The Corner

Brandeis University Rescinds Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Honorary Degree

Brandeis University rescinded an honorary degree in Social Justice it had planned to bestow on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights and atheist activist, who was to be honored at the university’s May 18 commencement. 

On Monday, students from Brandeis created a petition against Ali receiving the honorary degree because her ”ideas of justice threaten and attempt to eliminate a religion integral to many members of Brandeis University.” 

The students were angered by comments Ali made about Islamic law to Reason magazine in 2007.

“Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now,” Ali told Reason magazine. “They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

Sarah Fahmy, a senior at Brandeis who created the petition, told Fox News that Ali’s honorary degree is a “slap in the face” to Muslim students and that her university “should not hold up someone who is an outright Islamophobic.”

Fahmy’s petition received over 6,000 signatures. The faculty followed her lead, and more than 85 of the university’s 350 faculty members signed a letter asking the administration to remove Ali from the list of honorary degree recipients. 

President Frederick Lawrence said in a statement on Tuesday: ”We cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” and he rescinded Ali’s honorary degree. 

Ali responded on Wednesday, saying: “I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. . . . The slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles.”

Ali received international attention in November 2004 when her filmmaking partner Theo van Gogh was stabbed, slashed, and shot in Amsterdam by a Muslim extremist from Morocco. Ali wrote Submission, a short film about the treatment of women under Islamic law, and it was directed by van Gogh. The assassin used a knife to pin a letter to van Gogh’s chest. The letter was a call to jihad and included a death threat to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


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