Brandeis bestows honorary degrees as a means of acknowledging the outstanding accomplishments or contributions of individual men and women in any of a number of fields of human endeavor. Just as Brandeis does not inquire into the political opinions and beliefs of faculty or staff before appointing them, or students before offering admission, so too the University does not select honorary degree recipients on the basis of their political beliefs or opinions. – Brandeis president on awarding Tony Kushner honorary degree [Washington Post]
WHEN the amazingly talented Tony Kushner was awarded an honorary degree from Brandeis University, all hell broke loose, because he is considered by some to by anti-Israel. Yet, his inflammatory statements didn’t stop Brandeis University, with the statement above from the president of the University clear about why he received the honor. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is nothing less than a heroine for women in the Muslim world who are treated as chattel or worse, killed in so-called honor killings for the crimes of allegedly religious men.
Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence had this to say, making a fool of himself in the process:
“She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world,” said the university’s statement.
“That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”
Tony Kushner is a Jew who is associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and many other activist campaigns that Zionists find offensive. Yet some use the slur anti-semitic to label him as an enemy of Israel. It’s preposterous, but that’s the politics of Israel and always will be in America.
Yet Brandeis University didn’t consider his views a problem for a university named after Justice Brandeis, rejecting that his criticism of Israel was “inconsistent” the the university’s “core values.”
I’d say the president of Brandeis is ignorant of what Ayaan Hirsi Ali is facing in the Islamic community as she fights for women against humongous odds, but that would be giving Mr. Lawrence too much credit.
Ignoring the whooping up of this issue by Fox News, which wouldn’t care a lick or lift a finger if Ali was railing against the Christian faith, the decision by Brandeis is appallingly hypocritical, as well as an obvious double standard.
On Tuesday, a student newspaper, The Justice, reported on the controversy, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to Dr. Lawrence, referring to Ms. Hirsi Ali as a “notorious Islamophobe.”
“She is one of the worst of the worst of the Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Ms. Ali has called Islam “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death,” which riled up a lot of students and professors at Brandeis, with protests and letters rising up in condemnation of her coming honor. When you think of how women are treated by Islam around the world, the point she’s making isn’t off the mark. Punishing the woman when she is raped? Stoning a girl when she is dishonored by men?
In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith ““ who dominate the governments of Muslim countries ““ was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion ““ which has been a fixture of campus life ““ is no longer permitted. [Jewish Press]
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a beacon of light for women in the Islamic world, speaking truth to a patriarchy that is the foundation of this worldwide religion. If she’s “inconsistent” with Brandeis University’s “core values,” then they have none.
“When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students. I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin.
For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called ‘honor killings,’ and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife beating or child beating.
Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices.
So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.
“What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation ““ lines from interviews taken out of context ““ designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.
“What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet 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. The ‘spirit of free expression’ referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014.
Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.
“Not content with a public disavowal, Brandeis has invited me ‘to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.’ Sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to ‘engage’ in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck””and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater.
“I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me and my work on behalf of oppressed woman and girls everywhere.”