My only regret in reading Zev Chafets’ slash and burn article on FoxNews about the Brandeis-Hirsi Ali controversy is that he didn’t name me as a “suspect” in the “honor-killing” of Hirsi Ali’s degree. Instead, the Likudist sychophantic biographer of Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh, reserved his ire for CAIR:
Brandeis University committed an honor killing this week. The victim was a Somali woman named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
…She had dared to criticize Islam and Muslim behavior in the same way other religions and other human behaviors get criticized in an open society. In America you can’t get killed for this (yet), but you can be dealt with.Enter Nihad Awad, the national head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He launched a letter of protest at Brandeis president Fredrick Lawrence, accusing Hirsi Ali of wrong thoughts and evil words. Giving her an award, he wrote, would be like “promoting the work of white supremacists and anti-Semites.”
That was rich. Awad…actually accused Ali of threatening the entire Muslim world with violence.
This sort of histrionic rhetoric is precisely what drives people away in droves from the lunatic-right extremists, both neocons and pro-Israel nationalists. It constitutes the honor-killing of reason, if I can continue to savage this metaphor as they have. The hysterics make the principled stand we all have taken in this matter smell like a rose.
The slightly less lunatic right, in the person of Bill Kristol, is trying to make a comparison between Tony Kushner, who received a Brandeis honorary degree, and Hirsi Ali, who didn’t. The argument is that Kushner is supposedly an Israel hater and anti-Zionist, and how is that any different from Hirsi Ali? The problem with this is that Kushner is a proud Jew and Hirsi Ali detests Islam. Kushner is not an anti-Semite, no matter how hard Kristol will try to transform criticizing Zionism into anti-Semitism.
Jeffrey Goldberg goes so far as the following piece of brainlessness:
I have to read carefully, but she hasn’t struck me as more hostile to Muslims than, say, Tony Kushner is to Jews.
He, of course, hasn’t “read carefully” at all. Here, Goldberg is guilty of the same old false pro-Israel elision between Judaism and Zionism. Hirsi Ali, as the Reason Magazine interview demonstrates, documents her support for genocide against Muslims. Kushner isn’t even in the same league.
The libertarian, Andrew Sullivan, who concedes he is a close person friend of Hirsi Ali and her husband, Niall Ferguson, derides those of us who dislike Hirsi Ali’s toxic utterances about Islam, as “the hard left:”
Ayaan has indeed said some intemperate and extreme things at times about Islam as a whole. But to judge Ayaan’s enormous body of work and her terrifying, pioneering life as a Somali refugee by a few quotes is, I’m afraid to say, all-too-familiar as an exercise in the public shaming of an intellectual for having provocative ideas.
“A few quotes?” Is that what he thinks we’ve done? She’s written and spoken hundreds of thousands of words, many of which condemn her to the bed she’s made for herself. Yes, as I’ve written here, her biography is compelling. Her life full of suffering. But that simply cannot excuse the bile she’s consistently spewed against Islam. The hate, the fury, the unreasoning rage. It’s simply impermissible to be taken seriously when your views have jumped off the deep end of rational discourse. Sullivan has allowed friendship to blind himself to the weaknesses of his pals. He ought to read more and sip lattes with them less.
The simple honest truth is that if Hirsi Ali has said 10% of what she’s said about Islam about Judaism instead, she’d have been run out of academia and all respectable discourse. She’d be somewhere near David Irving in the ranks of decent company to keep. But our society hasn’t yet acknowledged Islam as a religion worthy of the sensitivity we have for bigots who abuse Christianity and Judaism. Because there hasn’t been a Holocaust against Muslims as there has been against Jews, it means someone who advocates extirpating Islam as Hirsi Ali has done, remains within reasonable discourse, when she has no right to be.
Yet another excellent critical appraisal of Hirsi Ali’s views may be found in this piece in the New Yorker by Pankaj Mishra.
Note also, as a Brandeis professor reminded me today in an e mail, that in all the right-wing brouhaha over this, there isn’t a word about the actual force that brought about the cancellation of Hirsi Ali’s award: campus students and faculty (one-quarter of whom opposed the award). Not a word about the thousands of signature on the campus petition, which had nothing to do with CAIR. Hell, I don’t even think my own blog post was anything more than a small spark that ignited a controversy that was caused by the foolhardy decisions of Pres. Lawrence and the trustees who masterminded this.
But I am proud to say that I have been smeared as part of the far-right backlash over the Hirsi Ali controversy. Chloe Valdary and Daniel Mael, a Brandeis undergrad who’s a darling of Breitbart and founder of the oddly named Safe Hillel–which is really an anti-Open Hillel–movement, have warned CAIR that thanking me for my role means they’re embracing a “racist bigot” (for my earlier criticism of Valdary as the Israel Lobby’s token Negro). Somehow this is meant to bleed into my own criticism of Hirsi Ali, implying that because I attacked Valdary and Hirsi Ali, that my views about Hirsi Ali are somehow racist as well. Not that there’s any proof of this offered. There never is with these types. It’s assault by inference. The attacks of these pro-Israelists have six degrees of separation from the truth.