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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Weekly Standard provides the following:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has just released (as of 4:30 p.m. E.T. Wednesday, April 9) this statement in response to Brandeis University’s decision to rescind her invitation to receive an honorary degree:


“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 II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission 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 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 my 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 woman and girls everywhere.” (All emphases added by The Jewish Press.)


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. So sad for Jewish institutions and Jews everywhere, that this has happened. While attempting to shame Ms Ali, without even consulting her about these mystery statements she supposedly made ,all Brandeis University achieved in doing with this reckless revoking of her speaking engagement, was to bring shame upon the Jewish academics and students for allowing this to happen.A shonda .

  2. Is minimal honesty too much to expect from Ayaan Hirsi Ali? She describes herself as being "silenced," then expresses indignation at the fact that she's been invited to Brandeis to discuss her views. Actually, an invitation to speak somewhere is not an example of silencing, but just the reverse. This obvious fact doesn't seem to have occurred to her.

    Closely related to this incoherence is her hypocrisy. When it comes to her own free speech rights, she regards herself as "silenced" when she is invited to speak at a school. When it comes to American or European Muslims, however, their free speech rights don't matter to her, even when she suggests that their schools should be "closed" by force of law–as she explicitly did in a now-notorious Reason Magazine interview back in 2007 (Hirsi Ali: "All Muslim schools. Close them down."). Those are the words she wants no one to remember, but some of us have longer memories than are convenient for her. Feel free to hunt down the interview and get the "context" for yourself. It isn't favorable to her case.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not the civil libertarian she pretends to be. She's a fascist, and she should be treated accordingly. Brandeis is willing to get loud and indignant when fascists march at Al Quds University, but moral reciprocity demands that Brandeis's President condemn Hirsi Ali's views in terms that would be "acceptable" to those of us whose rights would have been violated by their being put into practice. So far, what I've heard from Brandeis's leadership is pretty anemic and non-committal. Not good enough.

  3. Perhaps this non-sectarian Jewish University should just stop the charade of non-sectarianism and follow the dictates of Saudi Arabia on what and how it should teach. I have no doubt the Saudi king and his cronies would then pour in more money than anyone at Brandeis could count.

  4. Every time a Western institution capitulates to this sort of evil they embolden the evil-doers and give them further reason to believe they will succeed in silencing everyone who recognizes their fascism for what it is. There will, ultimately, be a real confrontation, and the West will win. But every one of these surrenders means that the ultimate battle will be longer and bloodier.

  5. I’m not surprised that students feel strongly about Aayan Hirsi Ali’s invitation to speak one way or the other. What i take issue is with Fred Lawrence’s zero tolerance policy towards individuals or institutions when he perceives them to be “intolerant”. It appears that his trend is defend those who are being scolded, rather than to seriously consider what evidence led people to feel it necessary to scold them in the first place. A fair amount of the time, the people getting scolded may, or may not deserve it. That’s why you can’t have set a rule where you always favor one side. Each case deserves to be evaluated on its own merit. Last year Fred cut Brandeis’s partnership with a school in Palestine because of an on campus “anti- Zionist” demonstration there. He punished them for protesting rather than seriously considering why they were mad and what they were protesting about. If the two were isolated cases, someone could make the argument that that he did consider both sides, and chose to condemn the Palestinian school’s protests because they shouldn’t attack Zionists. A person could also make the argument that Aayan Hirsi Ali should not be given a platform to speak on because she criticizes Islam. But when Fred’s decisions are taken into consideration in context and we can see his trends, we can longer interpret his decisions as isolated events. He shows a clear bias against those that speak out against those that have hurt them. What adds insult to injury for me is that people don’t call Brandeis on their bull. Brandeis is allowed to get away with framing their prejudice as if they roses and sunshine “In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” (…/april/commencementupdate.html). They are quick to deflect personal responsibility “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. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.” Apparently, when Brandeis feels it has made a faux pas, the way they silence that voice in a diplomatic way is to announce that they’re “core values” are not open for discussion. It’s clever, shifty, and diplomatic. Brandeis is trying to manipulate us into believing that Aayan Hirsi Ali is the bad one because apparently she stands against “truth , even into its innermost parts” ( . I don’t expect Brandeis to change because I think that their bias to defend Zionism is inherent in the metaphorical bones of the institution. I also don’t have any expectations that they will reverse their decision to let Aayan speak. What i do think is possible for change is people’s tolerance for Brandeis’s hypocrisy. Brandeis community members have the right to demand that if Brandeis wants to put biases above evaluating the merit of individual cases then Brandeis does not have the right to claim that their mission statement is “truth, even into its innermost parts” and should instead adopt a more accurate policy like “truth, when it suits are pre-conceived biases”.

  6. I notice freedom of opinion doesn't have much traction in your comment section, Lori. Or is there a reason why you deleted my comment and links, which pointed to Hirsi Ali's opposition to male circumcision. Perhaps you think Jewish identity is a small price to pay for an alliance with her.

  7. Having suffered as she has, I understand why male circumcision bothers her. As a Jew I disagree on that issue but support her on her mission to expose Islam's war on women. Not all Moslems but certainly sanctioned by the faith. CAIR and the professors are the bigots and intolerant.

  8. Shame on Brandeis for its disgraceful treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I would have expected that behavior from a hot-bed of left wing activism like a Berkeley or Wisconsin. Muslim intimidation has now spread to a Jewish campus. I hope all Brandeis alumni think many times before sending that school a dime. Better their money go to buy Israel Bonds.

  9. We visited Brandeis during the early college search about seven or eight years ago, and it was obvious that they were kowtowing to enemies of Jews even back then. When they allowed Jimmy Carter to speak with no opposition or dissent allowed a few years ago, I was disgusted. What they have just done to this brave lady is a travesty.

  10. Not another cent to Brandeis from any Jew…not one shekel, not one lira, not one kopeck…etc. Nuf sed. There is no Mitzvah in giving to scoundrels, and while I hold nothing in islam as sacred, silencing a truth teller in this manner is worse than shameful…and we have seen such bad conduct before; history is full of it.

  11. I am absolutely disgusted with Brandeis University, and ashamed that I had allowed two of my sons to graduate from there.. I am proud to say that EMET, the organization that I founded, honored Ayaan Hirsi Ali at our annual dinner in 2012, and presented her with our coveted "Speaker of the Truth " Award. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's life is a precious gift to all humanity. She is a brave champion of the truth, of the rights of women, and of religious minorities and of all of humankind. Shame on Brandeis.

  12. Sarah, Vassar has formed an alumni group that is fighting BDS and its supporters at Vassar, where they also are trying to stifle debate. The alums of other schools should form similar groups. Please let me know if you are interested and I will give you more details.

  13. Shame on Brandeis. Their previously admirable reputation has been dirtied. rather than educate their students about free speech, what they have done is teach them that threats, bullying, and fear can silence free speech. The name Brandeis University in the future will conujure up negative, embarrassing, and shameless behavior.

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