By Diana West:
When Brandeis University withdrew an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali after a student-professor firestorm branded her an “Islamophobe,” the campus in effect declared itself an outpost of Islamic law, American-style. Officially, Brandeis is now a place where critics of Islam – “blasphemers” and “apostates,” according to Islamic law – are scorned and rejected.
Not that Brandeis put it that way in its unsigned announcement about Hirsi Ali’s dis-invitation, which notes: “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. That said, we cannot overlook … her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”
Translation: Hirsi Ali’s advocacy on behalf of brutalized women is Good, but Hirsi Ali’s “past statements” – advocacy that connects such violence to Islamic teachings – are Bad, or, in faddish twaddle, “Islamophobia.” As a dhimmi (non-Muslims under Islamic law) institution, Brandeis cannot possibly honor the infidel.
Islamic blasphemy laws sanction the death penalty for exactly the kind of criticism of Islam ex-Muslim Hirsi Ali has engaged in: hence, the innumerable death threats she has received for over a decade; and hence, the ritual Islamic slaughter of Hirsi Ali’s co-producer, Theo van Gogh, for “Submission,” their short film about specifically Islamic violence and repression of women. In the U.S. (so far), punishment for such “transgressions” against Islam usually resembles an aggressive form of blackballing. There are horrifying exceptions, however, including the decision to prosecute and incarcerate Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, producer of “Innocence of Muslims,” for “parole violations.” To be sure, when it comes to participating in the 21st-century public square – in this case, donning academic robes and making valedictory remarks – “Islamophobes” need not apply.
This has long been the case. But we have reached a new nadir when a courageous figure of Hirsi Ali’s stature is publicly lashed for expressing herself about the perils that Islamic teachings pose to women’s rights and, more generally, human rights. Brandeis, however, deems such opinions “hate speech” – exactly the phrase used in an online student petition against Hirsi Ali. After all, name-calling is so much simpler than having to mount an argument. And so much more effective as a political weapon.
In our post-Orwellian time, “hate speech” means publicly reviled speech. A “hate-speaker” thus becomes fair game for public humiliation – exactly what Brandeis chose to inflict on Hirsi Ali. The humiliation, however, is Brandeis’ alone.
For what “core values” is Brandeis protecting? Denial. Orthodoxy. Cant. Lori Lowenthal Marcus, writing in The Jewish Press, excerpted Facebook comments by Bernadette Brooten, a Brandeis professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, in which Brooten described the anti-Hirsi-Ali letter she and 85 other Brandeis professors signed. “We stressed that we recognize the harm of female genital cutting, forced marriages, and honor killings, but that this selection obscures the violence against women that happens among non-Muslims, including on our own campus,” Brooten wrote. “I recognize the harm of gendered violence wherever it occurs, and I applaud the hard, effective work of many Muslims who are working to oppose it in their own communities.”
Whether Brandeis counts as a hotbed of “gendered violence” aside (let alone the predominantly Islamic phenomena of female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honor killings), Brooten has underscored the source of animus against Hirsi Ali. Her “selection” for university honors “obscures” non-Muslim violence against women, Brooten writes, but what I think disturbs the professors more is what Hirsi Ali has done – what her whole life experience signifies – to highlight the violence against women and children that is legitimized and inspired by specifically and authoritatively Islamic sources. Thanks in part to Brandeis, such sources are increasingly relegated to the list of post-9/11 taboos.
Never say Islam has anything to do with terrorism. Don’t ever, ever draw a cartoon of Muhammad. Oppose “gendered violence” (there’s no such thing as Islamic-rooted violence against women). Ostracize or humiliate “apostates” like Hirsi Ali (at least until real Islamic apostasy law becomes applicable here). In other words, protect, coddle and swathe Islam from the barbs and scrutiny that all other religions receive – or else. Or else what? Citizens might decide to halt Islamic immigration or “refugee resettlement” because it brings Islamic law to the West.
Then again, those laws are already here – and in force at Brandeis.
MARK STEYN: Well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali woman, a black, feminist Somali who was raised in a brutal, extreme Islamic upbringing where she underwent female genital mutilation, and she was put in an arranged marriage and all the rest of it. And she managed to escape to the Netherlands and get elected to the Dutch Parliament, and she made a film about the state of Muslim women, about the life of women in the Muslim world called Submission. She wrote the film. The guy who directed it is Theo Van Gogh. The film so outraged Muslims in Amsterdam that one of them murdered him, all but decapitated him in the street. His last words were, “Can’t we just talk about it?”, and the guy didn’t want to talk about it. He all but decapitated him, and his final act was to pin a letter and use a knife to stab it through what was left of Theo Van Gogh’s chest, pledging among other things to do the same to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Now she could have done what a lot of people would do. She could have moved to New Zealand, gone into hiding… changed her name, had a quiet life. And instead, she has lived with that death threat and many others, and had the courage to speak out against it. Most of us are never called upon to be that brave. Most of us will never have to actually weigh those odds the way Ayaan did. And no one’s asking these ghastly squishes at Brandeis to show that kind of courage. All this pathetic president – I want to get his name right, I’ve got it written down here… Frederick Lawrence. All this wretched nothing eunuch man, Frederick Lawrence, had to do – he didn’t have to show courage on that scale – all he had to do was not cave in to pressure group bullies and allow this woman to speak and receive the worthless honorary degree from his worthless institution. These guys won’t defend western civilization, and so western civilization will die, because it depends on the defense of losers like this guy.
JAMIE WEINSTEIN: And people when they get honorary degrees, it’s not like they only go to non-political people. Universities have awarded them in the recent past to people that want Israel to be wiped off the map and destroyed. Is that not right?
MS: Yeah, that’s true. And that was Brandeis, a guy called Tony Kushner… I stand back and occasionally roll my eyes at the dreary left-wing hacks invited to give commencement speeches, garlanded with state honors, things that if you trend to the right side of the spectrum, you know you’re going to be labeled ‘controversial conservative’, and you’ll never get anywhere near. But this woman is a black, feminist atheist from Somalia. And so what we’re learning here, which is fascinating, in the hierarchy of progressive-politics identity-group victimhood, Islam trumps everything. Islam trumps gender. The fact that she’s a woman doesn’t matter. It trumps race. The fact that she’s black doesn’t matter. It trumps secularism. The fact that she’s an atheist doesn’t matter. They wouldn’t do this if it was a Christian group complaining about her, if it was a Jewish group complaining about her. But when the Islamic lobby group says oh, no, we’re not putting up with this, as I said, these jelly-spined nothings at Brandeis just roll over for them.