Jamie Weinstein and Mark Steyn took to the airwaves to discuss Brandeis University’s decision to cave in to pressure and rescind the honorary degree offer to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The back and forth was transcribed on Steyn’s website:
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.
JW: Powerful words from Mark Steyn.
The decision by Brandeis has sparked international outrage. As William Crystal noted for the Weekly Standard:
Unfortunately, that's business as usual in the modern academy, including at an academic institution founded out of a special concern for the well-being of Jews in America and elsewhere.
But when it comes to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a courageous woman who has fought for human rights around the world—and who may actually like the state of Israel—well, that's a bridge too far. In recent weeks, Brandeis president Fred Lawrence came under "pressure"—i.e., received complaints from some students and whining from some faculty—and promptly caved. He has disinvited Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary doctorate this year.