Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali Reuters

A Brandeis University student activist has accused the institution of "hypocrisy" after cancelling its decision to grant an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam.

Explaining its actions, the university released a statement saying that "certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values."

Somali-born Ali, who grew up in a Muslim household and was forced to undergo female genital mutilation as a girl, has been outspoken in her criticism of Islam, branding the religion "a destructive, nihilistic cult of death".

But Brandeis student Daniel Mael told Arutz Sheva that by overlooking her achievements in the field of human rights based on such statements exposes serious hypocrisy on the part of the university's administration - noting previous occasions in which people with no less controversial views were honored by Brandeis.

"Hirsi Ali is a champion of human rights who should be lauded for her devotion to stopping honor killings, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

"The decision is a blatant contradiction of past-president Jehuda Reinhartz's defense of the same award being given to Tony Kushner. When the anti-Israel Kushner was given an honorary degree, Reinhartz said, 'Mr. Kushner is not being honored because he is a Jew, and he is not being honored for his political opinions. Brandeis is honoring him for his extraordinary achievements as one of this generation's foremost playwrights, whose work is recognized in the arts and also addresses Brandeis's commitment to social justice.'"

Similarly, Mael points out, "Hirsi Ali was not being honored for her views on Islam. She was being honored for her commitment to women's rights and real justice."

Double standards?

What's more, Mael points out, Brandeis University has hosted several controversial anti-Israel speakers, including Sam Bahour, an activist who opposes any peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and who believes that Israel does not have the right to exist. 

In a 2011 column in the Guardian Bahour wrote, "Israel [is] a settler, colonial, apartheid movement clinging to a racialist, exclusivist ideology.  [The Palestinians] were correct to [reject Israel] at the outset of this conflict [1948]."

The decision to rescind Ali's honor was withdrawn following pressure from several groups, including most prominently the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which sent a letter to the university's president, Dr. Frederik M. Lawrence, referring to her 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.  "I don’t assign any ill will to Brandeis. I think they just kind of got fooled a little bit."

But CAIR itself has been accused of having links to extremist Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and the group was directly linked by authorities to an infamous Hamas funding racket known as the Holy Land Foundation. 

Mael said that the group played a crucial role in drumming up support for the petition to ban Ali, and that in fact "most of the signatories are from outside the university."

"This is the same group that has been blocking screening of The Honor Diaries," he pointed out, referring to CAIR's controversial campaign to silence a film exposing domestic abuse within the Muslim community.

A spokeswoman for the group was recently lambasted for its "bullying tactics" and for attempting to silence criticism of Islamist extremism.

Ali, who moved to Netherlands as a young woman, is a former member of the Dutch Parliament. She wrote the screenplay for "Submission," a 2004 film critical of the treatment of Muslim women. Shortly after its release, the director, Theo van Gogh, was murdered on an Amsterdam street by a radical Islamist, who pinned to the victim’s body a threat to kill Hirsi Ali as well.

In her book, Infidel, she wrote: "By declaring our Prophet infallible and not permitting ourselves to question him, we Muslims had set up a static tyranny. The Prophet Muhammad attempted to legislate every aspect of life. By adhering to his rules of what is permitted and what is forbidden, we Muslims supressed the freedom to think for ourselves and to act as we chose. We froze the moral outlook of billions of people into the mind-set of the Arab desert in the seventh century. We were not just servants of Allah, we were slaves." 

After the 9/11 terror strikes, she wrote, a Dutch friend told her that the perpetrators were "a lunatic fringe" within Islam. "I walked into the office thinking, 'I have to wake these people up.' ...The Dutch had forgotten that it was possible for people to stand up and wage war, destroy property, imprison, kill, impose laws of virtue because of the call of God. That kind of religion hadn't been present in Holland for centuries. It was not a lunatic fringe who felt this way about America and the West. I knew that a vast mass of Muslims would see the attacks as justified retaliation against the infidel enemies of Islam."