Brandeis University in Massachusetts announced Tuesday that it had withdrawn the planned awarding of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a staunch critic of Islam and its treatment of women, after protests from students and faculty.
The university said in a statement posted online that the decision had been made after a discussion between Ali and university President Frederick Lawrence.
Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage, she renounced the faith in her 30s. She has not commented publicly on the issue of the honorary degree.
In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls. This includes control of their own bodies, access to an education and the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, the website says.
More than 85 of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter asking for Ali to be removed from the list of honorary degree recipients. And an online petition created Monday by students at the school of 5,800 had gathered thousands of signatures from inside and outside the university as of Tuesday afternoon.
"This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students," said senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition said before the university withdrew the honor.
"But it's not just the Muslim community that is upset but students and faculty of all religious beliefs," she said. "A university that prides itself on social justice and equality should not hold up someone who is an outright Islamophobic."
Thomas Doherty, chairman of American studies, refused to sign the faculty letter. He said it would have been great for the university to honor "such a courageous fighter for human freedom and women's rights, who has put her life at risk for those values."
Bernard Macy, a 1979 Brandeis graduate, sent an email this week to university President Frederick Lawrence and several members of the faculty saying, "Thank you for recognizing Ayaan Hirsi Ali for defending Muslim women against Islamist honor violence."
But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group, said, "It is unconscionable that such a prestigious university would honor someone with such openly hateful views."
The organization sent a letter to university President Frederick Lawrence on Tuesday requesting that it drop plans to honor Ali.
"This makes Muslim students feel very uneasy," Joseph Lumbard, chairman of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, said in an interview. "They feel unwelcome here."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. (end of article)
Z: It strikes me as so sad that students at Brandeis are less interested in the truth from one who knows, first hand, genital mutilation, beatings, an arranged marriage and a long time in hiding from islamists than they are politically correct. Ali criticizes what she knows; she understands the danger of islam to women around the world, she recognizes the danger of islamists to the world. But, she cannot receive an honor because some are hurt by her truths. The message here is that some could have been awakened to the ugly truth by their hurt but they have won their case and weakened themselves, and us, in the doing. Instead of understanding her background, her warnings, her first hand information, the new generation would rather ignore mutilations and beatings and even murder in the name of religion and condemn Ali instead.
Good job, American professors. You should be mightily ashamed of yourselves.
Z I want to add that I wrote this on Tuesday night and it bugs me SO BIG TIME when I'm ahead of the darned cable channels but hadn't posted it in time to be 'exclusive! ' HA!! :) Mr. Z used to say "Look! You wrote that blog post and the media's just commenting on the subject" (see why I LOVED HIM!?) :)
Happy Birthday, Mom and Cath!