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On Second Thought
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: A Brave Soul But Should She Be Honored?

Brandeis University had good reason to select Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree. But did they also have good reason to walk back that decision?

Published on: April 20, 2014
Alan H. Luxenberg is President of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and author of a book for secondary school students on “Radical Islam.”
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  • Lawrence A. Husick

    The issue, BEFORE Brandeis issued its invitation to Ali, is the one you have so carefully illuminated here. The issue, at PRESENT, is whether, having failed to engage in this analysis and debate, the University should have withdrawn the invitation based on its own failure to “do its homework”. The 2007 interview you cite is not only readily available with a simple search on Google, but it is quite notorious. If a University student submitted a paper, and then weeks later, “withdrew” the paper, citing as a reason that she had not done sufficient research prior to its submission, no professor that I know would allow it. We should be evaluating Brandeis’ actions at this point, not Ali’s views of Islam. After all, Brandeis famously gave an honorary degree to Tony Kushner, whose views regarding the American Jewish Community were pretty offensive to many who support the University.

    • Corlyss

      “the University should have withdrawn the invitation based on its own failure to “do its homework'”

      Only if you assume the conclusion their homework would have produced were intellectually valid to begin with. I eject that idea. The University’s decision to withdraw its “honor” was disgraceful and cowardly even as it was typical of the modern university.

      When much of the liberal establishment, including academia, value political correctness and avoiding “hurt feelings” over truth-telling about certain groups, we get public policy that cannot cope with the permanent underclass, the crime the underclass breeds, or the vile but effective violence practiced by those protected by political correctness in order to get their way. We are in a dangerous domestic world where we cannot admit that terrorism arises in Muslim communities, it’s intolerant Muslims that don’t along with their neighbors, it’s Muslims that prey on Christians and Jews, it’s Muslims that kill other Muslims for supposed heresy or for adopting western values, it’s Muslims that practice repugnant customs like female genital mutilation and honor killings. If people who speak the truth about at least some proponents of Islam are shunned, especially by institutions whose very existence is premised on freedom of thought, as the price of exercising their freedom to speak the truth to unwilling listeners, the forces of chaos have already won.

  • Boritz

    “Academia often seems to cultivate in people an inability to distinguish good guys from bad guys”

    Then again they cultivate the ability to distinguish with absolute certainty good from evil:
    John Stewart = good
    Rush Limbaugh = evil, evil, evil!
    Hillary Clinton = good
    Ted Cruz = evil, evil!
    Sarah Palin = evil! evil! evil! evil! evil!

    In the bipolar category is John Roberts
    Vote for Obamacare = good
    Vote for McCutcheon = super evil!

  • Tim Fairbank

    I share your concern about declaring war on all the world’s Muslims, but Alan…what if she is actually right? What if the real problem goes all the way back to the 7th Century, and the core beliefs of Islam?

    What if “militant” Islam is the authentic version?

    • Corlyss

      The liberal left will learn its folly only when it is stoned and decapitated at the hands of those it decided merited protection from the consequences of their own bad behavior.

    • Jim__L

      I’m not sure that realistically debating “authenticity” is useful.

      The question should be, rather, whether militant Islam is inevitable.

  • Corlyss

    Oy! I can just imagine what Luxemberg’s book on radical Islam says to secondary students. Probably some variant of the useful idiot’s trope about being patient with the disruptive and teaching them tolerance by our example of cultivated openness.

  • charlesrwilliams

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not a politician. If her opinions were expressed by a political leader, they would indeed be a problem – whether they are true or not. I know more about Islam than 99% of the non-Muslims in this country. Her judgment about Islam appears to be plausible. It would be interesting to understand exactly why she takes this position. But one thing for sure, it is not beyond the pale to say that islam is at war with Western Civilization. It is not a clearly false statement nor is it a statement that should be condemned out of hand as an expression of hatred for Muslims.

    “We are at war with Islam.” Who is the “we” and what is this “war” all about? She may see this as a culture war between a traditional religion and modern, post-Christian secularism. And if that is so then in some respects I see Muslims as potential allies.

    There is an important issue to be discussed, understood and debated. Unfortunately, there are some politically powerful Muslim groups that don’t want this open question discussed. They want to shut the discussion down. Brandeis University – like modern academia as a whole – has no interest in this kind of controversy. So Ayaan Hirsi Ali must be disinvited.

  • wigwag

    Before his untimely death, Christopher Hitchens wrote several essays expressing his support for Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This article from “Tablet Magazine” in 2010 is a must-read.

    Hitchens would not have been surprised about the despicable behavior of Brandeis or the even more despicable behavior of the 80 or so Brandeis professors who chose to ally themselves with the genital mutilators instead of one of the few victims of genital mutilation who chose to stand up to her co-religionists and shout “no.”

    The “liberals” at Brandeis had a choice. They could have chosen to honor a a young woman from Somalia who had endured genital mutilation and forced marriage, made her escape to Europe, spoken out for the rights of women, seen her colleague (Theo Van Gogh) murdered for the same advocacy, abandoned religion for the values of the European enlightenment, and now conducts her life under permanent police protection.

    Instead Brandeis and the leftist Professors who dominate its faculty decided to align themselves with the Mullahs who insist that young girls have their labia be stitched shut when they enter puberty. These same faculty, who detest conservative Christians who oppose gay marriage and abortion, recoil in horror that anyone would would speak up against female genital mutilation, honor killing and the punishment of rape victims instead of the perpetrators of rape.

    • Gene

      It’s interesting how the statement from the 80 faculty steers the discussion of FGM toward “public health problems,” i.e., the collective harm to society. How about worrying about the grave harm to individuals? That is, of course, the foundational unit of human rights.

      • wigwag

        Gene, I’ll tell you a story. In 1931 a young woman named Florence Reece was living in Harlan County, Kentucky. Her husband, a miner, was an organizer for the United Mineworkers Union. The mine bosses didn’t like the idea of unions very much and they sent the county sheriff named J.H. Blair to Sam Reece’s house to rough him up..
        Reece had been warned so he wasn’t home. Blair took the opportunity to beat Florence and her children instead. After the sheriff left, the 31 year old Florence sat down and penned the lyric to a song that she entitled “Which Side are you On?” She set the words to an old Baptist spiritual “Lay the Lilly Low.”
        “Which Side Are You On?” became an instant anthem for the left. It was ubiquitous during the union organizing struggles of the 1930s and the sung was resurrected during the Civil Rights movement and the demonstrations against the Viet Nam war. It was sung over and over again; I sung it myself.
        Probably the most important verse in “Which Side Are You On?” goes like this;
        “They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there,
        You’ll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair.”
        The meaning was unambiguous; only the squeamish, the weak and the cowardly would refuse to choose sides.
        I would bet that most of the professors who signed the letter to the Brandeis President demanding that the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi-Ali be rescinded are familiar with the song.
        Those professors made a choice; they aligned with a side. Regardless of their protestations to the contrary, they chose to align themselves with the genital mutilators and excoriate the young black woman who, after she was mutilated herself, decided to make a stand.
        If you go back and look at the signatories of the Brandeis letter, you will see that a significant number are women. Surely most of these women consider themselves to be feminists.
        But are they really?
        It seems to me that in fact the best that can be said for them is that they’re fair weather feminists. Given the choice of siding with women or siding with their multicultural instincts, they threw their feminism under the bus and instead decided to worship at the multicultural alter. A more realistic view would be that these faux-feminists are not really feminists at all; they’re misogynists with mammaries.
        Of course the same Mullahs who insist that Muslim women have their genitalia cut don’t think very highly of homosexuality either. While the debate of the decade in the United States has whether to allow gay people to marry, the debate in many Muslim nations has been what form of capital punishment should be used to punish homosexual acts. Despite the fact that virtually all of these Brandeis professors surely support gay marriage, so entrenched are they in their worship of the multicultural ethos that they chose to side with those who want gay Muslims hanged or stoned to death until their skulls crack rather than those who find the predominant Islamic attitude about homosexuality repugnant.
        Hirsi-Ali’s first book was entitled “Infidel.” It wasn’t her objection to genital cutting that earned her a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill her, it was her apostasy. The dimwitted professors at Brandeis insist that barbaric views don’t characterize all Muslims. just a radical few. They’re surely right about that.
        What they don’t tell you is that the hatred of apostasy is not the exception in the Muslim world; it’s the rule. Punishment for blasphemy and apostasy is not unusual in the Muslim world, punishment is the rule. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the 57 majority-Muslim nations in the world make both apostasy and blasphemy a crime; often punishable by death. Almost every single nation mentioned by Alan Luxenberg in his essay makes it a crime to abandon Islam for another religion including the supposedly moderate Indonesia. The one exception is Kosovo.
        Did the Brandeis faculty chose to align itself with those who support freedom of religion?
        Nope. They chose to align themselves with those who favor prison-time, corporal punishment, maiming or death for apostates who decide to chose another religion over Islam.
        The Brandeis faculty and the University itself, have made clear which side they are on.
        One thing is clear; it’s not the side of those who cherish personal freedom.

        • LizardLizard

          Thank you for this. Very well said.

  • wigwag

    Speaking of Hirsi-Ali’s controversial remarks in the “Reason Magazine” interview, Alan Luxenberg says,

    “One could give her credit for independence of mind but her statements are not only wrong, they are counterproductive in the extreme.”

    My question to Mr. Luxenberg is, when exactly has making comments that are “wrong,” “counterproductive” or both ever been disqualifying for the award of an honorary degree at Brandeis or any other institution of higher education that he is familiar with?

    • ljgude

      Well said….And Hirsi Ali bears on her body and in her soul the actual experience of Islam. Consequently, her the distinction between Islam and Islamism may be a bit different than Mr Luxenberg’s. The Western tactic to divide Islam in into good and bad with the Islam Islamist distinction may fail in the end. There were good and bad Germans in WW2 but we had to fight the lot. I see the distinction, but I also see that as a religion it is hard to separate its absolute belief system from modern totalitarian politics. What I actually think is happening is that to the extent that Muslims have become secular and modern they may no longer be truly in touch with the inner experience of religion and support it as a cultural institution that demands following laws requiring FGM, jihad, etc. It may well be that by denying the distinction Hirsi Ali fosters radical Islam, but I believe it is more likely that by appeasing radicals like CAIR and the rest Brandeis encourages radical Islam for more than Hirsi Ali.

  • Fat_Man

    “One could give her credit for independence of mind but her statements
    are not only wrong, they are counterproductive in the extreme.”

    She is right. You are wrong. It is a characteristic of liberals to not believe other people who clearly enunciate illiberal goals. It is why rational men have so little respect for liberals.

  • Where are the moderate Muslims who condemn Islamists?

  • Curious Mayhem

    The answer to the question is, yes. Brandeis undoubtedly received threats, and they backed down. I suggest you take a look at Paul Berman’s book on the decline of free speech in the West because of the rise of Islamic radicalism.

  • MontyBurnz

    The author and many others state that there is some kind of complete separation between Islamist and Islam but they fail to recognize that traditional practioners of Islam who are not Islamists also practice genital mutilation, deprive them of education and force women into marriages and treat them as second class citizens. It is not only Islamists who do these things. Many believers in Islam also practice these heinous actions. Its a mix of culture and religion that is not easily labeled that engage in these anti women behaviors. To pretend its only terrorist Islamist who do this is specious and misleading.

  • Tate Metlen

    There are good people who’s religion is Islam. This doesn’t make Islam any better or less of a worldwide threat.

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