It’s been Hirsi Ali Month here at Tikun Olam. First, she launched Honor Diaries on International Women’s Day, March 8th. She executive produced that film with her Islamophobic pals at Clarion Project. Then she was offered an honorary degree by Brandeis University recognizing her activism for women’s rights in the Muslim world, while ignoring her advocacy of military attack on all Islam. Yesterday, Brandeis’ president came to his senses and withdrew the degree after it was first reported here and then became a cause celebre on campus, with students and faculty alike arising in anger at her intolerant utterances.
Today, Hirsi Ali released a stinging rebuke of Brandeis which faulted it for betraying its mandate to support free speech. Here are notable excerpts:
I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me…
I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin…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 in this way.
What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.
What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.
She has every right to feel wronged by Brandeis, which should have done its due diligence and either didn’t, or didn’t understand the import of Hirsi Ali’s past statements in the context of the public airing they’d receive. There is shame in this incident, but more for Brandeis than her. But in using such a term she continues the imagery of victimization which it’s been so convenient for her to adopt in discussing what she sees as the damaged, inferior role of women in Islam.
But where she is disingenuous is in claiming that Brandeis violated any principle of free speech in denying her this degree. Brandeis has no obligation to reward her for her views, which is what an honorary degree is. It only has an obligation to encourage the free exchange of ideas among students and faculty on campus and in its courses. Hirsi Ali’s books and views will continue being discussed in campus courses as they have been. I’m sure Pres. Lawrence would’ve tried to make amends by inviting her to return to campus (not that I would personally choose this option myself) as he implied in his message yesterday.
Unfortunately, in her anger Hirsi Ali has closed off this option (at least for now, unless her neocon friends can arrange a sulha with Brandeis):
Brandeis has invited me “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” Sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to “engage” in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck—and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater.
But the real point of this post was to raise some new, deeply alarming views of Hirsi Ali toward the Israel-Palestine conflict. In Israel’s pro-Likud paper, Yisrael HaYom, she expounded on her Zionist Revisionist/Islamophobic views of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians in particular. Since this is an interview in which she is quoted, I presume she can’t claim she was misquoted or taken out of context, as she does above:
…Why is this [peace] process so prolonged? Because for the Israelis this issue is a territorial problem. For the Palestinian negotiators, on the other hand, it is not a territorial problem but a religious and ethnic one…
From the perspective of the Arab leaders, reaching a two-state solution is to betray God, the Koran, the hadith and the tradition of Islam.
…The presumption that the Palestinian negotiators are secular is not supported by facts. Were they secular, there would already be a settled territorial agreement of some kind. But there is no agreement as of today, because on one side it has become religious jihad of all or nothing, while on the other side it is still a territorial issue. Of course I know that there are Israelis who also perceive this as a religious problem; but their numbers pale in comparison to the Muslim side. Reaching a settlement that brings about two states is a religious betrayal — not only for the leadership but for most Muslims today. The West does not understand this.
The conception of religion in the West in the 20th and 21st century differs from that of Middle Eastern Muslims. The West successfully separated religion and politics, but even in places in the West where there is no distinct separation, still the concept of God and religion, even in the 13th or 15th century, differs to the current reality in the Middle East.
…Islam has a goal. So if you are a true Muslim, you must fight for that goal. You can achieve a temporary peace or truce, but it is not ultimate, not everlasting. It is not just about the territory. Because the territory does not belong to the people; it belongs to God. So for a Palestinian leader — even if he is secular, even an atheist — to leave the negotiating room with the announcement of a two-state solution would mean that he would be killed the minute he walks out.
…More and more leaders see that this conflict is not going to be resolved Western-style, namely that all conflicts are resolvable and no-one leaves the table empty-handed.
In a culture dictated by honor and shame – in addition to the religious issue – defeat of any kind, accepting a compromise, is to leave the room empty-handed. Compromise is loss in this culture. It is very hard to explain this to contemporary Westerners.
…To go on and on about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my view is to take a tranquilizer or smoke pot. You do it just to feel better. You cannot face reality, so you just keep on harping about something that can make you feel better.
…If you want a [real peace] process, continue the way you are. If you want real, lasting peace, then things have to change first within the Arab Muslim individual, family, school, streets, education, and politics. It is not an Israeli problem.
…For cultural change to transpire we need one hundred years and more to pass.
You can pick any number you want. I am speaking of a lengthy, bloody period. But it is going to change.
A close reading of the above interview reveals that Hirsi Ali has a deeply distorted view of Islam, Arabs and Palestinians. There is virtually nothing above that is factual or provable. It is all personal opinion. And as such, it is false. She has no knowledge of Arabs or Palestinians. I’d guess she doesn’t know any, doesn’t care to, and hasn’t visited Palestine. If that’s the case and she derives all of her “knowledge” from her pro-Israel necon sources in Israel and elsewhere, how can she make any claims about The Other?
As for doing drugs, I’d say that it is she who lives in a delusional state buttressed by grievance and devoid of historical evidence. What is compelling about Hirsi Ali is her personal narrative. What is not compelling is the spin she has added to it. It is frightening that the world turns to this “scholar” as an expert on anything more than her own personal suffering. She would do much better to write novels than expound on reality.