For the Times, Ayaan Hirsi Ali controversy has only one side

For the Times, Ayaan Hirsi Ali controversy has only one side April 14, 2014

Brandeis University offered an honorary degree to a controversial speaker, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, then withdrew it under pressure from Muslim students. Controversies always have at least two sides, right?

Not when the New York Times reports it. In its story on the dispute, the Times cites three sources who opposed Hirsi Ali’s appearance.

How many voices speaking on Hirsi Ali’s side? None.

There’s an attack by Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, calling her “one of the worst of the worst of the Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide.”

There’s Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute: “… for an institution like Brandeis to choose to honor someone like this is really disappointing.”

And there’s a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, who endorses Brandeis’ decision.

The Times adds: “Having drawn fire for inviting Ms. Hirsi Ali, Brandeis may now take criticism from other camps, whether for disavowing Ms. Hirsi Ali’s views, or for giving in to Muslim activists.”

You bet they might. So why didn’t the newspaper ask anyone?

Could the Times perhaps have called the Anti-Defamation League or the American Jewish Committee? Or the American Enterprise Institute, where Hirsi Ali is a visiting fellow?

How about one of a dozen Jewish organizations at Brandeis? Surely the newspaper could have found a Jewish source at a school that was founded for Jewish higher education — as a 1998 Times article noted?

The Times story is not totally one-sided. It notes in the lede that Hirsi Ali is a “campaigner for women’s rights” as well as a “fierce critic of Islam.” It reports that it tried to reach her by phone and e-mail. And it offers two paragraphs of explanation for her antagonism to Islam:

Even some of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s critics say they understand her hostility to Islam, given her experiences, though they think she goes too far. A native of Somalia, she has written and spoken extensively of her experience as a Muslim girl in East Africa, including undergoing genital cutting, a practice she has vigorously opposed, and her family’s attempts to force her to marry a man against her wishes.

She moved to the Netherlands as a young woman, and she was later elected to the Dutch Parliament. She wrote the screenplay for “Submission,” a 2004 film critical of the treatment of Muslim women. Shortly after its release, the director, Theo van Gogh, was murdered on an Amsterdam street by a radical Islamist, who pinned to the victim’s body a threat to kill Ms. Hirsi Ali as well.

But it would have been better to quote someone who was on her side.

Asking comment from Maya Berry is puzzling in itself. Most Muslims are not Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslims, as the Arab American Institute’s own website indicates. Even Hirsi Ali isn’t Arab; she was born in Somalia.

Other media had little trouble going to the other side, as it were. Omar Sacirbey of the Religion News Service quotes two of them in the second paragraph of his piece. And an Associated Press story quotes a professor who refused to sign a faculty letter against Hirsi Ali:

Thomas Doherty, chairman of American studies, refused to sign the faculty letter. He said it would have been great for the university to honor “such a courageous fighter for human freedom and women’s rights, who has put her life at risk for those values.”

But the AP story overmatches that quote with an anti-Hirsi Ali professor, plus a Muslim student and, again, Ibrahim Hooper.

I also find fault with the Times for heavily cherry-picking Hirsi Ali’s most extreme-sounding quotes, almost as if to support Brandeis’ decision. It leads with a partial quote in which she calls Islam “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.” Toward the end of the story, it adds other partial quotes:

In 2007, Ms. Hirsi Ali gave an interview to The London Evening Standard that was, by her own telling, the most unvarnished public expression of her views to that point, including the “cult of death” comment. She advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that “violence is inherent in Islam” and that “Islam is the new fascism.”

Later that year, in an interview with the publication Reason, she said, “I think that we are at war with Islam,” and said it must be defeated. “It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now,” she said. “They’re not interested in peace.”

Sure, she’s been known to talk like that, but she sounds less wild-eyed when she’s quoted more fully. In an interview in 2007, I asked her nine questions, some of them tough. Her answers were hard-nosed but systematic.

One quote of hers that resonated for me: “Islam is not a race, it’s a religion. And you can criticize a religion. And criticism of ideas only helps improve them, and replace them with better ideas.”

Hirsi Ali herself has hit back at Brandeis. In a statement, she denounces “the slur on my reputation” by the university, yet says that’s not the worst of it:

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.

The New York Times may not have wanted to silence Hirsi Ali altogether. But it sure didn’t stretch to find and quote her supporters.

Photo: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, by Steve Jurvetson via (CC-by-2.0)

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7 responses to “For the Times, Ayaan Hirsi Ali controversy has only one side”

  1. Without the Richard Cushing Error Archbishop Vincent Nichols would have to say all the Muslims in London need to convert into the Church for salvation
    Vatican Council II is in perfect agreement with St.Robert Bellarmine and the Jesuit missionaries when the Cushing premise is not used.
    The Richard Cushing Error is a major cause of liberalism in faith and morals in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

    Contrary to the websites of the Archdiocese of Westminster and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, the Catholic Church still teaches that all Muslims and other non Catholics are on the path to Helll.Their religions are not paths to salvation. This is the official teaching of Vatican Council II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other magisterial documents based on John 3:5 and Mk.16:16 in the Catholic Bible.
    Pope Francis has already said that we cannot find Jesus outside the Church., citing Pope Paul VI (Evangelii Nuntiandi) and St.Ignatius of Loyola.This is the Catholic Church not presented to Muslims who have dawah ( mission programs) in London, similar to Orthodox Jews.

    Vatican Council II (AG 7), like Dominus Iesus 20 (2000) and the Vatican Notification on Fr.Jacques Dupuis S.J (CDF,2001) suggest, Muslim jihadis and suicide bombers are surprised at the time of death.

    The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols is still holed in the bunker claiming the Archdiocese can can see the dead now in Heaven, saved in invincible ignorance or with the baptism of desire.This was the fantastic canard used by the Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Richard Cushing to suppress the missionary Fr.Leonard Feeney. Cushing claimed every one does not need to enter the Church, as it was traditionalally taught, since there were known exceptions . As if he could name them!.
    This was a false argument. ‘We don’t know anyone saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire for them to be exceptions ,’ says Daphne McLeod in the Diocese of Westminster.Daphne is not a politician like the Archbishops.

    In London, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and others need Catholic Faith, for salvation, mentioned in both Vatican Council II (AG 7) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church(846).Catholics give the baptism of water to adults only when they have Catholic Faith.

    At interfaith and ecumenical meetings in London, supported by the secular forces with a one world religion agenda, the Archbishop does not state that all Muslims in London need to convert to avoid Hell.Since they have Original Sin and commit mortal sins in this state and have no access to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church which save from Hell.

    It someone did mention this to the Archbishop he may interpret Vatican Council II as a break with past .He could say not every one needs to enter the Church but only those who know about Jesus and the Church (as compared to those who don’t know). In England the Muslims are educated. They know. The participants at interfaith meetings in London – know.

    Whether a particular Muslim knows or does not know it, is not an issue.Since this is an issue which would be known only to God. The liberals make it an issue by using the Richard Cushing Error. They interpret Vatican Council II as they are able to know who knows and who is now in Heave and – and are also visible exceptions on earth!!
    Of course the archbishop would not be able to judge any such case in particular! He cannot judge any person in London as being an exception to needing to convert to avoid Hell.Archbishop Vincent Nichols cannot name anybody who does not need visible Catholic Faith and the baptism of water for salvation.
    So we have the Archbishop ignorance about any such case and Vatican Council II (AG 7) supports Daphne McLeod in her traditional understanding of the one, true faith (UR 3), of the ‘new people of God'(NA 4).

    At Regensburg , when Pope Benedict XVI asked what new thing did the religion of Mohammad bring , he was in agreement with ‘the dogma’, the ‘infallible teaching mentioned by Pope Pius XII (Letter of the Holy Office 1949).Pope Pius XII supported Fr.Leonard Feeney on doctrine/dogma, which does not mention any known exceptions.Neither does Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis or the Letter on Fr.Leonard Feeney mention any known exceptions.

    The leftist media propaganda in England and abroad, suggest Pope Pius XII made an objective , factual error by indirectly assuming that the baptism of desire etc were known to us. They claim that invincible ignorance(LG 16), seeds of the Word (AG 11) etc are explicit and visible for us for them to be exceptions to the literal interpretation of Fr.Leonard Feeney, who was excommunicated for disobedience and not heresy.This is the Richard Cushing Error.It is the same error that Archbishop Nichols and other prelates hide behind for polictical reasons.

    The bottom line is that Vatican Council II says all need ‘faith and baptism’ for salvation, the Catechism states unde the sub-title Outside the Church No Salvation, that all need to enter the Church ‘as through a door'(CCC 846) -and neither does Vatican Council II or the Catechsim of the Catholic Church mention any exceptions (invincible ignroance and the baptism of desire, seeds of the Word,elements of sanctification and grace(LG 8), imperfect communion with the Church (UR 3) etc not being excpetions).

    This creates a new perspective for Catholic mission there.
    -Lionel Andrades
    (First Saturday)


    • The above comments have nothing to do with journalism. Why are they not removed forthwith? Once that’s done, you can wipe me away, too.

      • It’s my understanding that the Patheos software, or maybe discus, does not allow for deletions in a group environment. It has certainly led to a decline in the quality of commentary. Fortunately, the posts remain worth the visit.

        • I’m not sure; I have seen some posts deleted although the time commitment involved in moderating comments for a post is, according to tmatt, significant enough to potentially interfere with Get Religion writers’ personal or professional schedules. I just flag and downcheck the ridiculous in the hopes that someone somewhere will wake up to it.

  2. All Muslims including the Prophet Mohammad would be lost according to Vatican Council II and the Catechism is not taught by the Catholic Renewal and Evangelisation Diocesan Office in the Archdiocese of Sydney.
    That all Muslims including the Prophet Mohammad would be lost according to Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, would not be the message or doctrine of the Catholic Renewal and Evangelisation Diocesan Office (CREDO) in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

    According to Vatican Council II ( LG 14, AG 7)

    Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.”

    Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
    The Koran indicates that Mohammad knew about Jesus and the Church and yet he founded a new religion and neither did he convert.

    Vatican Council II also says all need ‘faith and baptism’ for salvation.The founder of the Muslim religion did not choose to be baptised with water.

    Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church’s preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself “by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door…

    God is fully glorified, provided that men fully and consciously accept His work of salvation, which He has accomplished in Christ.-Ad Gentes 7,Vatican Council II.
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions this same requirement for salvation (CCC 846,845,1257). CREDO in Sydney has never stated that according to Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church all Muslims in Sydney need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water to go Heaven and to avoid Hell.

    It would be heresy, a mortal sin for them not accept Vatican Council II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    It’s also syncretistic to appeal to Muslims to enter the Church and only a belief in Jesus is enough.This would mean they would be saved even if they are joining a Protestant community or the Orthodox Church or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to the CREDO message, on the Archdiocese website, only a belief in Jesus is enough for salvation.This is Protestantism.

    On the True Catholic discussion board Fr.John George of the Archdiocese of Sydney, and other Catholics are unable, as expected, to name any person in 2013 saved in invincible ignorance, the baptism of desire, the seeds of the Word, imperfect communion with the Church, elements of sanctification, a good conscience, being good and holy non Catholics etc. So CREDO could teach the doctrine that all non Catholics in Sydney, Muslims included, need to convert into the Church for salvation and there are no known exceptions.

    This was also the traditional Catholic reason for mission.

    Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are traditional on this issue. They are in agreement with the saints and popes. Pope John Paul II was missionary in Dominus Iesus and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    The Archdiocese of Sydney could have respect and tolerance for Muslims and also speak the truth about the Catholic Faith.-Lionel Andrades