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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In a complete collapse of rectitude, Brandeis University’s president Fred Lawrence issued a statement on Tuesday evening, April 8, announcing the withdrawal of women’s and human rights champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a recipient of an honorary degree from the school at this year’s commencement.

For two days Muslim students and supporters raged against the decision to honor Ali because, they claimed, she is Islampohobic.


Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1992 she escaped an impending arranged marriage to a relative, running to the Netherlands, where she learned the language and established a life. She rose to become a member of the Dutch parliament, where she worked to further the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society.

In 2004, Ali made a film with her friend, Theo Van Gogh. That film, “Submission,” is about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

After “Submission” was aired on Dutch television, an Islamic extremist murdered Van Gogh who was enraged by the portrayal of Islam.  A letter pinned to his body contained a death threat to Ali. She eventually fled Holland and Ayaan Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States.

Ali evolved from being a devout Muslim to one who questioned her faith, to ultimately and resolutely rejecting it.

“I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” That is a quote from Ali’s book, “Infidel.”

Ali has been extremely and indeed harshly critical of the Islamic world in which she suffered, both as a child in Africa, and also as a hunted creature, in Holland, from the angry immigrants who brought with them to Europe a profound inability to accept criticism of Islam.

And now, here in America, Ali is still being hounded by those who refuse to live by the standards of the West, of tolerance, of robust confrontations, but ones not knife-edged with intimidation.

The Facebook Page denouncing Ali and the decision to honor her at Brandeis’s 2014 Commencement decried her for her “hate speech.” The Muslim Students Association claimed that honoring her “is a direct violation of Brandeis University’s own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.”

Most chillingly, while the students acknowledged Ali had experienced “terrible things in her life,” their bottom line was “we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.”

And so they issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a “news article” and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence echoed the students (and a large number of faculty members, including the Women’s Studies professors) in his statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. 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.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. 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.

In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith – who dominate the governments of Muslim countries – was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion – which has been a fixture of campus life – is no longer permitted. What words, what thoughts will be deemed unacceptable next?


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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. I also note that towards the end of the longer clip I just posted, Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks her intention to have male circumcision legally forbidden. She tried, but fortunately, her initiative was overturned.
    So why would an institution anchored in Jewish tradition honour a woman who advocates the prohibition of the performance of a mitzvah which has traditionally defined Jewish identity?

  2. So: Brandeis panders to Fatwas. And Columbia University invites and celebrates Hugo Chavez and other despicable guests. People get real: these are the intellectual lofty places we are taught to uphold and admire. That’s where it’s at.
    This talented woman will get recognition and tribute from bigger better places, just as she deserves.

  3. So: Brandeis panders to Fatwas. And Columbia University invites and celebrates Hugo Chavez and other despicable guests. People get real: these are the intellectual lofty places we are taught to uphold and admire. That’s where it’s at.
    This talented woman will get recognition and tribute from bigger better places, just as she deserves.

  4. So: Brandeis panders to Fatwas. And Columbia University invites and celebrates Hugo Chavez and other despicable guests. People get real: these are the intellectual lofty places we are taught to uphold and admire. That’s where it’s at.
    This talented woman will get recognition and tribute from bigger better places, just as she deserves.

  5. I wonder after two generations of non-stop migration…….after 40 years of 747 filled to the brim with one-way ticket holders from the land of the believers……arrival halls teeming……is America….oh so slowly but surely becoming their battelfied?

  6. Shame on Brandeis University to give in to these brainwashed students.
    Hirsi Ali should be recommended for telling the truth with threats on her own life. I'm really disgusted by Brandeis decision. Again shame on you. Look in the mirror and wake up.

  7. Thanks cowardly Brandeis for bringing attention to Hirsi Ali and her movies Honor Diaries and Submission both about the institutionalized abuse of women. May the West wake up soon from its ideological comma.

  8. This is a terrible precedent. Now we can only expect that the next time Brandeis plans to give an honorary degree to an anti-semite or a pro-nazi white supremacist, they will likely cave to political pressure from Jewish groups. FOR SHAME!! We should be allowed to confirm our political hatred of people through university honorary degrees without prejudice!!!!

  9. My alma mater caves in to a fatwa from a minority of students. Courageous act! Truth unto its innermost parts used to be the Brandies motto. I used to believe it, but not any more. Now truth gives in to fear. Congratulations to all the faculty that caved. If you can't stand up for this brave woman, what can you stand for?

  10. Behold, thou mayest critic, and must, critic any religion but Islam!!! Have our institutions of "liberal learning" caved in to the most oppressive un-liberal minorities, yet again? Perhaps the next step should be for these institution of "higher learning to revise the teaching of history, science, math and other subjects to bring them in line with 7th century Islam? I'm sure the day when some liberal university will take such steps is not too far off.

    I find it interesting that these minorities fled their countries of origin in order to live under freedoms and human rights that were totally non-existent in their lands. Yet, It is painfully obvious they only did so to destroy any vestige of human rights; to destroy anything and everything the West fought for so hard, for so long. This minority takes full advantage of everything the West offers while working from within (like a cancerous growth!) to destroy it.

    Shame on Brandeis, for its non liberal cave in, shame for its disgusting cowardice! I have no doubt that had they invited Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yussuf al-Qaradawi they would not have disinvited him even if every single Christian and Jewish student protested. They haven't invited him yet, but there is always next year…

  11. Cowards now truth is hate speech right and these muslims are the same ones charging an infant 9 month old baby with attempted murder. Their religon and it should be a cult testifies against itself their own laws and beliefs and life styles say how they dishonor all humanity and when the light of truth shines on it they want to commit murder like they always do. Well you can murder the people for your moon god and pedophile prophet but you never get rid of the truth. And anyone who caves to islam are cowards and evil loving child molesting murdering lovers and join in their great sin which has brought them no peace and never will they will destroy themselves just as they are doing now. Dont like what Im saying come try to murder me I fight back and have no fear of your cult lead murderers and child molesters come on don't be afraid come on! I will introduce you to Jesus personally.

  12. I guess Brandies learned something about honoring controversial figures. Why were they honoring her in the first place? Someone in her past got killed for her message. They thought they could honor her and incur zero risk? Why not an honorary degree to Rashdie? They should have been willing to accept the potential risk but they blinked… much for giving "feel good" degrees.

  13. There is no diversity or tolerance in America anymore. A great nation has succumbed to hate, anger and a one party system. If you are not a Liberal and support all their activist agendas – be it Global Warming, Abortion, PETA, and more – you have no voice and do not count. Hopefully, when this "evil empire" is out of office – we will be restored to a sane and kindly world again.

  14. What has Hirsi Ali done for women in the Netherlands, nothing, nada, zero. People continue the false reporting, while she was used as a poster child by the PVDA socialist to discredit and call Pim Fortuyn who was assassinated in 2002. She called him a racist, sexist and danger to minorities in the Netherlands. She became famous after the barbaric beheading of Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam. This saga exemplifies the debauched culture and cowardice of the Western world. Pim Fortuyn was racist, sexist, and a danger to minorities because he challenged the multicultural agenda and apartheid and defended the right to freedom of speech and a fraudster and opportunist is hailed as a hero……

  15. So non-Jew cannot hold opinions on male circumcision? We should ignore all of the work she does for women because she doesn't believe little boys should be circumcised? She is in no way obligated to agree with Jewish Law.

  16. Isn't BRANDEIS a JEWISH School?
    Aren't the Muslims the "Sworn Enemies" of the Jews and Israel?
    Why are Muslims attending a Jewish School?…to cause trouble?
    Why is there a Muslim Student Council at Brandeis?
    Why did Freddie Lawrence… cave in ?

    Where does it say we have to educate our sworn enemies children?

    Why not just have a Nazi Student Council as well?

  17. I sent this to President Lawrence (

    I read that President Lawrence caved in to pressure from some militant “Islamic” students, who apparently dislike what Ms. Ali has had to say about militant “Islam’s” treatment of women. Please convey to President Lawrence that he has lost my respect, and that Brandeis University has lost my respect.

    I am not a politically correct person, and I say what needs to be said about nithings (a Scandinavian word for enemies of Humanity) that stone women to death for mostly imaginary offenses that include being rape victims, kill people for being Jews, Christians, or the wrong kinds of Muslims, crash airplanes into buildings, practice female genital mutilation, feel free to “take” any woman who does not cover her face with a sack (, shoot up fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, and so on. Those are the behavioral choices—and I stress behavioral choices, because a behavioral choice is not a race or an ethnicity—that Ms. Ali condemns. If “Muslim” Brandeis students accuse her of attacking what they call Islam, then what they call Islam is indeed a problem.

    Note that I put “Muslim” in quotes. Most Muslim-Americans do not act that way, or support that kind of behavior. Most of them probably immigrated for the same reason German Jews tried to immigrate from Germany during the 1930s; to get away from Nazis or their equivalent. They are not the Muslims whom Hirsi Ali is talking about, just like German Jews, other German refugees, and the White Rose Society (e.g. Sophie Scholl) were emphatically not Nazis. The Brandeis students in question, on the other hand, seem to support the behavioral choices I have described.

    I can tell you, as a Penn State alumnus, that a Penn State education is as good as anything from an Ivy League University, or Brandeis, and it costs far less for in-state students. This is true despite the current problems with Penn State’s governance. It sounds to me like students should consider first-rate state Universities as alternatives to Brandeis, whose administration is clearly willing to let the dregs of humanity run the University.

    William A. Levinson

    More detail here:

    Three Murderous Ideologies: Nazism, Communism, and Militant Islam
    By William A. Levinson

    Militant Islam has far more in common with Nazism and Communism than it does with any genuine religious faith. All three have two common elements: (1) the openly stated intention to rule the entire world and (2) a claim to the right to deport, oppress, re-educate, or exterminate those who do not fit into their regimes. Militant Islam can, despite the lessons of 1939-1945 as well as the Holodomor (genocide by starvation of Ukrainians), China's Cultural Revolution, Stalin's Great Purge, and the killing fields of Cambodia, promote this agenda today by masquerading as a religion, with all the legal and social protections that this implies.

    Militant Islam Says It Will Dominate the World

    "Your Job in Germany," which was created by Theodor Seuss Geisel for the U.S. Army, discusses the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) explicitly starting at about 6:30. "They were brought up on straight propaganda, products of the worst educational crime in the history of the entire world." That was true until the Hamasjugend, which is better-known as the Palestinian children's show Pioneers of Tomorrow, came along.

    In Pioneers of Tomorrow, a Mickey Mouse clone named Farfur talks explicitly of "world leadership under Islamic leadership." The girl who co-hosts the show elaborates that "[w]e, the great ones [Herrenvolk], started this program to lead the world. The nucleus [Axis], with the will of Allah, will be here in Palestine." Another Pioneers of Tomorrow video says openly, "We will annihilate the Jews[,]" and "[w]e've said more than once that becoming masters of the world requires the following; first, to be happy with our Arabic language." The last ideology that talked about annihilating Jews and becoming master of the world came with a swastika.

    …Opposition to Nazism during the late 1930s and early 1940s was in no way racist toward German-Americans. Almost all members of the German-American Bund were of German ancestry, but very few people of German ancestry joined the Bund. The problem Germans were easily identifiable through behavioral choices such as goose-stepping, heiling Hitler, and waving swastika flags. Most Muslim-Americans are similarly loyal citizens, while the problems are again easily identifiable from their behavioral choices.

  18. The issue really isn't her politics or her religion. It's the fact that once again, an American institution of higher education has backed down due to outside pressure. Free speech was at one time paramount to our great nation, but alas, no more. We've succumbed to what Pope John Paul II referred to as the dictatorship of moral relativism.

  19. So Hirsi Ali's time as a social worker in the Netherlands helping Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers was nothing? Her push to educate people about genital mutilation as a religious custom being imported from Muslim countries to the Netherlands is nada? Her work geth the government to improve the asylum process is zero? I don't think so.

  20. I've read and listened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali for years and she is one of the best informed, most courageous women on the planet. The cowardice of Brandeis has damaged their reputation and deprived their students of a learning experience. What a disgrace!

  21. Being a controversial figure is one thing, however no one should have to fear for their life for speaking the truth as they see it. Ms. Hirsi Ali suffered at the hands of her culture. We cannot say it was the religion at fault, but more the people in that culture and how they use their religion to subjugate other people.

    I would be less surprised to hear that they retracted on the basis of her remarks about genital mutilation, that in her opinion, male circumcision is more harmful that the most common type of female circumcision (removing a small piece of the clitoral hood).

    Ms. Hirsi Ali has been triumphing human rights for years now. An honorary degree will not change the good that she's done, and she doesn't need an honor from a school not willing to recognize the great work she's done because some of their students can't accept criticism.

  22. Shame upon you Fred Lawrence! You and your university betray the exact core values you elsewhere honor in parade speeches. Just like Obama: you talk and out comes warm air.

  23. Cody Flecker Though I don't know Christy Frey Nickle's citizenship, Canada IS part of America, though not part of the United States. So what she said was actually correct. But, in either case, I don't believe that you can generalize about people's attitudes just by where a person lives. To Christy Nickle I would say that in the USA, at least, there is a lot of diversity and tolerance but there also are many examples of political pressure being used, both by the right and the left, to suppress dissenting voices. This is not a new phenomenon but I believe it should be opposed whenever it occurs. I personally believe that HIrsi Ali deserves to be honored but running a university is a delicate balancing act. There is a case to be made for not displeasing any substantial constituency of the university.

  24. Cody Flecker Wow! Such parochialism!! An American living in Canada is also a knowledgeable North American – and both countries share a common culture, if not a common government. It's difficult, however, to pinpoint your own political point of view; however, that of Christy Frey Nickle is one of common sense Conservatism that is shared by sensible people on BOTH sides of the 49th parallel!! BTW, I'm an American who worked for the Canadian Govt in the USA for many years – and I know whereof I speak!!

  25. Yes, Marc Winger, I will keep talking about this fraud because the lame stream media in the US jumped on the bandwagon to misinform the US public about Pim Fortuyn ( a white Christian male) as right-wing extremist, while they glorify this fraudster, feminist and opportunist. The United States is welcoming people like her to become citizens and at the same time criminalizing others who play by the rules……..

  26. Henry, henry, henry!! Oh poor Henry, please re-read your post. Your own religious based hatred of Islam, "I will introduce you to Jesus personally" through murder is just as extreme as the demands made by the fundamentalist muslims attending the school.

  27. Agnes Osk right Islam just believes in marrying 6 year old girls and Iran is instituting the right to marriage rape of these girls. Its culture to be a pervert like Mohammed and honored by the moon god Allah who thinks child molestation is a good thing.

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