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Mark Steyn

Steyn on Culture

Degrees of Separation

Today, Brandeis University announced that it was reversing 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, which represents nobody but is flush with Saudi cash. The biases of the academy are well known: Robert Spencer is in no danger of getting an honorary degree any time soon, nor Douglas Murray. Nevertheless, in this instance, Brandeis University is stiffing someone who's a black feminist atheist from Somalia. Which makes their decision the most explicit recognition yet that, in the hierarchy of identity-group politics, Islam trumps everything, including race, gender and secularism.

Brandeis said they had changed their mind about Ms Hirsi Ali's degree because "we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values". Presumably, Tony Kushner's statement that the state of Israel shouldn't exist is entirely consistent with Brandeis University's core values, because no one bothered rescinding his honorary degree.

I wrote about Ayaan a couple of years ago in Maclean's:

She lives under armed guard and was forced to abandon the Netherlands because quite a lot of people want to kill her. And not in the desultory behead-the-enemies-of-Islam you-will-die-infidel pro forma death-threats-R-us way that many of us have perforce gotten used to in recent years: her great friend and professional collaborator was murdered in the streets of Amsterdam by a man who shot him eight times, attempted to decapitate him, and then drove into his chest two knives, pinning to what was left of him a five-page note pledging to do the same to her.

What would you do in those circumstances? Ayaan and I had repaired to that third-rate bar after a day-long conference on Islam, jihad, free speech and whatnot. That's usually where I run into her, whether in Malibu or at the Carlton Club in London or at a less illustrious venue. Would you be doing that with a price on your head? Or would you duck out of sight, lie low, change your name, move to New Zealand, and hope one day to get your life back? After the threats against the Comedy Central show South Park the other week, 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.

In London, the historian Andrew Roberts calls her "the bravest woman I know". I agree. There's nothing hypothetical about the danger she lives with. She and Theo van Gogh made a movie called Submission: He's dead, and the fellows who did it would like to kill her, too. But some tenured navel-gazing hacks and the prissy little trusty-fundy twerps they pretend to teach think she's the threat?

As for Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence and the others who took this decision, nobody's asking them to be as brave as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They will never know what it's like to have their associates murdered and to be forced into living under armed guard. They will never have to "share the risk" that Ms Hirsi Ali faces every day of her life. All that was required of President Lawrence & Co was that they not be total craven, jelly-spined squishes who fold like a cheap Bedouin tent at the first hint of pressure.

But Lawrence couldn't even do that. Ayaan Hirsi Ali campaigns against female genital mutilation - that's to say, the barbarous practice by which Muslim men deny women sexual pleasure by having their clitorises cut off. Lawrence and the other fellows who run Brandeis are in no danger of any equivalent procedure since it seems clear they've nothing down there to chop off anyway. The eunuchs of the American academy are the beneficiaries of western liberty, of the spirit of openness and inquiry that is the principal difference between us and the intellectually stagnant Muslim world. But they will not lift a finger to defend that tradition.

So getting an honorary degree at Brandeis, like serving on the board at Mozilla, is open only to those who make sure they never cross the Conformity Enforcers. And apostates to Islam, as Ayaan is regarded, must accept that they are apostates to American campus conformity, too, and be prepared to lead a life without the consolations of honorary degrees. Accepting the loss of A-list commencement gigs doesn't take a lot of courage, but it still takes more than Frederick Lawrence has displayed. And ultimately, as I said re Brandon Eich, such a land will be bloody boring - and a society in decline.

~Miss Hirsi Ali's response to Brandeis is here. You can read more on the strange alliance between Islam and the multiculti left in my free-speech book Lights Out, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from SteynOnline. Profits go to fund my legal campaign against serial litigant Michael E Mann.

from Steyn on Culture, April 9, 2014

 

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