be my guest – if there is any man less suited to the format of a blog, I cannot presently call him to mind. But please, attack him for his real faults, not for imagined ones.

  12. Chris Cummins

     /  September 14, 2010

    The Irish analogy is just ridiculous…you clearly don’t understand the situation. ‘Killed one another quite gleefully’??? Erm, most terrorist bombings here come with WARNINGS for civilians to stay away–the goal of the Nationalist terror groups (funded, sure, by ignorant or nostalgic Irish-Americans) is to target the infrastructure of British rule, not the people on the other side of the sectarian divide. The worst atrocity in Northern Irish history (Omagh, 1997) was the result of an ACCIDENT, and the terrorist group involved APOLOGISED.

    Members of the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan (seen as ‘infidels’ by their own government) are targeted as individuals, with bombs timed to explode during worship services. THAT is ‘gleeful’ killing. And besides, when are you going to see Al-Qaida deliberately go out of its way to minimise civilian casualties?

    You can argue against the use of political violence in Ireland all you like (I find it reprehensible myself), but there is no comparison between the kill-as-many-as-you-can approach of the Muslim groups Peretz has in mind, and the tactics of the RIRA or UVF to keep the death toll as close to zero as possible.

    Chris Cummins

  13. voice

     /  September 15, 2010

    Here is an interesting article from MuslimsVoiceofAmerica.com/Blog

    5 Reasons to build / not to build the Mosque near ground zero

  14. SDA

     /  September 15, 2010

    Life is cheap and words are clearly cheaper. Actions speak louder than words and clearly life is viewed as cheap by thoes in power.

  15. tanya

     /  September 16, 2010

    Got to say that Marty does have a point. While I strongly, strongly stand up for the equal rights and equal dignity of all Americans who are Muslim, and decry the nut house here in America…I do think we all need to put more pressure on Muslim majority countries to respect these same freedoms for Christians, Hindus, Jews, and others living in their communities. Muslims in America aren’t barbaric, it’s the Muslim societies in other countries. Why is it wrong to say that? Why is it wrong to call a spade a spade? I mean, please! Why are there hardly any Jews or Christians left in vast areas of the world which were once hotbeds of diversity? Come on, people! Don’t sell our American values down the river, but likewise, don’t sell minority faiths in other countries down the river either!

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