Chances are, until last week most of you had never heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and what she stands for. Now, thanks to the bullying and intimidation tactics of a radical Muslim organization called Council on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) and the cowardice of the administration of Brandeis University, Ms. Ali and her views have become quite well known indeed. Briefly, what happened was that Brandeis University had invited Ms. Ali to speak at its commencement ceremonies next month at which time she was to receive an honorary degree. These honorariums are not unusual. Indeed, dignitaries representing the entire spectrum of political and social viewpoints have been so honored by universities. However, CAIR pressured Brandeis into “disinviting” Ms. Ali. It seems that CAIR had strenuously objected to what they perceived as Ms. Ali’s extremely anti-Muslim statements and attitudes.
Hirsi Ali was born on November 13, 1969 in Somalia. She was raised as a Muslim, although presently, she is an atheist. She has lived in many countries, including, among others, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, and the US. In 2005 “Time” Magazine named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world. She is married with one child, a son. She became a naturalized citizen of the US in 2013 and currently is affiliated with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
She has been a very harsh critic of the Muslim religion, in general, and its treatment of women, in particular. She has spoken out against the practice of gender mutilation of which she was a victim as a 5 year old, violence and general intolerance of women, which are routine in the Muslim world. She has characterized it as a “backward religion” and “the new fascism.” All this has brought her to the attention of radical Muslim groups, such as CAIR, which vigorously oppose any criticism of Islam. CAIR was able to pressure Brandeis University’s administration into withdrawing her speaking invitation.
This is outrageous. Whatever happened to free speech? I always thought that in this country everyone was entitled to express his or her views. Do we now only allow certain viewpoints to be heard and not others? Where are the women’s groups who claim there is a “war on women” in the US? They protest every perceived wrong against women regardless of how minor it might be. What about this one? This is a real issue. Free speech and women’s rights all rolled into one. The harsh treatment of women in the Muslim world has been well and thoroughly documented. Ms. Ali can provide a firsthand account. Let’s hear what she has to say. Those who disagree can give their own speeches. Furthermore, how about the prominent politicians and Hollywood celebrities? Their silence has been deafening.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Traditionally, colleges have invited a diverse group of dignitaries to speak at commencement ceremonies and other occasions. Many of them were very controversial and divisive. For example, Mamoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2012.
There are many losers here. The biggest ones are Brandeis University and CAIR, not Ms. Ali. This situation has backfired on them big-time. Most people had never heard of the school before. Now, their first impression is of a school led by a cowardly administration afraid of its own shadow, which has embarrassed itself publicly by knuckling under to CAIR. As we know, first impressions are usually the ones that endure. CAIR comes across as a bully afraid to let any opposing views see the light of day. How about an honest debate on the issue?
The hypocrisy of women’s groups, celebrity activists and politicians has become evident. Much of their credibility has been destroyed. If one is going to be an activist and advocate for a cause, e.g., women’s rights and free speech, be consistent. Don’t pick and choose when to get involved. If you believe that there is a “war on women” in the US, speak up in this case. This is a really serious issue. Unfortunately, I predict they will remain silent on this issue for fear of offending anyone.
As for Ms. Ali, she and her views have gotten more publicity from this matter than she could have ever received had she been permitted to speak as scheduled. Good for her, and kudos to the journalists who have reported the story.