You’d think an East Coast university would be glad to offer an honorary degree to a very brave woman who has publicly criticized Islam for its “core values” and for its treatment of women.
Well, yes, Brandeis announced it would give an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but just reneged. The excuse? As reported by Richard Pérez-Peña and Tanzina Vega in the New York Times:
Facing growing criticism, Brandeis University said Tuesday that it had reversed course and would not award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam, who has called the religion “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”
“We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement released eight days after it had announced that Ms. Hirsi Ali and four other people would be honored at its commencement on May 18.
I bolded Brandeis’s excuse. Which begs the question, what are Brandeis’s core values? This is a university, for heaven’s sake. What on earth are “core values” to a university if not encouraging its students to learn, to think about what they’ve learned, to develop opinions and to avail themselves of our country’s First Amendment to speak or write about their opinions.
Besides, Ms. Hirsi Ali is right. She is personally and horribly knowledgeable about Islam particularly, but her description of Islam can be applied to any fundamentalist religion. What’s Brandeis afraid of? That someone will say the same thing about Orthodox Judaism?
I guess Brandeis will not be inviting me any time soon to speak. And I’d suggest that the other people who would be honored by Brandeis withdraw out of respect for Ms. Hirsi Ali and our country’s “core values.”