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A Letter to the President of Brandeis

8:42 AM, Apr 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Jay Bergman, an alumnus of Brandeis University, forwards us the letter he sent to the president of his alma mater regarding the disgraceful Ayaan Hirsi Ali episode:

Frederick Lawrence
President
Brandeis University
Waltham, Massachusetts

Dear President Lawrence:

The decision of Brandeis University not to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, after first announcing that it would do so, is disgraceful.

The cowardice it reflects contrasts sharply with the courage Ms. Ali has shown in condemning aspects of Islam that she rightly considers cruel, bigoted, and misogynistic, and for which she has suffered grievously.

It is yet another example of how arrogant, closed-minded faculty, and students who believe they can prohibit anything on campus that makes them uncomfortable, can intimidate administrators such as yourself to the point where one of the principles essential to higher education -- a tolerance of opinions with which one disagrees -- is dispensed with in the name of preserving "a welcoming environment."  But the very essence of education is being challenged intellectually, and if students cannot endure the discomfort that that often induces, they have no business attending a college or university.

You say that you are withdrawing the award because Ms. HIrsi's views violate what you call "the core values" of the university.  But Brandeis saw nothing wrong in awarding an honorary degree to Tony Kushner, who has called the creation of the state of Israel a mistake and falsely accused it of ethnic cleansing; and to Desmond Tutu, an anti-semitic bigot who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany.  From this one could reasonably conclude -- since Tutu's anti-semitism did not cause Brandeis to refrain from awarding him a degree -- that anti-semitism is either one of the core values of your university or is not inconsistent with these values.

It is clear that at Brandeis University Israel can be smeared and those who do so are rewarded, but someone who properly criticizes Islam is unfairly attacked and dishonored.

In short, you have made the sorry record the university has compiled in awarding honorary degrees even worse.

And what makes your shameful capitulation especially regrettable to me is that I am an alumnus of Brandeis University, class of 1970.  Your university is my university.  And right now I am ashamed to call it my alma mater.

Sincerely,

Jay Bergman

Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT 06050

P.S. For your edification I include below the excellent article by Lori Lowenthal Marcus, an alumna of Brandeis, in today's Jewish Press, and an article by Toby Young in today's Telegraph, published in England and subtitled, appropriately:  " Cowardly Brandeis University Capitulates to Islamist Pressure."

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus

"Brandeis Caves to Pressure.  Withdraws Honor to Ayaan Hirsi Ali The Jewish Press (April 9, 2014)

In a complete collapse of rectitude, Brandeis University's president Fred Lawrence issued a statement on Tuesday evening, April 8, announcing the withdrawal of women's and human rights champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a recipient of an honorary degree from the school at this year's commencement.

For two days Muslim students and supporters raged against the decision to honor Ali because, they claimed, she is Islampohobic.

Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1992 she escaped an impending arranged marriage to a relative, running to the Netherlands, where she learned the language and established a life. She rose to become a member of the Dutch parliament, where she worked to further the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society.

In 2004, Ali made a film with her friend, Theo Van Gogh. That film, "Submission," is about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

After "Submission" was aired on Dutch television, an Islamic extremist murdered Van Gogh who was enraged by the portrayal of Islam.  A letter pinned to his body contained a death threat to Ali. She eventually fled Holland and Ayaan Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States.

Ali evolved from being a devout Muslim to one who questioned her faith, to ultimately and resolutely rejecting it.

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