First, Brandeis University offered an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken critic of Islam. Then apparently when officials actually familiarized themselves with her writing after several complaints, they took the offer back this week.Unfortunately, the same writer begins to derail when he says:
One Fox News contributor calls it "an honor killing, Brandeis-style." That's crass, but the university's behavior is certainly disappointing. It smacks of cowardice, and Hirsi Ali can't be blamed for seeing it as an attack on her personal dignity.
An act that was meant to honor her has been turned into an opportunity to shame her -- and, as she pointed out, "The slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles." Indeed, the fear of creating offense is not compatible with academic freedom. On the contrary, criticizing society in the boldest terms possible is what intellectuals are there to do.
So Brandeis ought to have stood by its invitation. But there are some who would ask why it made the invitation in the first place. If the institution was worried about generating controversy, all it had to do was Google her name to discover that Hirsi Ali is a very controversial person. Indeed, her views fall well outside of the mainstream.
Hirsi Ali's story is undeniably moving. Born in Somalia, she was the victim of female genital mutilation at the age of 5 and was betrothed into an arranged marriage, which she escaped by seeking political asylum in the Netherlands. Thereafter she emerged as a forceful, politically engaged critic of Islam -- her memoir, "Infidel," is an extraordinary testament to the horrors that fundamentalism can wrought on an individual. Her ethnicity excuses her from the charge of racism; her politics is not reactionary but rather a very muscular variety of liberal universalism.Here's where he fouls up badly for the sake of PC. It may not be in the Koran, but it most certainly is found inside the Hadith. And his take on customs is confusing and bizarre, because don't customs usually derive from someplace? That's shameful to suggest it's seperate.
However, the Islam that Hirsi Ali knew and denounces is a narrow cultural experience -- not the reality of the religion as a whole. There is no female genital mutilation in the Koran; tribes do it because it is a custom, not a legitimate religious instruction. Likewise, the extreme Islamism that threatens the West -- and against which the right campaigns -- is a small, geographically limited phenomenon that is almost unrelated to the considerably more liberal forms of Islam practiced in, say, Bangladesh or Europe.
Israel HaYom warns that:
We're only 10 days into April, but 2014 already is shaping up to be a banner year for those who consider any criticism of Islam, radical or otherwise, to be something unfit for public consideration.And they're right to be concerned. If we don't want this to keep happening, that's why all concerned must step up efforts to get universities, among other places, to stop harboring and paying lip service to totalitarians.