Human Rights Activist Slams University’s ‘Deplorable’ Move to Withdraw Honorary Degree Because of Her Critical Comments About Islam

The activist who was disinvited from receiving an honorary degree at Brandeis University because of critical comments she’s made about Islam fired back at the school for what she called a “deplorable” attack on free expression.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Image source: AP)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited from receiving an honorary degree from Brandeis University. (AP)

The Massachusetts university disinvited Ayaan Hirsi Ali from its May commencement ceremony after complaints from students and faculty members — notably an online petition that attracted thousands of signatures, including 85 of about 350 faculty members — over her stance on Islam.

The Somai-born Ali has been quoted as saying that “we are at war with Islam” and urged that Muslims be “defeated” in a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine.

“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,” Ali said in a statement Wednesday. “[M]y critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work.”

“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,” she said.

The university issued a statement Tuesday saying that it had concluded that it couldn’t overlook statements of Ali’s that “are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” Ali has described how she survived “Muslim rage” and became an advocate for women and children.

Ali said it “is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations was at the forefront of pushing back against Brandeis for inviting Ali, calling her a “notorious anti-Muslim extremist.” After the school announced that it was withdrawing the invitation, CAIR celebrated it as a “victory over hate.”

Here’s Ali’s full statement, via the Weekly Standard:

“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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

(H/T: The Gateway Pundit)

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