Brandeis cancels honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, critic of Islam

Critics urging Brandeis University to drop honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali said she has "extreme Islamophobic beliefs."
By Frances Burns  |  April 9, 2014 at 3:31 PM
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WALTHAM, Mass., April 9 (UPI) -- Brandeis University has dropped plans to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, saying some of her statements about Islam do not match the school's "core values."

Officials at Brandeis in the Boston suburb of Waltham announced the decision late Tuesday. Hirsi Ali is currently a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

After Brandeis announced its plan to honor Hirsi Ali last week, the decision was criticized with an online petition saying she has "extreme Islamophobic beliefs." The Council on American-Islamic Relations charged Tuesday that she is a "promoter of religious prejudice."

In a 2007 interview with the libertarian magazine Reason, Hirsi Ali said that Islam has to be defeated so it can "mutate into something peaceful."

“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,” Brandeis officials said in a statement. “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, 44, was born in Somalia where her father was a prominent politician, and lived in Kenya, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. She lived in the Netherlands for many years and worked with filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, later killed by a Muslim extremist, on the film Submission.

She was brought up as a Muslim and in her teenage years embraced the conservative Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. She has said that she became an atheist in 2002.

[Boston Globe]

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