Brandeis Students Petition Against Human Rights Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali

"Speak out against the award of an Honorary Degree in Social Justice to Ayaan Hirsi Ali- a woman whose ideas of justice threaten and attempt to eliminate a religion integral to many members of Brandeis University."

Brandeis University students have launched a Change.org petition in an attempt to prevent the university from giving an Honorary Degree to human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her biography on the American Enterprise Institute details her life story:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken defender of women's rights in Islamic societies, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. She escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992 and served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. In parliament, she worked on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and defending the rights of women in Dutch Muslim society. In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The airing of the film on Dutch television resulted in the assassination of Mr. van Gogh by an Islamic extremist. At AEI, Ms. Hirsi Ali researches the relationship between the West and Islam, women's rights in Islam, violence against women propagated by religious and cultural arguments, and Islam in Europe.

According to the AHA Foundation website:

In response to ongoing abuses of women’s rights, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her supporters established the AHA Foundation in 2007 to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

The AHA Foundation works to protect and reinforce the basic rights and freedoms of women and girls, including security and control of their own bodies, access to an education, the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, freedom of expression and association, and the myriad other basic civil rights defined under the laws of Western democracies and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Foundation is opposed to the adoption of dual legal systems to adjudicate family disputes in religious families and supports the separation of all religions and the State.

The AHA Foundation engages in four primary activities to protect and defend the rights of women and girls in the West from oppression committed in the name of religion and culture: investigate, inform, influence, and intervene.

The petition currently has 679 signatures. Reasons for support include, "I do not want to be complicit in Brandeis's staunch support of Israel and Islamophobia" and "She is not a role model, and certainly not someone whose ideas should be welcome in a university campus, where tolerance should be spread through kind words and loving spirit."

The petition reads:

Speak out against the award of an Honorary Degree in Social Justice to Ayaan Hirsi Ali- a woman whose ideas of justice threaten and attempt to eliminate a religion integral to many members of Brandeis University.

Hirsi Ali was chosen to receive an Honorary Degree in Social Justice at Brandeis’ 2014 Commencement Ceremony.

 To the Administration of Brandeis University:

It has come as a shock to our community due to her extreme Islamophobic beliefs, that Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be receiving an Honorary Degree in Social Justice this year. The selection of Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree is a blatant and callous disregard by the administration of not only the Muslim students, but of any student who has experienced pure hate speech. It is a direct violation of Brandeis University's own moral code as well as the rights of Brandeis students.

While we are not belittling the severity of the issues that she raises, she uses hate speech against Islam as a means to do this. A few of many examples are written below and illustrate this.

 David Cohen quotes Ms. Hirsi Ali as saying: "Violence is inherent in Islam – it's a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder. The police may foil plots and freeze bank accounts in the short term, but the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realise that it's not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself....Islam is the new fascism" (London Evening Standard, 2-7-07). Rogier van Bakel quotes her as follows: "Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love....Those are lovely concepts of God. They can’t compare to the fire-breathing Allah who inspires jihadism and totalitarianism." Van Bakel notes religions' ability to bring about change for good: "Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?" Ms. Hirsi Ali responds, "Only if Islam is defeated." Van Bakel asks, "Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?" To that she responds, "No. Islam, period." (Reason, 11-07)

How can an Administration of a University that prides itself on social justice and acceptance of all make a decision that targets and disrespects it's own students? This is hurtful to the Muslim students and the Brandeis community who stand for social justice.

Please consider signing this petition, appealing to have the offer of this degree by the University rescinded immediately.

In Solidarity,

The description on the Facebook event reads:

Speak out against the award of an Honorary Degree in Social Justice to Ayaan Hirsi Ali- a woman whose ideas of justice threaten and attempt to eliminate a religion integral to many members of Brandeis University.

It has come as a shock to our community due to her extreme Islamophobic beliefs, that Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be receiving an Honorary Degree in Social Justice this year. The selection of Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree is a blatant and callous disregard by the administration of not only the Muslim students, but of any student who has experienced pure hate speech. 

***Most importantly and the reason for this petition: It is a direct violation of Brandeis University's own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.***

We are not belittling the severity of the issues that she raises and do acknowledge that she has no doubt experienced terrible things in her life, however we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.

Please sign this petition appealing to the administration to rescind the offer of her award IMMEDIATELY.

A member of the MSA then added:

#‎Brandeis ‪#‎Commencement TO EVERYONE WHO IS COMMENTING: This is the public facebook page of the MSA in an attempt to help raise awareness about Ayan Hirsi Ali. We recognize and are fully aware of the experiences of Hirsi Ali, and acknowledge she has the right to document her experiences how she sees fit. But we will not tolerate hate speech, religious intolerance or the smearing of our faith. We (The MSA) are a club on Brandeis’ campus. We are not affiliated with any other group or organization off campus. We adhere to a faith which prohibits violence against women (anyone really) and promotes fairness, justice and equality for all. In commenting, please do not take the name of the MSA or Islam out of context. We expect tolerance of anyone who comments/participates with this page.

Previous recipients of Brandeis honorary degrees include:

  • Tony Kushner (“I can unambivalently say that I think that it’s a terrible historical problem that modern Israel came into existence.”) 
  • Bernard Lewis ("Classical anti-Semitism is an essential part of Arab intellectual life at the present time-almost as much as happened in Nazi Germany.") 
  • Adrienne Rich (From 2009: "With initial hesitation but finally strong conviction, I endorsed the Call for a U.S. Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel.") 
  • Desmond M. Tutu (Via Ynet: "Tutu has demonized the “Jewish lobby” as too “powerful” and “scary," resorting to a vile myth rooted in anti-Jewish stereotype, whereby the Jews control Washington. According to Tutu’s horrific and false accusation against the Jewish people, Israel is a sadistically colonialist entity, a blind persecutor of children, and a mad builder of apartheid walls​.")

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