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Brandeis Withdraws Honor for Ayaan Hirsi Ali

9 April 2014 General 25 Comments Email This Post Email This Post


University says Somali-born author, who has been critical of Islam, would no longer receive honorary degree

Brandeis University on Tuesday canceled its plan to award Somali-born author Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree after campus criticism of the selection of an advocate for Muslim women who has made comments critical of Islam.

The university said in a statement that Hirsi Ali would no longer receive the honor at the May 18 commencement. The university had offered her, and four other people, the honor eight days ago.

Hirsi 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.”

Brandeis, outside Boston in Waltham, Mass., said it had not been aware of Hirsi Ali’s statements earlier.

“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.”

The university, founded in 1948, describes itself as “the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country” and is named for the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

The Justice, Brandeis’ student newspaper, on Tuesday described Hirsi Ali as “a Somali-born women’s rights activist who has campaigned against female genital mutilation but is also well known for her critical view of Islam; she has at various times called Islam a ‘backwards religion’ and a ‘destructive, nihilistic cult of death’ that legitimizes murder.”

A visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Hirsi Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and escaping an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992, she renounced the faith in her 30s.

According to her AEI biography, while in the Dutch parliament “she worked on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and defending the rights of women in Dutch Muslim society. In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made ‘Submission,’ a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The airing of the film on Dutch television resulted in the assassination of Mr. van Gogh by an Islamic extremist.”

More than 85 of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter asking for Hirsi Ali to be removed from the list of honorary degree recipients, according to The Associated Press.

An online petition created Monday by students at the school of 5,800 had gathered thousands of signatures from inside and outside the university as of Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students,” said senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition before the university withdrew the honor.

“But it’s not just the Muslim community that is upset but students and faculty of all religious beliefs,” she said. “A university that prides itself on social justice and equality should not hold up someone who is an outright Islamophobic.”

Thomas Doherty, chairman of American studies, refused to sign the faculty letter. He said it would have been good for the university to honor “such a courageous fighter for human freedom and women’s rights, who has put her life at risk for those values.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, said, “It is unconscionable that such a prestigious university would honor someone with such openly hateful views.”

The organization sent a letter to university President Frederick Lawrence on Tuesday requesting that it drop plans to honor Hirsi Ali.

“This makes Muslim students feel very uneasy,” Joseph Lumbard, chairman of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, said in an interview. “They feel unwelcome here.”

Al Jazeera and wire services

Original post: Brandeis Withdraws Honor for Ayaan Hirsi Ali


  1. There is a lot of hate on the Brandeis Main page. Click the link above and approve of their decision!

  2. GOOD!!

  3. So glad they saw reason!

  4. Once again, CAIR bullies an institution and the school is forced to cave in to their demands. Liberals and Muslims are the ones behind the real “War on Women.”

  5. I can certainly empathize with her life experience. However it’s a shame that she has decided to ally with neocon groups and actively campaign against civil rights. Taslima Nasreen deserves a shot at an honorary doctorate. …

  6. Good. Such a repugnant and reactionary woman….

  7. Ariwan Vatsi.

  8. merely making critical comments about a religion does not mean the person is religion phobic or bigoted. Context and scope always matter

  9. Well I certainly empathize with what she went through. And she may very well have lied to live in Holland. But her life in Africa shouldn’t be ignored. Not to mention the threats and intimidation she faced just for “insulting” Islam (after all surely her colleague Theo van Gogh didn’t deserve to be literally stabbed in the back– and if anyone does think so they can go screw themselves). As I sad, I certainly don’t ally with her on anything else considering how much she has certainly allied herself with the Right as well as actually calling for the limiting of civil rights and freedoms just to spite Muslims (btw that doesn’t just affect Muslims but everyone). Like I said before there are plenty of other figures who have severely chastised islam and other religions like novelist and feminist Taslima Nasreen who stay principled to secular humanism and freedom (you dont see her allying with the BJP and other hindu fascists). Ali sadly hasn’t and that’s the biggest shame in my opinion, and that’s why I feel her to be unworthy of such an honor. …

  10. Also don’t forget people like Taj Hargey at Oxford and other true Muslim freethinkers. They get no love…

  11. So, none of this happens anywhere?

  12. “Insulting Islam”, Aaron? She advocated the complete eradication of the whole religion by military means, and she is mildly referred to as “a critic” of Islam. Given the fact that she’s a politician’s daughter who knows how to work the system (and is also aware that she looks very nice in a Chanel gown) I have to wonder how much of her life story is real, and how much is – well – a good story. By the way, I saw the film, “Submission.” It basically parodied the motions of prayer (by a naked woman). Given some of Van Gogh’s earlier public comments about Muslims (according to a Dutch friend, he frequently referred to Muslims as ” the goat f**kers”) the film appears to have been a deliberate attempt to provoke – and (surprise, surprise!) some nut job was provoked! Imagine that! The content of the film also referred to the various facets of spousal abuse as though this were a phenomenon unique to members of the Islamic world – and I can assure you, it isn’t.

  13. I sympathise and pity those who think that hatemongers can affect any aspect of Islam. Allah promises to protect us and his message from all evil till the day of judgement. It is us muslims who have given these people a reason to find audience amongst the kuffar who seem to despise us. Whilst most muslims say, it is out of ignorance and of no fault of their own, I wish to say that the sad state of misunderstanding between us and the kuffar is out of our own doing.

  14. I sympathise and pity those who think that hatemongers can affect any aspect of Islam. Allah promises to protect us and his message from all evil till the day of judgement. It is us muslims who have given these people a reason to find audience amongst the kuffar who seem to despise us. Whilst most muslims say, it is out of ignorance and of no fault of their own, I wish to say that the sad state of misunderstanding between us and the kuffar is out of our own doing.

  15. Shamnas, I agree that some of those who call themselves Muslims have a lot to answer for, but the mistreatment of the woman in “Submission” is stated as though this were something unique to Muslims and a part of the Islamic religion. Such misinformation and hyperbole does not help women – especially Muslim women. I have met people who are convinced that the way to “save” Muslim women is to “rescue” them from Islam by convincing them to either convert to Christianity or to reject all religion – and this is pretty much the public position of Hirsi Ali. Whether she takes this stance as a reflection of her real opinion or has simply seized onto it as part of her remarkable facility to discern what Islamophobes want to hear (and use it to her advantage) I cannot say – but I know where I’d put my money if I were a betting woman.

  16. Don’t believe it, Aaron. According to what I have read (and, again, to some Dutch people I know ) her anti- immigrant stance was firmly in place when she was a member of the Dutch parliament. Even then, she was referring to immigrants as generally being lazy and “unwilling to assimilate”. The far right loved it.

  17. Ayan speaks lots of truth.
    Sad many people are unable to handle it.

  18. I just emailed her.

  19. She’s a fake!!! Its sad how so many have been fooled by her exaggerated story. So exaggerated that it can be called; fake, made up.

  20. Regardless of Ali’s story it really says something if she always has to travel under bodyguard (and if there be any who believes she deserves harassment and threats then you are a huge hypocrite)

  21. Way to go Brandeis!

  22. Criticism to Islam dose not equal Islamophobia. All organized religions have bad apples on their organization and Islam is not the exception.

  23. Joanne S Brandon – Ayaan Hirsi Ali has publicly said, on several occasions, that Islam should be “eliminated” by military means. Calling her statements a “criticism of Islam” is rather like referring to Hitler as a critic of Judaism, or calling Pol Pot a critic of the middle class – just putting aside the fact that she spouts a lot of bunk that she tries to pass off as “facts” to the uninformed. (The interviewer in the BBC series, “Hardtalk” kept giving her real quotes from the Quran to counter her pseudo quotes and she had no idea how to handle it, except to smile prettily – always a good fallback!)

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