After Backlash from Muslim Groups, Brandeis University Will No Longer Be Giving an Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Last week, Brandeis University announced that it would be awarding honorary degrees to five notable figures, including atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her advocacy of women’s rights around the world:
Hirsi Ali, in her bestselling books Infidel and Nomad, made no secret of the fact that Islam, as interpreted by militants, extremists, and even (in some cases) casual believers, was not only untrue but harmful to the world. Between female genital mutilation, honor killings, the idea of martyrdom, and the murder of her friend Theo van Gogh, you can understand why she has courageously put her own life on the line to speak out against the horrors of the faith. In her mind (and many atheists agree), the problem isn’t radical Islam. It’s Islam, period. Much like how Sam Harris criticized religious moderates in The End of Faith for providing cover to the extremists, Hirsi Ali minced no words in a 2007 interview when describing her goal of trying to defeat Islamas a whole because she didn’t believe the religion of peace was capable of being saved in its current form.
Almost immediately after the announcement of her honorary degree, Muslim groups began to protest her selection.
A petition at Change.org started by a Muslim student asked:
How can an Administration of a University that prides itself on social justice and acceptance of all make a decision that targets and disrespects it’s own students? This is hurtful to the Muslim students and the Brandeis community who stand for social justice.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations echoed those sentiments and went even further by comparing Hirsi Ali to white supremacists and anti-Semites:
We believe offering such an award to a promoter of religious prejudice such as Ali is equivalent to promoting the work of white supremacists and anti-Semites. Granting her an honorary degree is unworthy of the American tradition of civil liberty and religious freedom represented by Justice Louis Brandeis and the great university that carries his name.
While Ali is free to spew anti-Muslim hate –- including her call for violence against the entire Muslim world — in any venue she chooses, she does not have a similar right to be honored for that hate by a prestigious university.