by AMBER KELLY Photographer
Brandeis University is facing hard criticism for rescinding its invitation to honor Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist who criticizes the treatment of women in the Islamic faith.
A Somali-born American, Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family. As a young woman, she experienced the genital mutilation and abuse she speaks against. Once she reached her 30’s, Ali renounced the Muslim religion and began her campaigns to bring awareness to the female mutilation that takes place in the Islamic community.
She wrote the screenplay for the movie “Submission”, which shows fictional female Muslim characters who have faced abuse. Ali also founded a non-profit organization called the AHA foundation, an organization that promotes women’s rights.
In her career, Ali has had much success, and that is why Brandeis University decided to honor her. However, this honor was revoked in the face of protest.
“It seems like she has done well for herself and the fact that she was abused in the past and now speaks out against the things she has experienced under Islam shows strength. It’s not like Ali is just spouting nonsense, she actually went through he abuse; she has first hand experience,” says senior Jennifer Park.
Students and teachers at the college signed petitions to keep Ali from receiving the honor, branding her an “Islamophobe.” About 85 members of the faculty and 5,800 students protested this honor, criticizing the college for trying to honor someone they deemed as being hateful toward Islam.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) similarly criticized the honor. CAIR has been investigated, and in the past, the FBI has said that there were ties between CAIR and Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist organization.
In a response to Brandeis’s cancellation of her honorary degree, Ali said, “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 this way.”
Ali was unaware that her honor was going to be withheld until, just a few hours before a public statement was to be made, she received a call from the university informing her.
Despite the protests that ensued, many students and faculty members supported Ali receiving an honorary degree. Some have come out and said how horrible it is for the honor to have been taken away.
“Ali doesn’t say hateful things. She shares her experiences and denounces parts of the Islam culture that you’d think other people would want to denounce as well. She protests the mutilation and abuse of women, so how is that being an Islamophobe? She deserved that honor despite the protests,” says senior Vincent Grassi.
There is still controversy over this issue, as some support the honor withdrawal and others do not.
Do you think Ali should have received the honorary degree?