The question we should be asking about Brandeis, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Islam

April 11, 2014


Brandeis’ decision to rescind the honorary degree to Somali-Dutch Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been met with celebration and the to-be-expected condemnation from rightwing quarters.    Brandeis finally released a statement which read:  “We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Brandeis’ statement has been met with almost unanimous celebration from Muslim community members and also many Jewish community members.

It shouldn’t be.   But not for the reason one might think.

Let’s step out of the bizarre world in which we live—which we create—and ask a parallel question:

Would Princeton give an award to an activist who talks about Judaism as the religion devoted to worshipping an evil “fire-breathing” deity that commands Jews to violently destroy the world?

Would Notre Dame recognize an award to someone who talks about eradicating blacks?  Or Christians? Or Hispanics?

This is exactly the parallel of what Ms. Hirsi Ali has said, and repeatedly so, about Islam and Muslims for many years.

Let’s be clear about this.   This is not a freedom of speech issue.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali can get on Fox News anytime she wants, or speak at the Neo-conservative place of her employment, American Enterprise Institute, neither of which has any issue with her demonization of Islam and Muslims.

No, this is about a university finally doing what they should have done in the first place—their homework—and deciding not to honor a well-paid professional hate-monger.

Presumably Hirsi Ali came to their attention as a “champion of Muslim women’s rights.”
One cannot save Muslim women by destroying Muslims.

So, here’s the question we need to be asking:  Did Brandeis do their due diligence before awarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
If they did not, that’s a sign of incompetence.
If they did, it’s unconscionable.

Brandeis did the right thing.  Eventually. But perhaps rather than applauding the decision to rescind this offer, we should be asking another question:   how could Brandeis have chosen such a hateful person whose views are easily exposed through a simple Google search in the first place?

That is the real, and as of yet unanswered, question.