Feminist Outcry Lacking After Brandeis U's Debacle

"Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?"


Critics across the country have weighed in on the fact that there has been limited feminist outrage regarding Brandeis University's decision to rescind the offer of an honorary degree to women's rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby questioned the absence of the feminist movement:

Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?

I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.

“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”

In theocratic Iran today, Eftekhari says, the legal age of marriage for girls has been lowered to 9. Fathers can legally marry their adopted daughters. “How can President Obama, who has two young daughters, not be making a huge issue of this?” she wants to know. “It’s not marriage, it’s statutory rape.”

New York University student Laura Adkins posed a similar question on her blog on The Times of Israel:

Instead of retreating from the public sphere, Ali channeled her powerful experiences into helping others. In 2007, Ali helped found the AHA Foundation, which works tirelessly to advocate for the rights of oppressed women in the West. The organization actively works on legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, which has helped significantly decrease rates of domestic violence, and helped write the language and provided special consultation on the Federal Extraterritoriality Amendment, which made it illegal to transport a girl outside of the country in order to undergo a genital mutilation procedure. The organization also provides support and resources to victims of sexual and domestic assault, as well as assistance to victims of honor violence, genital mutilation, and women attempting to escape forced marriages. AHA also provides training and resources for police departments about female genital mutilation and honor violence. Ms. Ali is a powerful voice for justice and often speaks publicly about her experiences, as well as the work that must still be done on behalf of women and girls everywhere.

Adkins continued:

And what exactly were these extreme views Ms. Hirsi Ali planned to share with Brandeis’s graduating class? Her planned remarks are worth reading in full. But from just a few lines, we can see that Ms. Hirsi Ali’s message is not one of extremism, but of peace and hope:

“When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority—including patriarchal authority—to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.”

And in the ultimate irony:

“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 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.”

These are not the words of a radical; these are the words of someone standing up for Brandeis’s motto of “Truth, even unto its innermost parts.”

Jacoby also made note of the role of CAIR and its role and rallying support against Hirsi Ali:

CAIR — a front group for Islamist extremism that masquerades as a civil rights organization (its first executive director, Nihad Awad, was an open supporter of Hamas) — is good at raising stinks. Last week Brandeis University caved in to demands that it rescind its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a heroic defender of women’s rights in the Islamic world. With a life story that reads like a screenplay, Ali has personally experienced many of the evils she fights, including genital mutilation, forced marriage, and savage “honor” crimes. Her remarkable accomplishments should easily merit the honor of any university that upholds reason and intellectual diversity. But Brandeis apparently has different priorities now, like giving CAIR and the Islamophobia-phobes a veto over honorary degrees.

Video has recently emerged of Imam Suhaib Webb, who also organized support for the petition against Hirsi Ali, calling the human rights activist an "idiot" at a CAIR event: