Saturday, 12 April 2014

How American Muslims Silenced Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: ‘They Simply Wanted Me to be Silenced’ | TIME.com

Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., USA has caved in to pressure from Muslim students and rescinded its plan to honour Ayaan Hirsi Ali with a an honorary degree on 8 May.

If there is anyone who can be described a role model for Muslim girls who want to take control of their own lives, then it is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A former muslim and member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2008, she is an outspoken advocate for women's rights and a critic of Islam. Born in Somalia and raised as a strict Muslim, she survived a civil war, beatings, genital mutilation and a forced marriage before escaping to Holland and finally renouncing her faith in her 30s. She described the moment thus:

I looked in a mirror and said out loud, in Somali, "I don’t believe in God." I felt relief. There was no pain but a real clarity. The long process of seeing the flaws in my belief structure, and carefully tip-toeing around the frayed edges as parts of it were torn out piece by piece—all that was over. The ever-present prospect of Hellfire lifted, and my horizon seemed broader. God, Satan, angels: these were all figments of human imagination, mechanisms to impose the will of the powerful on the weak. From now on I could step firmly on the ground that was under my feet and navigate based on my own reason and self-respect. My moral compass was within myself, not in the pages of a sacred book.

A fuller account can be read here, in one of the most inspiring and powerful arguments for Atheism I have ever read.

Brandeis University was founded as a secular, co-educational establishment in 1948, soon after World War II and the Holocaust, when many US universities were racially, religiously and gender segregated. It had been assumed that Ali epitomised all that the University stood for, hence the honour. However, Muslim students raised a petition, pointing to a 2007 interview with Reason magazine in which she said of Islam:

Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.

Brandeis University claimed to be unaware of this and decided it was not something they wished to be associated with and withdrew the offer of the honorary degree.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has responded in typically measured and dignified style with:

Yesterday Brandeis University decided to withdraw an honorary degree they were to confer upon me next month during their Commencement exercises. 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 — just a few hours before issuing a public statement — to say that such a decision had been made.

When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students. 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. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called "honor killings," and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife beating or child beating. 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.

Not content with a public disavowal, 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.

I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me and my work on behalf of oppressed women and girls everywhere.

And so American Muslim girls in general, and Brandeis students in particular, have been deprived of the opportunity to hear one of the most inspiring advocates of the principles of secular, liberal freedoms and human rights that Brandeis University was founded on. They have been denied this by those to whom everything Ayaan Hirsi Ali stands for and represents is anathema - the right of women to control over their own bodies and their own destinies and the extension of full human rights and the right to respect and dignity to all members of society.

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13 comments :

  1. Rosa, The link 'here' in 'A fuller account can be read here,' just under the first quote above does not work.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I've fixed the html error, now.

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  2. Rosa, also your tweet button does not present the correct title for the tweet.

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    1. Just a thought - you probably need to have just the article itself displayed rather then the whole blog. Try clicking on the title of the article first, then see if it works.

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  3. Looks okay to me now. Maybe a glitch. But you can copy and paste the url from your browser into Twitter if you wish.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Hello again Manuel.

    Your attempt to impersonate me was hilarious. Did you think I might have forgotten how you use Twitter accounts to impersonate other people? I see you've found you can do it using their Blogger profile in comments too. Remember, I know your ip address. (For people who would like to know how Manuel does this, I described his deception here).

    How are you enjoying being exposed as a fraud all over again with your new Twitter account, @Atheism707? I see you are already earning justified mirth and contempt in both the Atheist and religious communities with equal measure.

    Good to see my Unwitting Assistant back on Twitter, by the way. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You and your friends are on notice Case# 01465838: Abusive messages. Each tweet with your blog links is being reported. I may not be on Twitter, but still have A LOT of INFLUENCE there and OTHER netowkrs. :-) You make it easy for us all to document your abuse and spamming, not to mention showing evidence that other accounts are you. You're not that bright are you Rosie? Any atheist accounts promoting you drop like flies because of this. Why are you spiteful and continue with this anger? Why not move on and stop resorting to lies and childishness to get attention. No one takes you seriously anymore.

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    1. Anyone any idea what this hysteria is about now?

      For those not in the know, 'Sacerdotus' is one of the names used by Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Catholic seminarian whose hobby now seems to consist of sitting in his room abusing people on Twitter and making up lies to post on his blog. He is currently posing as at least two different people - @SCDTVS and @Atheism707 on Twitter, having had all his other accounts suspended for abusive posting.

      Something seems to have set him off again.

      I normally delete the abusive spam he posts here, often dozens a day, but I'll leave this up as an example of his handiwork. To think, if he hadn't been caught, he could actually have been a Catholic priest! Makes one wonder about their selection process.

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    2. Thank you for providing evidence for Google, inc. :-) Hey Rosie, I wanted to skype with you so we can show each other our passports, but you did not want to. Are you afraid people will see I'm not who you're claiming I am? The offer is still open. I have nothing to hide and can contest each lie you post with documentation on skype. Don't get to comfortable with blogger though. This may not last long for you like your Twitter spamming career.

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    3. You seem to be deteriorating again Manuel. Maybe you should print off some of these comments you keep spamming my blog with and show them to a psychiatrist. Tell him that this is what you keep doing to get attention and to help yourself feel important because you can't get a job and have nothing else to do.

      Now, unless you can think of a way to make an intelligent contribution to debate here, I will have to resume sending your infantile and deluded gibberish to the spam folder where your id and ip address can be picked up by the spam filters Blogger use.

      Delete
    4. [Update] Expelled seminarian, Manuel quickly changed the names of the above accounts to @CatholicGadfly and @StudiousAtheist when he realised we all knew they were his. With the former account he posed as a Jeff T. Follon but kept misspelling it as 'Follown' much to people's amusement. They quickly resorted to his usual targeted abuse and have now been permanently suspended like so many of his other 30 or so accounts. See Manny's Many Twitter Accounts

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  7. Shameful Brandeis U.
    For what it's worth, this one person's view, a man, a bleeding heart Progressive for the Commons, and who's no one special, despite Gloria Steinem's '60s&'70s work exposing of women and others inequality, and deciding to organise on behalf of worst cases of the times, that happened to be women and combining women's Lib'ers and others into the Feminist movement, and after Reagan became President, I made this pledge as I had a bad feeling of what was to follow, and with good reason I might add, owing to majority GOP State legislatures anti-women campaign, since 2010.
    "It is my observation today, in 1981, that there is far too much violence, inequality, & disrespect shown to women all over the world, in the forms of sexism, misogyny and more, and it should, albeit, MUST stop NOW & I, as a human being, pledge to do what I can to end the overt, sometimes covert, and too often, blatant, abuses of women."-RN

    I updated my pledge 30 or so years later in 2012, and to my sadness, as things have changed so little so has the pledge barely changed and maybe the situation is worse, worse with the GOP zealots spate of anti-women bills particularly Reproductive Rights put forth by MEN who cannot ever be pregnant and will never face an intimate and personal decision to have an abortion. They should have NO say in the matter.
    I've fought for more than 3 decades and pushed for what I believe is 'true' representation for women in this male dominated society and what must be done is more than just women having the vote, it must include women making the laws in this country as well, beyond the present less than 20% women's membership in Congress, it's going to take a US Congress made up of a gender parity based on population ratios of women to men, 50-50.
    Rep Jeanette Rankin the first female Congressperson, elected in 1916 and 1940, who was spot on in saying what she said of women:
    "We're half the people; we should be half the Congress."
    It was she, Rep Rankin's historical insight as the basis for steps toward an egalitarian world, who put the bug in my ear in the early '70s as I, a male heterosexual as a 'gender in the minority' advocate for equal parity for women across the board, joined Gloria Steinem's Feminism group philosophy and her Ms magazine launch to address the injustice.
    Revised??Pledge to women, 30 years later:
    "There is far too much violence, inequality, & disrespect shown to women particularly in the forms of sexism, misogyny and more, around the world and it must, MUST stop now & I pledge as a male human being to do what I can to end the abuse of women." -RN Dec 2012

    I also question the dominance of an extremist faction of the GOP, i.e., the influence of some Xian leaders in the religious Right who subscribe to the likes of Rushdoony's OT Dominionism and Patriarchial notions which place the role of women, beneath husbands, and subservient, generally, to men. Since 2010 and the winning of state majority legislatures by the GOP, and the US House, women appear to be a target of these lawmakers, despite other REAL issues to be addressed, women's privacy rights, won in the Roe v Wade decision is a major issue for these politicians to overturn. It saddens and angers me that an entire political party, and its lawmakers in office is engaging institutional disrespect of women which I fight against in my pledges. And one big issue is the economy and women are the main workers who get low wages(most service type positions are held by women, many of whom are also single mothers), who, contrary to the GOPs characterization of unwed single mothers as economically poor, uneducated and promiscuous AND bad decision makers, are actually though, educated, disadvantaged by Federal and State lawmakers bad policies.-RN Jan 2014
    Thanks, Rosa.

    ReplyDelete

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