Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a fierce, courageous and indefatigable defender and proponent of women’s rights in Islamic societies and is one of the bravest, outspoken and prominent human rights activists of our time. She herself was born into and lived under the misogyny, oppression and barbarity of Sharia, Islamic law, suffered through the pain, cruelty and indignity of female genital mutilation and escaped from an arranged marriage to a cousin by emigrating to Holland in 1992. She was a member of parliament there between 2003 and 2006 and sought to further the integration of non-western immigrants into Dutch society and worked to defend the rights of Islamic women in the Netherlands. She criticizes Islam because it is impossible to speak out for women’s rights, human rights, in Islamic societies and cultures and not be critical of it. In 2004 she and film director Theo van Gogh made a film entitled Submission, which was about the oppression of women in Islamic societies…van Gogh was murdered on the street in broad daylight as a result and she has had to live under police protection ever since.
The lady knows whereof she speaks and has the fortitude and gumption to keep on speaking and working even though she pays an enormous personal price and is constantly at risk of being murdered for doing so.
Brandeis University was founded in 1948 and is located not far from Boston, Massachusetts. According to its website it is “named for the late Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the distinguished associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, and reflects the ideals of academic excellence and social justice he personified.” It is a small liberal arts university and is one of the most prestigious, highly-rated, elite universities in the United States, if not the world.
Louis Brandeis would roll over in his grave if he knew what the university that was named after him just did.
It soiled itself by violating its own principles and everything it is supposed to stand for.
The university decided not to award an honorary degree to Ali after announcing that it was going to at its upcoming commencement.
It rescinded its offer because Islamic groups like CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, objected loudly and vociferously to her receiving the degree because of the nature of her work and her concomitant criticism and exposure of Islam, as did a number of faculty and students. Make no mistake though CAIR, which has a long history of suppressing and attempting to suppress criticism and exposure of Islam, of demonizing, vilifying, attacking and trying to shut up anyone who is even remotely critical of Islam or who does anything except whitewash it, was one of the prime movers of the cancellation. Basically, CAIR and its fellow travellers bullied and intimidated the university into rescinding its offer to confer an honorary degree on Ali because it couldn’t countenance her work or her thoughts and didn’t want anyone to be exposed to them for fear that they might agree with her, or at least make further enquires. They felt the need to shut her up at Brandeis and they did exactly that. Shutting her up was a clear, and successful, attack on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, the integrity of the university and everything the university supposedly stands for and Brandeis should be utterly ashamed of itself for allowing it to happen.
Ali’s response was published by Time Magazine.
Here it is.
Yesterday Brandeis University decided to withdraw an honorary degree they were to confer upon me next month during their Commencement exercises. I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me-just a few hours before issuing a public statement-to say that such a decision had been made.
When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948; in the wake of World War !! and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid quotas on Jewish students. I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,’ and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse such as wife beating or child beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against me being honored in this way.
What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation-lines from interviews taken out of context-designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.
What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.
Not content with a public disavowal, Brandeis has invited me “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to “engage” in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck-and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater.
I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me and my work on behalf of oppressed women and girls everywhere.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Brandeis University soiled itself alright.
Louis Brandeis really would turn over in his grave.