Brandeis University has announced reversal of its decision to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, following complaints from faculty, an online petition, and pressure from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born American (formerly Dutch) women’s rights and atheist activist, writer and politician who is known for her views critical of female genital mutilation and Islam. She wrote the screenplay for Theo van Gogh’s movie Submission, after which she and the director both received death threats, and the director was assassinated. The daughter of the Somali politician and opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse, she is a founder of the women’s rights organization known as the AHA Foundation.
Now let me get this straight. Most academic intellectuals are not religious fundamentalists. They are typically advocates of the very things Hirsi Ali endorses — atheism/agnosticism, feminism and defense of oppressed women.
So how in the world did it come to pass that academia now caves in to the objections of pro-Islamic organizations? Whatever happened to feminism?
Since when did opposition to Islam and female genital mutilation become politically incorrect on American university campuses?
I’m not a proponent of feminism. It’s not because I agree with the religious fundamentalists — Islamic fundamentalists, most of all — who believe women deserve second-class citizenship or status. I reject feminism because I view it as “de-individualizing” women and making them part of a pack based on genital make-up. In my view, the individual is the most relevant aspect of a human being, and both men and women possess a capacity to think and reason as a means of survival and ethical living. Feminists, as I wrote in my book Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference), tend to treat men and women as metaphysically different creatures with respect to cognition.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine a more degrading and dangerous attitude towards women (not to mention all of humanity) than that of Islam. Whether you’re a feminist or an individualist, such as myself, what on earth could lead you to cave in to pressure from such a ruthlessly mystical and brutal mindset as Islam, the fundamentalist religion to end all fundamentalist religions?
One psychological explanation is cowardice. As Mark Steyn wrote in Maclean’s several years ago, “Ms. Hirsi Ali turned up on CNN to say that the best defence against Islamic intimidation is for us all to stand together and thereby ‘share the risk.’ But, around the world, every single translator of her books has insisted on total anonymity. When push comes to shove, very few are willing to share the risk.”
This is undoubtedly true. Islamo-fascists are nothing more than a bunch of bullies. They’re no different from the militant Communists and Nazis who preceded them. They seek to control other people — in fact, the whole world — by means of coercion, intimidation and threats. They might not have the armies or weapons (yet) that the Nazis and Communists did, but they have at least as much motivation and they can count on the cowardice of much of the world to ensure that they make a lot of headway.
There’s an even darker explanation than cowardice, however. Cowardice is not admirable, but it’s far more depraved to consider that someone might actually agree with, or in some sense sympathize with, Islamo-fascism. I see this in our current President, who openly tolerates and excuses the Iranian regime every chance he gets. Now we’re seeing an example of it at Brandeis University, which no doubt speaks for other elite academic institutions, when catering to the “sensitivities” of ruthlessly totalitarian religious fanatics.
Consider the unstated premise of the decision to abruptly revoke Hirsi Ali’s honorary degree at Brandeis University. While Islamic, anti-female, anti-human fundamentalists may be nutty and even dangerous, they’re right about one thing (according to this premise): They’re right that America and the Western world are even more evil and irrational than Islam.
Think about it. Environmentalism (highly popular on university campuses) condemns freedom and America most of all, for its brilliant and life-saving advancements in technology and material progress. Feminism (popular on campus for decades) condemns capitalism, free markets and profit as “anti-female” when in fact (relative) economic freedom has lifted the standard of living for everyone, women most of all, particularly when compared to where everyone started out two-hundred years ago. Anti-Americanism/Anti-Westernism has been “in” on the university campus for many decades now; the Islamic militants express this mindset more consistently and crudely than anyone.
I believe this is what’s happening in academia. Feminism has not been overturned. But the true colors of mainstream academia have finally been exposed. Feminism was never really about the advancement of women as individuals. Feminism was really about attacking America, or America’s original values and principles, i.e. capitalism, freedom, individual rights, and continuous technological/material progress.
If your beef is less with (real or alleged) unfair or unequal treatment of women than it is with individualism, freedom and capitalism, then it makes sense to abandon feminism in place of the militant, anti-Western totalitarianism of Islam. Feminism might fritter away at Western values, but Islam proposes to blow them all away, quite literally. If it’s all things American you wish to decry or destroy, then Islam is the real deal.
Where are the feminists outraged by the Brandeis decision? American professors, scholars and university presidents — who demand equal pay for men and women, on the one hand — suddenly cave to the threats of advocates of genital mutilation of women? I can’t think of any other possible explanation for such an incomprehensible inconsistency other than hatred of the American system, combined with cowardice.
So while feminism may not be completely out, walking on eggshells so we may cater to the ideological freak show known as Islam is now the policy of our most respected and elite halls of learning.
Michael J Hurd
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