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Eye on the News

Bruce Bawer
Rank Appeasement
Brandeis University’s shameful abandonment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali
10 April 2014

A few years ago, when While Europe Slept, my book about the Islamization of Europe, was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism, the writer announcing the finalists in that category called it “racism as criticism.” This smear, from a person I’d never heard of—and whose opinion of my book would otherwise not have merited any notice—wound up getting more media attention than the nomination itself.

So I think I know how Ayaan Hirsi Ali must feel after Brandeis University, which had announced plans to award her an honorary degree at its commencement ceremony next month, changed its mind this week. “She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world,” the university said in a statement. But the school “cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” The news of this reprehensible insult has gone around the world, turning, as Hirsi Ali herself put it, an intended honor “into a moment of shaming.”

Brandeis’s about-face came in response to several irate demands that Hirsi Ali be disinvited: an online petition that garnered several thousand signatures; a letter signed by about a quarter of the Brandeis faculty; and, last but not least, a statement by the Council on American-Islamic Relations labeling her a “notorious Islamophobe.” In the face of these complaints, Brandeis caved. “Core values,” indeed! They obviously don’t include decency or courage. Welcome to the twenty-first-century American academy, a moral bubble in which “core values” are little more than a pusillanimous mush of multicultural dogma and PC platitudes. In such an environment, the towering strength of an Ayaan Hirsi Ali—whose remarkable journey has taught her uncomfortable but vital truths about Islam, and whose conscience and courage have impelled her to articulate those truths at grave risk to her own life—is not only alien, but anathema.

At Brandeis, of course, it’s fine to criticize Christianity and Judaism, and to savage America and Israel. Witness its presentation, in 2006, of an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, who has repeatedly expressed contempt for the Jewish state. (Critics of Kushner’s award were brusquely informed that “the university does not select honorary degree recipients on the basis of their political beliefs or opinions.”) That’s not all: Brandeis, as it happens, hosts one of the most active chapters of the poisonously anti-Israeli group Students for Justice in Palestine, which, under the tolerant eye of the university administration, invites terrorist sympathizers to speak at the school and disrupts campus talks by members of the Knesset. Until recently, moreover, Brandeis even had a cozy “academic partnership” with Al Quds University, a hive of fanatical Jew-hatred. But criticism of Islam—even by someone with firsthand experience of its systematic and brutal oppression of women—is off-limits.

Tactlessly, Brandeis included in its dis-invitation announcement a suggestion that Hirsi Ali “join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues” (she declined). One can imagine the form that “dialogue” would take—an army of livid Muslim students and their benighted allies shouting Hirsi Ali down with words like “fascist” and “Nazi.” Plainly, the faculty and administration at Brandeis want to be seen as concerned about Muslim women—but at the same time, they’re terrified to welcome anyone whom CAIR or the Muslim Student Association might call Islamophobic. What Brandeis is teaching its students is dhimmitude—a pathetic readiness to cave in to Islam at the first peep of protest.

Among the four persons still scheduled to receive commencement honors at Brandeis this year is New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Just wondering: does she still plan to accept, or will she withdraw in sisterly solidarity with Hirsi Ali? What about the graduates—are any of them offended enough by this shabby treatment of an international feminist hero to, say, stand up and turn their backs to the stage during the ceremony? And what of their parents, who are paying $46,000 a year for their kids to learn lessons in rank appeasement—do any of them have a sour taste in their mouths over this disgusting episode? Remember: the only way to overcome the constant pushing by CAIR and its cronies is to push back. Make noise. If your kids are accepted by Brandeis, send them elsewhere—and drop a line to Fred Lawrence, the university’s president, letting him know why.

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