Brandeis University was founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust. A non-sectarian Jewish university it’s mission was to promote learning, but especially to keep Jewish learning alive.
Having been founded at a time when the best American private universities and colleges were using a quota system to limit the number of Jewish students, Brandeis was directed toward those who were excluded because of their religion.
Recently, Brandeis announced its list of honorees for this year’s commencement. Among those chosen to receive an honorary doctorate was the intrepid defender of women’s rights, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was also designated as the commencement speaker.
Now, as is already well known, Brandeis has caved to Islamist pressure and has rescinded the offer. The university declared that Hirsi Ali could not represent its values, apparently because she has strongly condemned Islamic practices like honor killings, female genital mutilation and wife beating. Of course, she has also inveighed against Islamist efforts to shut down free and open discussion of that religion’s illiberal principles.
Implicit in the Islamist efforts to stifle free speech is the threat of terror. The “religion of peace” imposes its values on other people by threatening violence.
Mark Steyn explains:
… in this instance, Brandeis University is stiffing someone who's black, feminist and from Somalia. Which makes their decision the most explicit recognition yet that, in the hierarchy of identity-group politics, Islam trumps everything, including race and gender.
According to Brandeis, Hirsi Ali had committed a thought crime by denouncing Islam, and especially its will to oppress women.
Keep in mind, she herself suffered genital mutilation when she was five. She fled her native Somalia because she refused to be part of an arranged marriage. When she and her friend Theo Van Gogh began to militate against Islamist misogyny in the Netherlands he was murdered on the street and she was placed under armed guard and eventually forced to flee the nation.
Steyn describes her life:
She lives under armed guard and was forced to abandon the Netherlands because quite a lot of people want to kill her. And not in the desultory behead-the-enemies-of-Islam you-will-die-infidel pro forma death-threats-R-us way that many of us have perforce gotten used to in recent years: her great friend and professional collaborator [Theo van Gogh] was murdered in the streets of Amsterdam by a man who shot him eight times, attempted to decapitate him, and then drove into his chest two knives, pinning to what was left of him a five-page note pledging to do the same to her.
Bravely, Hirsi Ali has stood up to oppression and terror that she knows only too well. For her efforts, she has been denounced by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization that was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and that has been connected to Hamas.
CAIR seems to be in the business of suppressing any speech that any Muslim would deem offensive.
As it happened, Brandeis had no problem offering an honorary doctorate to a notable anti-Semite, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu in 2000.
Alan Dershowitz explained the extent of Tutu’s anti-Semitism:
Bishop Desmond Tutu is no mere anti-Zionist (though Martin Luther King long ago recognized that anti- Zionism often serves as a cover for deeper anti-Jewish bigotry). He has minimized the suffering of those killed in the Holocaust. He has attacked the "Jewish"--not Israeli--"lobby" as too "powerful" and "scar[y]." He has invoked classic anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes about Jewish "arrogance", "power" and money. He has characterized Jews a "peculiar people," and has accused "the Jews" of causing many of the world's problems. He once even accused the Jewish state of acting in an "unChristian" way.
Now, Brandeis, an institution that was founded by Jews after the Holocaust has sided with an organization that has wanted to rid the Middle East of Jews.
Somehow, “cowardly” does not seem strong enough.
Brandeis has tried to rationalize its decision by saying that Hirsi Ali has failed to distinguish between Islamist terrorism and peace-loving Muslims.
Obviously, there is a distinction. And yet, how many Jews are living peacefully in Muslim countries today? How many Jews are living peacefully in Arab countries today?
And then, how many Muslims have stood up to defend Israel’s right to exist? How many Muslims have denounced Islamist anti-Semitism? How many Muslims have defended Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
In an effort to rationalize its submissiveness Brandeis has declared that Hirsi Ali’s blanket condemnation of Islam is unacceptable. She has, apparently, violated the principle of nuance, and must be silenced.
Would anyone disagree that honor killings and wife beating are compatible with American values? And, what could be more obvious than the Islamist will to repress speech.
CAIR cares nothing for the First Amendment. Now, apparently, Brandeis agrees.
Hirsi Ali offered her own opinion on the matter:
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.
Obviously, Hirsi Ali was not the only person designated to receive an honorary doctorate from Brandeis this year. Among the others so designated were New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson.
Wouldn't it be wonderful for Abramson to affirm her own commitment to free speech by declining the honorary degree?
We can dream, can't we?