What Ayaan Hirsi Ali Would’ve Said Upon Receiving An Honorary Doctorate from Brandeis University

The Wall Street Journal has printed an abridged version of what Ayaan Hirsi Ali would’ve said upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University… before they rescinded that offer after discovering (!) she’s a strong critic of Islam.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority — including patriarchal authority — to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I’m used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

Unfortunately, officials at Brandeis weren’t willing to listen. You should read her full remarks here.

I hope Hirsi Ali expounds on these ideas even more while the spotlight is, once again, on her. Her criticism is clearly focused on those who remain silent or muted while their faith gets used as justification for horrors. It’s okay to say you find solace in some Islamic philosophy, but it shouldn’t be taboo to admit that the Koran, much like the Bible, is full of bad advice and dangerous ideology. Maybe if more Muslims spoke out about that — instead of using their energy to make sure Hirsi Ali doesn’t receive an honor from Brandeis — we’d see more rapid change.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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