Islam critic: Brandeis turned honor into a shaming

April 8, 2014

 

Brandeis University has transformed an accolade into “a moment of shaming” by withdrawing a plan to give an honorary degree to a Muslim women’s advocate who has made comments critical of Islam, she said Wednesday.

The university decided late Tuesday not to honor Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the May 18 commencement after receiving complaints from some students, faculty members and others, including an online petition.

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion: “Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

“She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world,” said the university’s statement. “That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Ali said that her critics selectively pick quotes and that she doubts the university was not aware of them.

Some alumni, students and faculty did voice support for honoring Ali, who was raised in a strict Muslim family but renounced the faith in her 30s after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/brandeis-u-decides-against-honor-for-islam-critic/2014/04/08/b26f8fb8-bf96-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0_story.html

Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Critic of Islam

April 9, 2014

 

Facing growing criticism, Brandeis University said Tuesday that it had reversed course and would not award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam, who has called the religion “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”

“We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement released eight days after it had announced that Ms. Hirsi Ali and four other people would be honored at its commencement on May 18.

“You would think that someone at Brandeis would have learned to use Google,” said Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, who said he thought Brandeis had arrived at the right position: not awarding a degree, but welcoming Ms. Hirsi Ali to speak.

Having drawn fire for inviting Ms. Hirsi Ali, Brandeis may now take criticism from other camps, whether for disavowing Ms. Hirsi Ali’s views, or for giving in to Muslim activists.

Even some of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s critics say they understand her hostility to Islam, given her experiences, though they think she goes too far. A native of Somalia, she has written and spoken extensively of her experience as a Muslim girl in East Africa, including undergoing genital cutting, a practice she has vigorously opposed, and her family’s attempts to force her to marry a man against her wishes.

In 2007, Ms. Hirsi Ali gave an interview to The London Evening Standard that was, by her own telling, the most unvarnished public expression of her views to that point, including the “cult of death” comment. She advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that “violence is inherent in Islam” and that “Islam is the new fascism.”

Later that year, in an interview with the publication Reason, she said, “I think that we are at war with Islam,” and said it must be defeated. “It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now,” she said. “They’re not interested in peace.”

Western leaders like George W. Bush and Tony Blair were striking a very different tone, insisting that they were at war with terrorist factions, not Islam as a whole.

Brandeis said last week that it intended to confer honorary degrees on five recipients, including Ms. Hirsi Ali. One of the recipients is Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times.

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/us/brandeis-cancels-plan-to-give-honorary-degree-to-ayaan-hirsi-ali-a-critic-of-islam.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

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.

RNS.com: http://omidsafi.religionnews.com/2014/04/11/question-asking-brandeis-ayaan-hirsi-ali-islam/?ref=leaderboard#sthash.sj2Np0hX.dpuf

Why did Yale University Press remove images of Mohammed from a book about the Danish cartoons?

The capitulation of Yale University Press to threats that hadn’t even been made yet is the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism‹particularly Muslim religious extremism that is
spreading across our culture. A book called The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born Jytte Klausen, who is a professor of politics at Brandeis University, tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of
“protest” and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. (The competition was itself a response to the sudden refusal of a Danish publisher to release a book for children about the life of Mohammed, lest it, too, give offense.) By the time the hysteria had been called off by those who incited it, perhaps as many as 200 people around the world had
been pointlessly killed.