National Post Barbara Kay: Brandeis core values are offensive to the core

National Post - Wednesday April 9th, 2014

Tim Fraser for National Post
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Brandeis offer revoked

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the bravest women on the planet. To anyone who cares about women’s rights in patriarchal cultures, she needs no introduction.

But to recap, Ali was raised in a strict Islamic society in Somalia. She is a survivor of female genital mutilation, civil war, physical abuse from a violent father and a forced marriage. Through good fortune and her own determination, she exchanged a life of subjugation and misery under an oppressive religious yoke for secular freedom in the West: first in The Netherlands, where she gained notoriety following the murder of her Dutch film collaborator, Theo Van Gogh, and then, when political correctness trumped Ali’s forthright denunciations of Islam in her advocacy for freedom of speech and women’s rights, to America.

Brandeis University seems to consider that cozying up to supporters of terrorism is a core value.

Ali never pulls her punches and, though acknowledged as intellectually brilliant, is often criticized by culturally self-loathing leftist intellectuals as a “provocateur” and “simplistic” for lavishing unconditional praise on the Enlightenment and the invaluable freedoms it brought it to the West. Never less than controversial no matter what she writes or says, she requires bodyguards at all times to protect her from the innumerable death threats that are her lot.

All of this history is common knowledge, so there is no excuse for ignorance on the part of the administration at Brandeis University, which on April 8 withdrew its offer of an honorary degree to be awarded May 18, citing comments Ali made that were critical of Islam. One such comment was a 2007 statement Ali made to Reason Magazine, “Once [Islam is] 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.”

Anyone familiar with Ali’s writings and speaking engagements knows that this comment is a garden-variety example of her oeuvre’s theme. Critiquing Islam as an ideology as well as a religion is her stock in trade. Universities have a duty to vet their honourees thoroughly beforehand. If Brandeis failed to do their due diligence, that should be their problem, not Ali’s. Which isn’t to say that Ali doesn’t deserve the honorary doctorate, only to say that if Brandeis fears the displeasure of their Muslim students more than they admire Ali for her heroism, that’s something they should have dealt with before inviting her.

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

Core values, eh? And what would those be?

Was it core values that guided Brandeis’ 2007 hiring of Professor Natana J. DeLong-Bas – a strident defender of Saudi-style extremist Muslim ideology, who is on record denying that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks?

Was it core values that prompted Brandeis then-president Jehuda Reinharz to call mainstream anti-Islamist Daniel Pipes a “weapon of mass destruction” because his talks provide an excuse for Islamist activists to make trouble?

Was it core values behind Brandeis University’s initiation in 2008 of a long-term, intimate relationship with Jerusalem’s radical Al Quds University? Al Quds hosts the Abu Jihad Martyrs Museum, which pays homage to Palestinian terrorism and, according to a 2007 Palestinian Media Watch report, hosts student branches of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on campus.

Brandeis University seems to consider that cozying up to supporters of terrorism is a core value. Brandeis seems to consider the honorary degree they awarded to playwrite Tony Kushner in 2006, a virulent anti-Zionist who has said, “The biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community,” as consistent with their core values. But Brandeis doesn’t think the magnificent Ayaan Hirsi Ali quite makes the grade, because what she says is offensive to some Muslims.

Something has gone terribly awry at a university which was founded in the name of Jewish cultural efflorescence, and whose motto is “Truth even unto its innermost parts.” Brandeis’ insult to Ayaan Hirsi Ali should not go unrequited. A general boycott of the May 18 ceremonies by students and principled faculty would be a potent rebuke to Brandeis University’s rotten-to-the-core values and the right thing to do.

National Post