But the way in which he rhetorically makes use of Martin Peretz's recent blog post in the New Republic online is deceptive and I think, fundamentally flawed. Look, what do I know about these kind of internecine battles among the lions of the great liberal media--the Times and TNR squaring off--but I believe that Kristof misses an opportunity to engage Peretz's broader point, which he's brave to make, though he shoots himself in the foot with potentially inflammatory lines like, "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."
For much of America, the First Amendment is of higher value than the First Commandment (so much so that it's even invoked to allow corporations to destroy the campaign finance system) and so any argument which suggests any potential diminishing of constitutional protection is cause for battle.
But Peretz rightly raises an important question which Kristof and many other liberal proponents these issues often ignore--the question of why so little is said to openly condemn the wanton bloodshed we see taking place virtually every day throughout the Muslim world--of Muslims killing Muslims--and how disorienting and disturbing it is to see classic liberal thinking defend the pluralism of American religious life while worrying in private that in our zeal to accept we fear being politically traif by also criticizing those we have drawn near.
"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."This is an issue I'd like to see Kristof address head-on because I think it's the fundamental question that Peretz is asking. The hatred and xenophobia we see coming from the Right can't only be countered by an equally unquestioning tolerance from the Left. Somewhere in the middle people have to be able ask difficult but necessary questions. That kind of debate is also what the constitutional process is all about.
I want to be very clear. I favor the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan; and God knows, I believe that President Obama is being thrown every ugly tactic and imaginable lie in the book to derail a noble and important agenda. But because America's engagement with Islam--both the moderate Islam here in the States and the radical Islam abroad (and also here in the States as is evidenced by attacks and by a number of arrests) is far from over, and therefore many more questions remain. And they should be asked and debated civilly, responsibly, and honestly in full view--it's to everyone's benefit.