REVEALED: Brandeis Faculty Letter Pressured President to Drop Hirsi Ali

"We cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali's triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples."

Last week, Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence disinvited human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali after immense pressure CAIR National, a student petition on and a rumored faculty petition. That petition has now been leaked.

Out of respect for those who have already signed this letter, PLEASE DO NOT ALTER THIS LETTER IN ANY WAY. IF YOU WISH TO SIGN IT, PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME  AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TEXT.

April 6, 2014

Dear President Lawrence,

We are writing to urge you to rescind immediately the invitation to Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali for an honorary doctorate, a decision about which we are shocked and dismayed, owing to her virulently anti-Muslim public statements. 

We further urge you to reinstitute the past practice of a faculty committee that vets potential honorary degree recipients. Such a committee would surely have warned you about the horrible message that this sends to the Muslim and non-Muslim communities at Brandeis and beyond.

A few of many examples will suffice. 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)

We are filled with shame at the suggestion that the above-quoted sentiments express Brandeis's values.

The University bestows honorary degrees, in part,  to “identify the University with the values expressed through the work and accomplishments of the honoree” and “draw positive attention to the University as an institution that respects and encourages such values and the manner in which those values are expressed.” 

We are saddened that Brandeis would choose to honor such a divisive individual at commencement, a moment of unity for the Brandeis community.  Her presence threatens to bring unnecessary controversy to an event that should rightly be about celebrating Brandeis’ graduates and their families. 

Please know that, like Ms. Hirsi Ali, we fully recognize the harm of forced marriages; of female genital cutting, which can cause, among other public health problems, increased maternal and infant mortality; and of honor killings. These phenomena are not, however, exclusive to Islam.

The selection of Ms. Hirsi Ali further suggests to the public that violence toward girls and women is particular to Islam or the Two-Thirds World, thereby obscuring such violence in our midst among non-Muslims, including on our own campus. It also obscures the hard work on the ground by committed Muslim feminist and other progressive Muslim activists and scholars, who find support for gender and other equality within the Muslim tradition and are effective at achieving it. We cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali's triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples.

We call upon you to act immediately and to select another individual who is deserving of an honorary degree from Brandeis, someone who truly meets the standards and upholds the values of this university. 


1. Karen Hansen, SOC, WGS

2. Dian Fox, ROMS, WGS

3. Daniel Bergstresser, IBS

4. James Mandrell, ROMS

5. ChaeRan Freeze, NEJS, WGS

6. Bernadette J. Brooten, NEJS, WGS, PRS, CLAS, SQS

7. Mary Baine Campbell, ENG, COML; Assoc. Faculty WGS

8. Jytte Klausen, POL

9. Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman, ENG, AAAS, Affil. WGS

10. H. Michael Coiner, ECON

11. Nader Habibi, ECON, CROWN, IBS

12. Sue Lanser, COML, ENG, WGS, MACH, Affil. HOID, ROMS

13. Gary Jefferson, ECON, IBS

14. Catherine L. Mann, IBS, ECON

15. Ulka Anjaria, ENG, SAS

16. Jens Hilscher, IBS

17. David Powelstock, GRALL, COML, HOID

18. Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, CLAS, ANTH, FA, Italian Studies, WGS

19. Jane Kamensky, HIST, WGS

20. Harry Mairson, CS

21. Sarah Lamb, ANTH, WGS, HSSP, SAS, PRS

22. Mitra Shavarini, WGS, SOC

23. Ellen Schattschneider, ANTH, WGS, PRS, EAS, IGS

24. Wendy Cadge, SOC, WGS, PRS

25. Marion Smiley, PHIL, WGS

26. Richard J. Parmentier, ANTH, GS

27. Eric Chasalow, MUS, FTIM

28. Guy Antebi, NEJS

29. Laura J. Miller, SOC

30. Bulbul Chakraborty, PHYS

31. Javier Urcid, ANTH

32. Elizabeth Brainerd, ECON, WGS, IBS

33. Janet McIntosh, ANTH, AAAS

34. Caren Irr, ENG, FTIM, ENVS

35. Jordan Pollack, Computer Science

36. Sabine von Mering, GRALL, WMGS

37. Jonathan Anjaria, ANTH, SAS

38. Dawn Skorczewski, ENG

39. Adrianne Krstansky, THA

40. Chad Williams, AAAS

41. Govind Sreenivasan, HIST

42. Jane Hale, ROMS

43. Peter Conrad, SOC, HSSP

44. Rasha Azoni-Hannigan

45. Joseph Lumbard, NEJS, IMES, HOID, PRS

46. Gordon Fellman, SOC, PAX, IMES, Ethics Center

47. Leslie Zebrowitz, PSYC

48. David Cunningham, SOC, SJSP, Affil. HS

49. Paul Monsky, MATH

50. Edward K. Kaplan, ROMS, PRS, Affil. NEJS

51. Matthew Fraleigh, GRALL, COML, EAS

52. Ellen Kellman, NEJS

53. Paul Morrison, ENG

54. Jennifer Cleary, THA

55. Carl El-Tobgui, NEJS, IMES

56. George Ross, Hillquit Professor Emeritus, Soc, Pol, Global Studies

57. Debarshi Nandy, IBS

58. Robert Sekuler, PSYC, NEUR

59. Sara Shostak, SOC, HSSP

60. Harleen Singh, GRALL, WGS, SAS

61. Donald Hindley, POL, EAS, LALS

62. Kanan Makiya, NEJS, Crown Center

63. Ana Villalobos, SOC

64. Thomas King, ENG, SQS, WGS

65. Paul Jankowski, History

66. Gregory L. Freeze, History, IGS

67. Lenny Muellner, Classical Studies

68. Matthew Headrick, PHYS

69. Aparna Baskaran, PHYS

70. Albion Lawrence, PHYS

71. John Wardle, PHYS

72. Gabriella Sciolla, PHYS 

73. Raymond Knight, PSYC

74. Sophia Malamud, Linguistics, COSI

75. David H. Roberts, PHYS

76. Christine M. Thomas, CHEM

77. Allan Keiler, MUS

78. Marya Levenson, Education Studies

79.  Kelley Ready, SID

80. Nina (Cornelia) Kammerer, Heller PhD Program

81. Robert Meyer, PHYS, emeritus

82. Wellington Nyangoni, AAAS

83. Talinn Grigor, FA, SAS, GS

84. David Sherman, ENG

85. Richard Gaskins, AMST, LGLS

86. David Karjala, NEJS, IMES

87. Patricia A. Johnston, Classical Studies


H/T Yair Rosenberg of Tablet Mag.