Brandeis withdraws honorary degree offer to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

posted at 10:01 am on April 9, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Brandeis University originally invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its spring commencement, and created a storm of controversy on its campus. It has now withdrawn that offer, and may have created a storm of controversy outside of its campus as well. The former Dutch parliamentarian has long spoken out against the excesses of Islam, from her own painful personal experience to the radicalism that fuels terrorism and war. Apparently, Brandeis just figured this out, which raises a number of questions:

The university said in a statement posted online that the decision had been made after a discussion between Ali and university President Frederick Lawrence.

“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.”

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.”

Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage, she renounced the faith in her 30s. She has not commented publicly on the issue of the honorary degree.

In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls. This includes control of their own bodies, access to an education and the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, the website says.

So, first question: What did Brandeis intend when it offered Ali the degree in the first place? After all, her mission has been pretty clear over the last decade or so. There does not appear to be an alternate line of activism or scholarship taken up by Ali in the intervening time, so presumably Brandeis intended to honor her work in this field. Second question: What changed?

That brings us to the third question. Did no one at Brandeis bother to Google Ali before offering her the degree? Her speeches don’t pull punches about her perspectives on Islam and its practices. It’s a little late in 2014 for President Lawrence to be shocked, shocked at “certain of her past statements” in relation to the work that they apparently wanted to honor.

To answer the second question — because so far, questions one and three don’t lend themselves to answers other than incompetence – what changed is that the faculty erupted in outrage when it saw Ali on the list. Out of 350 faculty, “more than 85″ signed a petition demanding her removal from the honors list. The petition was started by the Muslim Students Association, which should have been easily foreseen by Brandeis in the first place. If popular opposition was enough to cancel the offer, then Brandeis shouldn’t have made it in the first place. Now, they look both incompetent and pusillanimous.

With that said, a couple of points should be noted. When Notre Dame invited abortion-supporting Barack Obama to speak at their commencement and presented him with an honorary degree, Catholics — including myself — heavily criticized them for doing so. At the time, I objected to the degree, which gave a tacit imprimatur to Obama’s abortion stand, while many others wanted the appearance canceled as well. Mary Ann Glendon refused to attend the ceremony and accept her Laetare award. Notre Dame’s Catholic students erupted in outrage too, but that didn’t keep Notre Dame from offering Obama their platform and their honorary degree. No one is entitled to an honorary degree or a commencement-speech platform, and when a university offers that to one who arguably promotes the antithesis of its mission, criticism is well justified.

The question here, of course, is whether that’s true with Brandeis and Ali. For some reason, Brandeis thought it didn’t and then thought it did. Brandeis did offer to host Ali to speak at the university:

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.

I’d agree that commencement should focus on the students, rather than on the guests. That’s an argument for not making these offers in the first place, not offering and then withdrawing them when the heat gets turned up. If Brandeis wants to make amends, they should dispense with this ambiguous offer and actively work to schedule an appearance so that she can make her case directly to the Brandeis community.


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Bishop is back.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Practice makes perfect my friend.

HonestLib on April 9, 2014 at 12:39 PM

They hijacked the terms liberal and progressive.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

The left is not pro-Islam just as they’re not pro-poor nor “pro-choice”.

They’re anti-family, anti-rich and anti-Christian.

Skywise on April 9, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Only for the masses. Many on the Left love money, as long as they are the only ones with it. Think: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, to name two.

Resist We Much on April 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

How many faculty at Brandeis who opposed honors for Ayaan Hirsi Ali are gays who would be executed under Islamist Sharia law?

novaculus on April 9, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Think: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, to name two.

Resist We Much on April 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Think the obamas. Why did the American taxpayers have to support this moocher?

Why did they not take care of their family, the scumbags?

The witch is dead, but the US taxpayers might yet pay for her funeral, likely with rug to the East.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 12:54 PM

“That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Which are what, supporting a global movement that seeks to impose an anti-intellectual, anti-democratic, mysoginist, and civilizationally retrogade philosophy? Got it.

Well that’s one university my highschooler can cross off the application list.

RobertE on April 9, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Here’s a real warrior in the real war on women and a liberal American university doesn’t want to hear what she has to say.

RobertE on April 9, 2014 at 1:01 PM

And in totally unrelated news, Sheikh Nutballah bin Saud gave umpteen million dollars to Brandeis to improve their Middle Eastern Studies Department….

Sekhmet on April 9, 2014 at 1:01 PM

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

I wonder how Ms. Ali’s experience would fit within Chairman Lumbard’s courses in Islamic and Middle Eastern “studies.” I’m guessing, uneasily.

Barnestormer on April 9, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Only for the masses. Many on the Left love money, as long as they are the only ones with it. Think: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, to name two.

Resist We Much on April 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Think: Hollywood

Buttercup on April 9, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Only for the masses. Many on the Left love money, as long as they are the only ones with it. Think: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, to name two.
Resist We Much on April 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Yes but they’re not “rich”. They’re entitled to wealth through their enlightened rule.

Skywise on April 9, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Somebody heard she was a Muslim activist – then they found out she’s not the kind of Muslim activist they thought she was.

Hill60 on April 9, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Proving once again that the opposite of diversity is university.

Flange on April 9, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Some twit on a nominating committee saw that she was black, a woman and a Muslim and said, “great, she works.” ….
Christopher Hitchens, a sponsor of Hirsi Ali, noted at some of his talks that he would overhear little clutches of vexed Leftists cursing under the breath about Hirsi Ali, how they couldn’t figure out an easy way to demonize her. She had all the right badges of victimhood, but didn’t play a victim and loved America. Intolerable.

rrpjr on April 9, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Gold, Silver, Bronze.

AesopFan on April 9, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Bishop is back.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Bah…..dude never like me. Chuckle! Bish is a unique individaul that makes a place better by just being himself.

HonestLib on April 9, 2014 at 1:22 PM

So much for diversity on a campus. She is however, the correct color for politically correct diversity, just not her “values”

retiredeagle on April 9, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Brandeis withdraws honorary degree offer to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Honor killing.

Barnestormer on April 9, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Check out Breitbart.

davidk on April 9, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Fluke off U.N.

See Brandeis.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Our government… teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.~Louis D. Brandeis

davidk on April 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

True War on Womens – this picture is fake.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Bishop is back.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 12:49 PM

He probably had his password saved and forgot to log out to get to his other nom de plume.

cptacek on April 9, 2014 at 1:39 PM

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence..~Louis D. Brandeis

davidk on April 9, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Another socialist, liberal, “school”, turning out heads of mush, hate and vindiction. “University”, indeed.

ultracon on April 9, 2014 at 1:47 PM

davidk on April 9, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Great quote. Brandeis today has no more to do with Brandeis historically than Abercrombie & Fitch has to do with Abercrombie & Fitch. Nothing is what it was. This is not a nostalgic lament; it is more a statement of desecration, of the hollowing out and tearing down by progressive vandals of every civic notion and institution.

rrpjr on April 9, 2014 at 1:58 PM

we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Which of her past statements conflict with Brandeis’ core values?

Is one of Brandeis’ “core values” an unwillingness to hear any valid criticisms of Islam? Because that seems to be Ms. Ali’s only real “offense,” and the fact that you issued such a vague, mealy-mouthed excuse for withdrawing the honorary degree appears to confirm that.

Brandeis University, where we celebrate diversity! (just don’t even think about saying anything that hasn’t been pre-approved by the Politically Correct groupthink mob, a/k/a our faculty).

AZCoyote on April 9, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Are we sure it wasn’t due to her donation six years ago for Prop. 8 in CA?

KirknBurker on April 9, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Ms. Ali is compelling, brave, truthful and steadfast.

Brandeis is nothing of the sort. They are simply another droning voice in the world of politically correct, mindless and counter-intuitive thought. They’ve chosen politics and propaganda over truth. That’s not an institution for learning. It’s another station for the thought-police.

Marcus Traianus on April 9, 2014 at 2:25 PM

As near as I can tell, there are two kinds of Jews in this world. The first are those who stand with Gideon, Joshua, Josephus, Moshe Dayan, and Israel. The second kind administer and teach at Brandeis, indoctrinating students who will help in the defeat of the first group.

Old Country Boy on April 9, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Brandeis hates people of colour.

Why? Well, using the same approach as the left does, “because I say so.”

Pilgrimsarbour on April 9, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Dishonorary killing of an honorary degree.

anikol on April 9, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Brandeis should get the Holocaust Award, as being in favor of another one. Back during the late 1930′s and into the 1940′s, they would have helped load the cattle cars, especially if they benefited from it financially.

VorDaj on April 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Jeb Bush is reported to have said that what Brandeis has done is an act of love.

VorDaj on April 9, 2014 at 3:12 PM

And Jeb’s big brother said Islam is love, not hate, so it’s all good after all.

VorDaj on April 9, 2014 at 3:16 PM

After leaving Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali became an atheist. I guess that this is not enough to trump the phoney psychological disease of Islamophobia these days. It’s also a good bet that no Christian university will offer her an honorary degree either.

Annar on April 9, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Free clitorectomies for all the feminists on the campus!

Nana on April 9, 2014 at 3:57 PM

The simple fact is that those who lead our universities and public schools are baseless cowards. They love to bash Christianity and Judaism, but grovel at the feet of complaining muslims.

Which should be their right to do – BUT they should do it without taxpayer monies. No direct or indirect (through student loan guarantees) subsidies. Let them function in a true free marketplace of ideas, and flourish or perish by their merit alone.

Adjoran on April 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM

we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Which of her past statements conflict with Brandeis’ core values?

Is one of Brandeis’ “core values” an unwillingness to hear any valid criticisms of Islam? Because that seems to be Ms. Ali’s only real “offense,” and the fact that you issued such a vague, mealy-mouthed excuse for withdrawing the honorary degree appears to confirm that.

Brandeis University, where we celebrate diversity! (just don’t even think about saying anything that hasn’t been pre-approved by the Politically Correct groupthink mob, a/k/a our faculty).

AZCoyote on April 9, 2014 at 2:02 PM

What the f…I thought Brandeis is primarily a Jewish university, are all the lefty Jews in this country raving mad, to the point that now they are are pro-Islam??? …meh, the world is a confusing place and it’s getting more confusing by the day :)…

jimver on April 9, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Brandeis should get the Holocaust Award, as being in favor of another one. Back during the late 1930′s and into the 1940′s, they would have helped load the cattle cars, especially if they benefited from it financially.

VorDaj on April 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

I propose that Brandeis should be renamed Soros University …more in keeping with his value system….

jimver on April 9, 2014 at 4:26 PM

such hypocrisy…

driguana on April 9, 2014 at 4:31 PM

After leaving Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali became an atheist. I guess that this is not enough to trump the phoney psychological disease of Islamophobia these days. It’s also a good bet that no Christian university will offer her an honorary degree either.

Annar on April 9, 2014 at 3:22 PM

You fragile flowers require utmost protection and care.

Murphy9 on April 9, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Classy yet firm Hirsi Ali’s reaction, here

‘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.’

jimver on April 9, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Leftists love muzzos because they think the same way

A few people take near permanent power

It’s interesting that so many support this considering most of them are going to be the kaffirs

Doyle Hargrave on April 9, 2014 at 5:39 PM

I propose that Brandeis should be renamed Soros University …more in keeping with his value system….

jimver on April 9, 2014 at 4:26 PM

More like Sore Oz.

Schadenfreude on April 9, 2014 at 5:54 PM

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.

Almost an echo of Mozilla’s idiotic “freedom of belief is what we’re all about” tweet.

ddrintn on April 9, 2014 at 6:01 PM

It’s also a good bet that no Christian university will offer her an honorary degree either.

Annar on April 9, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Who knows. But I don’t know why you had to drag out some phony tu quoque “argument”. A Christian uni didn’t offer and then rescind an honorary degree, either. I’ll bet Brandeis or any other uni with similar “core values” wouldn’t do that to a Richard-Dawkins type simply because Christians might take offense, now would they? Of course not.

ddrintn on April 9, 2014 at 6:13 PM

The reminder about Notre Dame brought back foul memories. I’ll never feel the same about the University.

Mason on April 9, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Only Republicans can wage a war on women, don’t ya know.

Looking the other way given the actual physical mutilation of females by Islamic absolutists is just being “tolerant”.

Something that Republican’s aren’t capable of due to their extremists views.

Makes perfect sense in the liberal mind.

Carnac on April 9, 2014 at 6:52 PM

‘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

looks like she’s not taking the bait, good for her…

‘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.’

jimver on April 9, 2014 at 7:12 PM

All she had to do, after she renounced the Muslim religion, was say the U.S. sucks and she would still have her degree!!!

bflat879 on April 9, 2014 at 7:56 PM

Islam….atheist…..Islamophobia…..Christian

Annar on April 9, 2014 at 3:22 PM

You sort of got wound all up, but I guess you ran out of steam; as there are many more for you to educate us about.

HonestLib on April 9, 2014 at 8:00 PM

If Brandeis wants to make amends, they should dispense with this ambiguous offer and actively work to schedule an appearance so that she can make her case directly to the Brandeis community.

And then sit back and do nothing when the Islamists and their enablers shout her down so she can’t speak. This is the state of America’s educational system.

Rancher on April 9, 2014 at 8:46 PM

In a related story several years back Brandeis withdrew an invitation to Holocaust survivor Yosef Goldman to speak.

“He is a scholar of American Jewish history, and we respect and appreciate his work to further Jewish history.” said the university’s statement. “That said, we cannot overlook certain of his past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Goldman has been quoted as making comments critical of Nazis.

Rancher on April 9, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Have they offered an honorary degree to a Muslim Brotherhood member yet?

farsighted on April 9, 2014 at 9:36 PM

Bunch of dhimmis and cowards..one in the same really

sadsushi on April 9, 2014 at 11:08 PM

How ignorant are our “teachers” and how silent are the others from myriad intimidation from all around.

We as a nation are coming to a boiling point and there are some who will not take it anymore.

We are indeed at the precipice.

Sherman1864 on April 9, 2014 at 11:42 PM

it is more a statement of desecration, of the hollowing out and tearing down by progressive vandals of every civic notion and institution.

Until we recognize this as “the big picture” and take active steps to combat it at every turn, we are doomed. Our “live and let live” naïveté has betrayed us.

ncinca on April 10, 2014 at 1:12 AM

I am a Brandeis graduate. This is the letter to the editor of the school newspaper:

“Sunlight is Said to Be the Best of Disinfectants”- Justice Louis Brandeis 1913
What does this comment mean to the current students and faculty at Brandeis University? This question has troubled me since I first learned of the Administrations clumsy and appeasing revocation of the honorary degree offered to Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Commencement.
As a Brandeis alum, I had always believed in the idea (naïve admittedly), that Brandeis U. was a haven for truth. Its founding was based upon the need to counter the anti-Semitic quota systems of the elite American academia in the early 20th century. How sad is it a woman who actually lived a life of truth and been persecuted for it would actually be accused of going against Brandeis’ “Core” values. Why? Because some well-connected Islamist front groups like CAIR cherry-pick a few quotes out of the totality of a person’s work and tar and feather them with the broad stroke of intolerance?
If it wasn’t so sad, it would be amusing. Listening to the current crop of intellectual heavyweight academia and students at Brandeis twist reason and morality into some Zen-like Yoga pretzel to justify denying a woman who has been at the forefront of TRUE women’s rights. Not the kind of “heroic” feminism of shaming a golf club into allowing females the same opportunity to swing vainly a tiny white ball into an impossibly small hole in the ground. No, Ms. Ali has been the victim and opponent of a theological political system that is BRUTALLY oppressive in every part of the world where Sharia law rules the land.
Ayaan Ali is a hero, most especially to the voices of millions upon millions of Muslim women unprotected by the virtues of tolerance and freedom that Western civilization has granted us. The apparently obtuse and close-minded Brandeis MSA and the absolutely feckless and disgraceful Administration plus Faculty of my alma mater seemed paralyzed by the idea of a brutally tortured and oppressed woman opposing a system and ideology clearly at odds with the standards of modern civilization today.
I live in New Jersey. I’m surrounded by people who knew and loved and lost innocent men and women on Sept, 11 2001. No one who lives in this area ever looks up at the New York skyline and not feel the sense of loss and emptiness due to what those young men, practicing Islam martyrdom, did that day. I’m sorry for the discomfort it causes “progressive” Muslims that victims like Ayaan Ali speak out the truth about Islam. It would sicken me if modern day Jews around the world brutalized women and gays like Islamic regimes do everywhere. But, “If there be a time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” -Louis D. Brandeis.

DrRich on April 10, 2014 at 7:50 AM

Very little mystery here. Brandeis realized that when “offending” Muslims the chances for things blowing up increases dramatically as opposed to offending any other identity group.

the wolf on April 10, 2014 at 8:20 AM

DrRich on April 10, 2014 at 7:50 AM

Excellent letter, Dr. Hope Brandeis is flooded with more like it from what must be many outraged alumni.

However, I wouldn’t worry too much about the following: “It would sicken me if modern day Jews around the world brutalized women and gays like Islamic regimes do everywhere.” Not very likely, eh?

ncinca on April 10, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Maybe it was just a fear of the MSA. University administration are famously spineless when it comes to angry minority students.

As Ali said
“There’s always this fear that if you insult Muslims, there’s going to be some kind of violent reprecussion,” she said. “They’re not doing their students any favors, and they’re not doing their Muslim students any favors.”

Just so.

Chessplayer on April 10, 2014 at 10:53 AM

It’s gratifying to know that as a result of the MSA & CAIR objecting to her speaking before a few hundred people she (thanks to irreplaceable FOX news) talks before millions.

Good work Hooper.

Chessplayer on April 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM

The new Brandeis fight song:

Dupe, dupe, dupe
Dupe of Cair
Dupe, dupe…

As I walk through this world
Nothing can stop the Dupe of Cair
And you, you are my girl
But I can’t give you that degree

Because I’m the Dupe of Cair.

Dupe, dupe, dupe
Dupe of Cair
Dupe, dupe…

claudius on April 10, 2014 at 3:17 PM

They wanted a race and a gender, not a mind.

David Blue on April 12, 2014 at 4:41 AM

The Western Conservative Summit, to be held in Denver in July, just signed her up as a speaker.

PunditPete on April 13, 2014 at 1:18 AM

“What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming…. 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.”

Brandeis is getting all the shame, though it’s still not enough. I sincerely hope its alums and contributors provide a lot more shame for such a feckless, spineless, brainless, culturally suicidal institution.

Ay Uaxe on April 13, 2014 at 8:52 PM

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