What’s that? Is The Greatest making a comeback? Another “Thrilla in Manilla?”
More like a “Puss-out at Brandeis”. Aggie told you the story yesterday.
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.
A thorough and well-deserved evisceration.
As for Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence and the others who took this decision, nobody’s asking them to be as brave as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They will never know what it’s like to have their associates murdered and to be forced into living under armed guard. They will never have to “share the risk” that Ms Hirsi Ali faces every day of her life. All that was required of President Lawrence & Co was that they not be total craven, jelly-spined squishes who fold like a cheap Bedouin tent at the first hint of pressure.
But Lawrence couldn’t even do that. Ayaan Hirsi Ali campaigns against female genital mutilation – that’s to say, the barbarous practice by which Muslim men deny women sexual pleasure by having their clitorises cut off. Lawrence and the other fellows who run Brandeis are in no danger of any equivalent procedure since it seems clear they’ve nothing down there to chop off anyway. The eunuchs of the American academy are the beneficiaries of western liberty, of the spirit of openness and inquiry that is the principal difference between us and the intellectually stagnant Muslim world. But they will not lift a finger to defend that tradition.
Remember when Islam put out a contract on Salman Rushdie? That flea-infested Assatollah Khomeini ordered zombie followers to bring him the head—the actual head—of the author of The Satanic Verses for daring to disparage the religion or the prophet or whatever. There was plenty of spinelessness then too, but I seem to recall people wearing “I Am Salman Rushdie” buttons in solidarity. (Though curiously I can’t find any images on line.)
At Brandeis, they’re wearing buttons that say “Ayaan Hirsi Who?” and “Clitorectomy For Thee, Not For Me”.