Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Brandeis University has withdrawn its offer to bestow an honorary degree on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a renowned proponent of women's rights and a critic of the mistreatment of women in Islamic societies.

She was born in Somalia, victimized with genital mutilation as a youngster, fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage at a young age to a relative, and eventually served in the Dutch parliament. She wrote the script for a movie, "Submission," that was critical of Islamic treatment of women. The producer of that movie was murdered and the Muslim community declared that she was next, that she would be murdered. She now lives in the United States.
She was scheduled to receive the honorary degree until Islamist students and others created a petition, denounced her as a "notorious Islamophobe" and basically intimidated the administration with hate speech.  In addition, a group of 86 faculty members signed a letter to Dr. Frederick Lawrence, President of the university demanding that he rescind the invitation. He obeyed. Such cowardice.

The irony continues. The reason given for cutting her from the honorary degree was that her views did not match up with the "core values" of the university.

The university has bestowed honorary degrees on people such as Tony Kushner, who flatly stated that the creation of Israel as a Jewish State "was a mistake," who regularly accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and of savagery and who blames the existence of the state of Israel for the "terrible peril in the world." Kushner received an honorary degree in 2006.

Then there is Desmond Tutu - a man widely revered for the work he did on behalf of South Africans, but who also is a rank anti-Semite. Tutu has compared Israel to Hitler, attacked the "Jewish lobby" as too "powerful" and "scary," he has sanitized the gas chambers of the Holocaust which he said made for a "neater death" than one under Apartheid, and he complained of the "Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust." He also insists that Jewish Holocaust victims should forgive the Nazis. Bishop Tutu received his honorary degree from Brandeis University in 2000.

One finds it difficult to accept that the views of Kushner and Tutu on the state of Israel are consistent with the "core values" of Brandeis University, founded by the Jewish community to provide a high quality education for Jews who were excluded from top universities by a quota system. But encouraging free speech, IS, or should be, a core value. One would expect that the administration of Brandeis University would pay lip service to "free speech," and "diversity" and "intellectual freedom," but their behavior indicates that they do not have the courage to actually support those "core values." Not when threatened by violent and fanatical opponents.

This is not the first time that campuses across the country have banned prominent people from speaking because their ideas may create discomfort. Last year I think it was Condoleezza Rice. To ban free speech anywhere is deplorable, but to do it on a public stage at a "liberal arts" university is one of the worst examples.

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