|go ahead... be a heretic|
Neither Perl nor Python would be a bad choice. Both are heavily used. Both are under active development. Both fill many of the same niches (which statement actually sells them both short since their general utility could never be classified as 'niche'.) Both have OO built in. Both are used by some pretty smart people who use them well, and some less capable people who use them poorly.
Perl has CPAN. CPAN has tens of thousands of modules from thousands of developers. CPAN has smoke testing of every module that gets uploaded, on a broad range of systems and Perl versions. Perl's strong "testing" culture is one of its best features. Not all that glitters is gold, but CPAN has a pretty good track record. Perl is the syntax used to interact with CPAN modules.
Pick up a copy of Learning Perl, and Intermediate Perl. Each one will take you a week to get through if you are persistent. If those first two weeks with Perl don't make a favorable impression on you, try the same with Python.
Before I started learning Perl, I spent most of my time with C. Once I started with Perl, I couldn't stop.
Above all, patiently form your own opinion, and give yourself time to do it. Stroustrup, in The C++ Programming Language makes a wise observation. I'll have to paraphrase it because I don't have the book handy at the moment. He says that when people approach a new language they often find themselves frustrated; every piece of syntax becomes a reminder that this new language isn't the language they're proficient with. Often that's as far as they get before dismissing the new language and going back to what they know. If they would just commit honest effort and have the patience to get past the early awkward stages they would discover what the new language has to offer.
A lot of Perl haters (or haters of any language) never gave themselves the time to get past the initial awkward stage. Some haters have never even spent any quality time at all with the language. Give yourself a chance, and form your own opinion.