By now you are likely aware of the recent events at Brandeis University.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an Islamic apostate with a fatwa on her head, a fearless critic of Islam and a stalwart defender of women's rights was slated to receive an honorary degree and deliver a commencement address at Brandeis. The degree was summarily revoked due to "past statements...inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values."
Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (Image Source: Getty/Michel Baret/Gamma-Rapho)
Many folks have admirably opined on this matter:
John Podhoretz spoke with a candor sorely lacking in this age of intolerant "tolerance," when he said that the decision by Brandeis President Fred Lawrence was "nothing less than the act of a gutless, spineless, simpering coward."
Charles Cooke spoke incisively to the irony of the situation that Ms. Ali was targeted despite tending "to side with a favored group — women — against a favored foe — religion," in one of the "peculiar outcomes" of the "Left's hierarchy of victims."
Professor Jay Bergman spoke passionately to the hypocrisy of the matter in light of the honorary degrees awarded to Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu despite their respective anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic remarks, seemingly in direct conflict with the school's "core values."
All of these critiques are legitimate, but what underlies them is something more fundamental: dhimmitude.
Dhimmis are non-Muslim citizens living as second-class citizens under an Islamic state, subjected to various social, political, and economic restrictions, along with a tax called a jizya. Dhimmitude is a phrase coined by author Bat Ye'or to reflect as one author puts it, "an attitude of concession, surrender and appeasement towards Islamic demands."
What Brandeis did in caving to the likes of CAIR (Council of Islamic Relations) -- an unindicted co-conspirator with Hamas in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation case -- whose primary work seems to be to smear as "Islamophobes" and drown out all those critical of Islam (including abused Muslim women themselves), along with Brandeis' Muslim Students Association (MSA), an organization which was founded in America by Muslim Brotherhood members in 1963, represents nothing less than the epitome of Western dhimmitude.
The simple act of having Hirsi Ali speak, in defiance of the calls of CAIR and the MSA to silence her, in and of itself would have not only been a stand against dhimmitude, but provided Brandeis' students with a perspective that one suspects they might not be receiving in their Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Program.
Indeed in Ms. Ali's prepared remarks, she asked questions with which the Brandeis students may have never grappled, such as "Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration?" "Is it blasphemy—punishable by death—to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era?"
In recent days, CAIR has also opposed showings across the country of a documentary titled "Honor Diaries," which like Ms. Ali criticizes the treatment of women under Islam. (Image Source: Fox News/Youtube screengrab)
She also would have proclaimed: "The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect."
Would Ms. Ali's message have been of no value? Assuming that an institution of Brandeis' stature teaches a fact-based history of Islam, and soberly covers the Koran, Hadith and other associated core Islamic texts, could not the students have judged Ms. Ali's words on their own merits?
Might it be that because such a voice is drowned out across college campuses, that this is how we end up with an Obama administration (and voters willing to support such an administration) who invite sworn enemies of the U.S. and the West into the White House as equals, and a National Intelligence Director who calls that same Brotherhood a "largely secular" organization?
Brandeis is an American institution, and in America we do not cave to threats as a result of criticism of anything, especially religion, the freedom of which was a primary basis on which this country was founded.
The very point of America is that unlike in countries under Islamic rule, where there is de facto or de jure discrimination for holding religious beliefs other than those of the state religion of Islam, here we are free to worship as we please, and even criticize others who worship differently.
Freedom of religion, and indeed all freedom requires critically questioning our beliefs.
The fact that in recent days people have been persecuted in civil society for those beliefs that do not comport with the progressive zeitgeist shows the fundamental weakness of modern-day America -- an America whose culture is antithetical to that on which it was founded.
The strength of our civil society is measured directly by our ability to tolerate those opinions with which we disagree.
As such, Brandeis' actions reflect fundamental weakness, and a failure to live up to its own motto of "Truth even unto its innermost parts."
Contrast Brandeis' treatment of Ms. Ali with Columbia University's treatment of Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which back in 2007 invited him to speak under the auspices of freedom of speech.
In America in the 21st century, a terror-sponsoring, totalitarian Islamic dictator gets a hearing, but one of his would-be victims who speaks out against his ideology in order to protect us does not.
As an historically Jewish institution, Brandeis' actions are an especially detestable example of dhimmitude. Jews have been subjugated and persecuted at the hands of Muslims for centuries. Today, the Jewish homeland of Israel faces existential threats from surrounding Islamic regimes and jihadist groups whose actions are animated by an underlying Jew-hatred.
The Holocaust Memorial at the Dachau concentration camp. (University of Texas/Amanda Kristen)
Jews and non-Jews alike invoke the words "Never again" when it comes to genocides such as the Holocaust. Yet Ms. Ali criticizes the only religion with significant numbers of adherents who carry out terrorist attacks and threaten a Second Holocaust under its banner -- the only religion with followers who strap bombs to themselves and savagely slay innocent women and children -- and Brandeis cowers in fear?
The words "Never again" have perhaps never rang more hollow than in 21st century Western academia.
The actions of Brandeis University are symptomatic of a broader malady plaguing Western society.
As Kevin Williamson recently noted, civil society is the preferred means for handling contentious cultural issues, over and above the state. But just because civil society -- whether twitter mobs or CAIR apparatchiks and their allies -- has such power does not mean that it should wield it for "illiberal ends," of which Brandeis' silencing of Hirsi Ali is one.
For a free society to endure requires open and honest debate on ideas. The progressive Left claims it supports freedom of speech, but ask yourself on the following issues, are we free to talk or does the Left stifle debate:
- Race: unless it's that there is pervasive institutional racism and that, as Vice President Biden says, whites want to "put y'all back in chains"
- Class: unless it's that the 1 percent are evil
- Gender: unless it's that there's a widespread and ongoing "War on Women." Of course, if you want to see the real "War on Women," look to the Islamic world, in which Hirsi Ali herself was subjected to genital mutilation, and in which under Sharia law a woman who accuses a man of rape can only prevail if the accused confesses or there are four male witnesses
- Marriage: unless it's that traditional marriage proponents hate gay people
- Abortion: unless it's that pro-lifers don't believe in women's rights
- Crime: unless it's that society, or the victim, caused it
- Environmentalism: unless it's that man is ruining the Earth and we face armageddon from the change to the climate he is absolutely causing; come to think of it, this debate is already over
- Religion: unless it's that crazy right-wing extremists want to take us back to the stone age, that Islam is a religion of peace, and the future "must not belong to those who slander" its prophet
The more areas of speech we circumscribe, the less freedom remains.
It would seem to me that what we have today, as opposed to the pluralistic and dynamic society that the American experiment requires, is totalitarianism masquerading under the banner of tolerance.
What the Left's intolerance reflects is that despite its moral relativism -- a world without objective truths in which there is no such thing as good and evil -- the Left believes there are judgments to be made, that certain values and ideas are superior: its own.
What separates the devils from the angels is simply whether or not you agree with them.
Hirsi Ali embodies everything the Left claims to champion: she's an immigrant, minority, atheist, female, who was subjected to physical abuse, and speaks out for women's rights. Yet she is silenced by the Left for the unspeakable offense of criticizing Islam.
To truly challenge the status quo, to truly fight for the underdog, to truly stand for something, would be for the Left to amplify the voices of those who oppose the prevailing ideological dogmas from campuses to coffeehouses across the country -- to apply the standards of tolerance and diversity the Left purports to uphold equally, and indiscriminately.
Yet despite the Left's adherence to secular humanism, it finds common cause with Islamic supremacists.
Leftist secularists may not approve of religion, but like Islamic supremacists they have an overarching ideology that requires the stifling of all dissent.
In the final analysis, just like the Islamic supremacists, the Left wants us to all become their dhimmis.
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