Harvard University is going forward with an undergraduate research fund named in honor of New Republic owner and former Harvard teacher Marty Peretz even after Peretz made recent statements about Muslims that were widely criticized as bigoted.
But in an unusual move, the school has issued an official statementcalling Peretz’s recent comments “distressing to many members of our community, and understandably so.”
Here’s how we got to this point:
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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.
After criticism from many, including Nicholas Kristof in the Times, Peretz later apologized for the First Amendment bit, but stood by the “Muslim life is cheap” bit.
The crucial backdrop here is that a group of influential alums from Harvard’s social studies major have been raising money for an undergrad research fund to honor Peretz — to be unveiled at a Sept. 25 event marking the 50th anniversary of the program.
But naturally, some members of the Harvard community are not pleased with the idea of honoring Peretz. The Harvard Crimson reports today:
“As a community, we’re certainly not happy about this happening—it’s not appropriate to recognize someone making such hurtful remarks,” said Rashid M. Yasin”12, the Islamic Society’s director of external relations. “A couple of students—myself included—have been trying to reach with Social Studies to address this issue.”
The Boston Globe quoted Harvard professor Steve Walt: “The question is whether an institution like Harvard wants to valorize someone who would hold such hateful views.” And Benjy Sarlin at the Daily Beastreports that another academic thought seriously about canceling his attendance at the Sept. 25 event.