What Ayaan Hirsi Ali would have said

The Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion” section has an abridged versions of the remarks Ayaan Hirsi Ali would have delivered had her honorary degree at Brandeis University not been revoked out of the University’s fear of Islamic opprobrium.

They are hardly inflammatory; indeed, they are stirring and inspirational. Their publication shows Brandeis up for the craven and cowardly institution it is. Read them all; here’s an excerpt (my emphasis):

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Sadly, the list could go on. I hope I speak for many when I say that this is not the world that my generation meant to bequeath yours. When you were born, the West was jubilant, having defeated Soviet communism. An international coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The next mission for American armed forces would be famine relief in my homeland of Somalia. There was no Department of Homeland Security, and few Americans talked about terrorism.

Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women’s basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

. . .When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I’m used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women’s and girls’ basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

So I ask: Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration? Is it blasphemy—punishable by death—to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era? Both Christianity and Judaism have had their eras of reform. I would argue that the time has come for a Muslim Reformation.

Is such an argument inadmissible? It surely should not be at a university that was founded in the wake of the Holocaust, at a time when many American universities still imposed quotas on Jews.

The motto of Brandeis University is “Truth even unto its innermost parts.” That is my motto too. For it is only through truth, unsparing truth, that your generation can hope to do better than mine in the struggle for peace, freedom and equality of the sexes.

How horribly strident! Good thing that Brandeis nipped these dreadful, Muslim-bashing remarks in the bud!

Look at the paragraph I put in bold. Does that call for the elimination of Islam? Hardly; it calls for a reformation of Islam’s inherent and pervasive misogyny.

The publication of her abridged speech shows what a terrible misstep Brandeis has made. And it shows once again that the thuggery of some Muslims—the implicit threat carried in their opposition to these palpably true accusations—is highly effective at cowing Western liberals.

h/t: Gregory


  1. gbjames
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink


    • Diane G.
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 12:45 am | Permalink


  2. Grania Spingies
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    If there is one thing I have noticed about Muslim women and ex-Muslim women in a number of Arab, African and Asian nations who tirelessly fight for basic human rights for themselves and each other: they have guts and courage by the truckload. They put pasty pretend liberals who whimper about “offence” to shame.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Yep they sure do! We owe them to call out BS here whenever we see it! Brandeis’s actions are an afront to women like these!

    • Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink


  3. Scott P.
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I am not sure why these needed to be published in the WSJ. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a standing invitation to speak at Brandeis any time she wishes to do so.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention to recent events?

    • Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      In light of their cowardly rescinding of her honorary degree, she refused to take up their invitation to speak. Read my last post on this issue.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      According to Hirsi Ali she does not have an invitation to speak at Brandeis whenever she wants. She says President Lawrence invited her “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues”. That sounds fairly fuzzy to me. “To dialogue” has become a bureaucratic euphemism. People used to argue.

      • Filippo
        Posted April 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues”.

        As surely Hitch would describe it, “white noise.”

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Also, after their rather gutless chickening out, why should she play by their rules? They don’t deserve her.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Maybe she’s tired of being repeatedly interrupted and cut off.

  4. Andrikzen
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Is phobia the same as cautious regard?

    A turtle was happily swimming along a river when a scorpion hailed it from the shore.

    A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

    “My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you, and drown as well. Now where is the logic in that?”

    The turtle thought this over, and saw the logic of the scorpion’s statement. “You’re right!” cried the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:
    “Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”

    “It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my [nature].” (Attributed to poet Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahnman Jami)

  5. bricewgilbert
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Her comments on immigration over the years have been troubling. That’s my problem with her. It’s one of those things where considering her life experience you see why she says these things, but I still can’t be okay with them.

    • Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      So of course because you find some of her comments “troubling,” she should have her honorary degree rescinded. Is that your position? In other words, degrees should be given only to those people who have never in their lives said anything that people could disagree with? That’s a recipe for eliminating honorary degrees, of course.

      She should have been given her degree for her courage in speaking up against religiously based oppression and her defense of women’s rights. That’s sufficient to honor her.

    • Korean Kat
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      My whatever she said about “immigration” must have been simply terrible, because you decline to detail it any way.

      My guess is she had the audacity to suggest the successful immigrants assimilate, like my own family, and that cultures that show resistance to that pattern (thus damaging social cohesion) should be restricted in access to immigration to the West.

      Other ex-Muslims, immigrants from the Global South, children thereof, etc. have said the same thing and their message is worth listening to. If you had really listened to her you would have more to say than just a vague accusation of her having violated some unspecified (but obviously leftist) orthodoxy.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      The thing is, of all the people I can think of who I admire, who inspire me, who make me think; I can’t think of a single person on the planet that I always agree with, all of the time on every position they hold.

      The fact that we don’t always agree with someone on every point they ever utter publicly seems like a pretty poor reason to agree that they ought to be publicly snubbed by an institution that up until a few days before hand had thought her speech was quite admirable.

      • fivegreenleafs
        Posted April 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        @Grania Spingies

        ‘… of all the people I can think of who … make me think; I can’t think of a single person on the planet that I always agree with’

        I would claim that it must be so almost by defintion, and it is certainly true in regard to my own experiences 🙂

        How can “anyone” make you think, or learn something new and possibly valuable, if they don’t in any way think, or see the world “differently” than you do, and, have the curage to tell you?

        That these ideas exist today (as laid out by @bricewgilbert above), escpecially in light of the last 1000y of our history, or just the last 100 for that matter, boggles my mind…

      • Gordon
        Posted April 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        All the people on the planet that say something I disagree with includes myself.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted April 13, 2014 at 3:15 am | Permalink

          Exactly. 🙂

    • fivegreenleafs
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I would say, that in a world in which you would disqualify every person who in any way or form held one in your eyes ‘troubling conviction’ from publicy speaking his or her mind, the only person you could ever allow to talk freely, is yourself!

      Such a conviction and attitude is to my mind not merely “troubling”, but, truly terrifying.

  6. Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing other institutions will be falling over themselves to be the one to offer her a doctorate come next commencement season. It’ll be interesting to see which one(s) succeed.

    It’s an interesting thought, that Brandeis’s cowardly bigotry may spark a competition to award Ms. Ali a doctorate. Usually, it’s the other way ’round — doctoral candidates struggling mightily for years just to convince a single institution they deserve the title. Gives you an idea of just how important Ms. Ali’s work is….


    • Sastra
      Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Let’s hope the competition — if there is one — isn’t going to be coming only from Christian colleges. Or (shudder) fundamentalist ones.

      • Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        I don’t think that is possible because last I checked she was an atheist. If she had converted to Christianity after leaving Islam, then she would have countless honorary degrees from Christian colleges.

      • Posted April 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        You know, if Oral Roberts wants to give Hirsi an honorary doctorate, and (at least publicly) do so for all the right reasons, I’d stand up and applaud, and I might even state that it was the most meaningful institution that could have given her such an honor.

        Do I expect such a thing to happen? Well, no….


  7. Sastra
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    The Ayaan Hirsi Ali which exists in the head of the critics who urged the university to withdraw the doctorate is apparently more exciting and enticing than the Ayaan Hirsi Ali which actually exists.

    Whenever that happens I suspect a strong taste for self-flattery and subsequent self-delusion on the part of the people doing that.

  8. Derek Freyberg
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    An interesting comment to the article said, in effect, “You know, her speech could have been just another commencement speech vanishing into the selfies and parties; but by Brandeis’s withdrawing her invitation, it has made it into the WSJ for guaranteed wide circulation.” That may well be right.

  9. William G
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    The first time I came into contact with the kind of abuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets at the hands of well-meaning progressives was a blog post she made 2.5 years ago in the HuffPo, Honour Killings Go Beyond Mere Homicide.
    Hirsi Ali draws no grander conclusion than that authorities and social workers should be more vigilant to catch the warning signs of honor violence to prevent future tragedies, but user GeoffreyF, a “Conversation Starter”, had the gall to write this:
    “Ayan [sic] Hirsi Ali has a very sad story of her own but let’s face it, she makes her money from speaking engagements and creating a sense of purpose and drama. As with selling deodorant, create the disease and then sell the cure. A smart and beautiful woman such as Ms. Hirsi Ali can find more useful ways to earn her living.”
    What could possibly possess a self-described “Pragmatic Liberal” like Geoffrey to write something so callous and sexist, right after reading an article about how a man murdered his wife and three daughters, aged 19, 17, and 13?
    He was not alone. Other people left comments saying that Muslims don’t do these kinds of things, and that this mass murder doesn’t reflect badly on Islam because all religionists do these kinds of things, even Muslims (who, again, don’t do these kinds of things), and that Hirsi Ali is a bigot and a hypocrite.
    So, Jerry, why don’t you blog at HuffPo again?

  10. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    “Truth even unto its innermost parts.”

    How many licks does it take to get to the crunchy center?

  11. Mark Joseph
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    While there are any number of quotes from her book Infidel that I could list here, I’ll let one suffice; hopefully someone from Brandeis will read it, or at least someone will point it out to them.

    Writing about her colleague Theo van Gogh, who was murdered by Muslims because he made a film about Islam (titled Submission), she reports what another friend said: “He died in a battle for free expression, and that’s what he lived for.”

    I stand by my opinion that the real reason for Brandeis’ cowardice is not any sort of principle, but the fact that its leaders are well to do, and do not want to run any personal risk by offending a potentially violent religious group. I hope that at some point the question penetrates their thick skulls “What would the West be like if courageous people had not stood up to the tyranny of the church?”

    • Stan
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Mark Joseph hit the nail on the head. It’s about money (it usually is) and fear of retribution from religious nuts. The folks at Brandeis need to grow a pair and live by the ideals they so hollowly preach.

  12. DrDroid
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    This site fights daily against creationist attempts to discredit evolution, and against Sophisticated Theologians(TM) who attempt to throw a thick cloud of obfuscation over the claims of the religious. But to me an even more important battle is the one addressed in this post: the attempts by religious apologists, and at this moment in history specifically apologists for Islam, to prevent any criticism of their beliefs. At times like this I greatly miss Hitch and much remember his passionate and stirring defense of free speech:
    Hitchens and Free Speech

  13. paxton
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    While it might not be relevant, and certainly does not excuse Brandeis, it provides some background to note that Ali’s husband, Niall Ferguson, is a leading apologist for western imperialism, including the US/UK invasion of Iraq.

    • Posted April 13, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      If it’s not relevant and doesn’t excuse Brandeis, then why, exactly, do you bring this up. You’re certainly right that it’s neither relevant nor exculpatory. So what use is this “background”? Only because you want it to be considered exculpatory. Face it: you think what Brandeis did is okay and you’re trying to excuse it. That’s the only reason I can see that you’d post something like this. Who gives a hoot what her husband thinks? She’s the one who was originally offered the degree, not her husband.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      So what – people who are pro the Iraq war, and their spouses, should be disqualified from getting degrees at universities now?

      Should we also retroactively strip people (and their spouses, and hell why not, children too) who previously obtained degrees based on their subsequent support for the war?

      So, yes, your point is completely irrelevant, but well done on trying to smear her by association. She was also a friend of Christopher Hitchens who also supported the Iraq War. OMG, it’s like totally a conspiracy or something. Any minute now we will be hearing about the lizard shape-shifting aliens who are stationed in the hollowed-out moon.

      • gijswijs
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:17 am | Permalink

        Ayaan shows some traits of Western imperialism herself too, in the WSJ article she says:
        “When you were born, the West was jubilant, having defeated Soviet communism. An international coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The next mission for American armed forces would be famine relief in my homeland of Somalia.”

        I don’t agree with her wording on the Jubilant West having defeated communism, Saddam Hussain, and fighting for famine relief in Somalia. She seems to equate the victories for feminism with these “achievements” of Western society or at least sets them on equal footing. I find that repulsive.

        Although I applaud her for her fight for women rights, that doesn’t deny ones right to critique her position on (global) politics. And since the part of her article quoted on WEIT includes her stance on these issues I think it’s allowed to critique her views in the comment section of this article.

        Although it’s obviously absolutely irrelevant to drag in her husband, or anyone else she might know.

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