Brandeis University, which apparently performs less background research on its honorary degree candidates than a newspaper stringer does before covering a high school football game, withdrew the award Tuesday it had extended to noted Somali-born global women’s rights advocate, atheist activist and fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In a release announcing its reversal, Brandeis, in Massachusetts near Boston, acknowledged that Hirsi Ali is “a compelling public figure and … we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world.”
You know a “but” is coming. Here ’tis: “That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.”
Hirsi Ali’s offense appeared in an interview in the November 2007 issue of Reason magazine. Here’s what set off a petition that collected 6,000 (very thoughtful, you can be sure) student signatures and the backing of 85 members of the Brandeis faculty, whom we’re certain never conduct themselves in such a way as to be considered knee-jerk reactionaries. Except that the whole thing started late last week and had President Frederick Lawrence beating a cowardly retreat by Tuesday. Said Hirsi Ali:
“[R]ight now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.
“Once [Islam is]defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in
peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. … ”
“Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, ‘This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.’ There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.”
Brandeis clearly has identified which enemy is worthy of crushing, and Hirsi Ali is not amused.
But if statements made in an interview — statements backed up by a harrowing personal story in which Hirsi Ali was subjected to some of the worst excesses of Islam (including female circumcision and the startling murder of a colleague) — can be disqualifying, what are we to make of public figures who accept prizes named for a woman who said, among other things, this:
“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
And also this:
“[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.”
As well as this:
“Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and
And who reported in 1926 with a certain pride that she had been well-received by the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, N.J., and as a result “a dozen invitations to similar groups were proffered.”
If the above is an example of presenting quotes out of context — The Right Stuff would not argue otherwise — it is no less than what went down at Brandeis. Nonetheless, on the strength of selective quoting, the university shamelessly reneges on an offer extended in good faith, and no less than U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (2014) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2009) have stood on a stage accepting an award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America named for noted 20th Century eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who said far, far worse.
Funny how that works.