An Open Letter to Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence

shapeimage_1Frederick Lawrence
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 Ali’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.


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.”


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

by Lori Lowenthal Marcus

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.

“I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” That is a quote from Ali’s book, “Infidel.”

Ali has been extremely and indeed harshly critical of the Islamic world in which she suffered, both as a child in Africa, and also as a hunted creature, in Holland, from the angry immigrants who brought with them to Europe a profound inability to accept criticism of Islam.

And now, here in America, Ali is still being hounded by those who refuse to live by the standards of the West, of tolerance, of robust confrontations, but ones not knife-edged with intimidation.

The Facebook Page denouncing Ali and the decision to honor her at Brandeis’s 2014 Commencement decried her for her “hate speech.” The Muslim Students Association claimed that honoring her “is a direct violation of Brandeis University’s own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.”

Most chillingly, while the students acknowledged Ali had experienced “terrible things in her life,” their bottom line was “we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.”

And so they issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a “news article” and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence echoed the students (and a large number of faculty members, including the Women’s Studies professors) in his statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith – who dominate the governments of Muslim countries – was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion – which has been a fixture of campus life – is no longer permitted. What words, what thoughts will be deemed unacceptable next?

And this is a new trend. All manner of people have received honorary degrees from Brandeis, many of whom have been critical of other religions, particularly of Judaism and of the Jewish State.

Need one really trot out the many people who have received honorary degrees from Brandeis, a school founded by the Jewish community as a way to get around the strict quotas on the number of Jews who could attend high quality schools.

People such as Tony Kushner, who flatly stated that the creation of Israel as a Jewish State “was a mistake,” who regularly accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and of savagery and who blames the existence of the state of Israel for the “terrible peril in the world.” Kushner received an honorary degree in 2006.

Then there is Desmond Tutu – a man widely revered for the work he did on behalf of South Africans, but who also is a rank anti-Semite. Tutu has compared Israel to Hitler, attacked the “Jewish lobby” as too “powerful” and “scary,” he has sanitized the gas chambers of the Holocaust which he said made for a “neater death” than one under Apartheid, and he complained of the “Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust.” He also insists that Jewish Holocaust victims should forgive the Nazis. Bishop Tutu received his honorary degree from Brandeis University in 2000.

The school administration buckled under to the Brandeis contingent of an increasingly entitled and belligerent faction on U.S. campuses who believe diversity, tolerance and justice only apply to positions and people whose views are consistent with their own. This goes not only for the students, as Bernadette Brooten, a Brandeis professof in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department explained on the Facebook page denouncing Ali, “a group of 86 faculty members has signed a letter to President Lawrence, asking him to rescind the invitation.”


The Case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Cowardly Brandeis University Capitulates to Islamist Pressure (April 9, 2014)

by Toby Young

I was shocked to learn that Brandeis University, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, has withdrawn its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the outspoken critic of female genital mutilation and a campaigner on behalf of Muslim women.

“We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement released yesterday, just eight days after announcing that Hirsi Ali would be awarded an honorary degree.

The change of heart was prompted by a well-organised campaign by various pro-Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations which sent a letter to Dr Frederick Lawrence, the President of Brandeis, referring to Hirsi Ali as a “notorious Islamophobe”.

“She is one of the worst of the worst of the Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the group, said in an interview with the New York Times.

In addition, a Muslim student at Brandeis started a petition at accusing Hirsi Ali of “hate speech”. By way of evidence, the petition cited an interview she gave to the Evening Standard in 2007 in which she described Islam as “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death”. In the same interview, she also said that “violence is inherent in Islam” and that “Islam is the new fascism”.

This is an act of extraordinary cowardice on Brandeis’s part. To accuse Hirsi Ali of “hate speech”, which is defined as “any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which… may incite violence or prejudicial action against… a protected individual or group”, is almost comically ironic. She was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, underwent circumcision at the age of five and was later forced into an arranged marriage with her cousin. She only escaped this fate by running away to Holland where she subsequently became a member of the Dutch Parliament.

As an MP, she highlighted the hypocrisy of the European Left for aggressively defending the rights of Muslims while, at the same time, turning a blind eye to the disregard for women’s rights within Muslim communities. She started to receive death threats for her outspoken views from 2002, culminating in a note pinned to the corpse of murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh saying she would be next. “Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you will break yourself to pieces on Islam,” the letter said. “You, oh America, will go down. You, oh Europe, will go down … You, oh Netherlands, will go down … You, oh Hirsi Ali, will go down.”

Defenders of Brandeis’s decision will say that Hirsi Ali is guilty of tarring all Muslims with the same brush and that there’s nothing inherently violent about Islam. Needless to say, she has often answered that charge. “People who ask me that question assume that geography is more important for Muslims than what is contained in the holy Quran,” she says.

Of course the circumstances in which people live in Turkey are different from those in Morocco or Somalia. But when it comes to the relationship between men and women, in all these countries there is a red line of the woman being subordinate to the male. And most Muslim men justify this subordinacy with the Quran. There are so many meanings Europeans miss. We Muslims are brought up with the idea that there is just one relationship possible with God – submission. That’s Islam: submission to the will of Allah.

Whether you agree with Hirsi Ali’s Manichean view of Islam, she’s entitled to express it without being bombarded with death threats or accused of “Islamophobia” which, in this context, amounts to “hate speech” since it’s precisely that charge that has led to threats on her life. You would think that an American university would be a staunch defender of Hirsi Ali’s right to free speech and wouldn’t capitulate to a mob of politically correct Muslims at the first sign of trouble. If the same institution had offered an honorary degree to Richard Dawkins, it’s simply inconceivable that it would change its mind after being attacked by Christians.

Everyone involved in this cowardly decision should be ashamed of themselves. As a liberal arts college, it should be a beacon of light. Instead, it has sent a clear message to everyone in the academic community that vigorous criticism of Islam won’t be tolerated.

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  • Hank Rearden

    I don’t doubt that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not consistent with “the core values” of Brandeis. I am just surprised they would admit it.

    “Brandeis University?” It stands for nothing. It is nothing. It’s name is “a malediction to all honest men,” (look up the quote).

    • john spielman

      Just wait, with Brandeis U now bowing to muslim threats, the next step will be to force the university to expell all Jews, both staff and students!

      • Hank Rearden

        as you say…just a matter of time, as they discover Jews are not compatible with “the core values” of Brandeis.

        • PatriotGalNC

          I wonder how many Jews sit on the board overseeing their endowments??

          • T100C1970

            Brandeis was founded by American Jews in 1948 as a Jewish University.

          • Bamaguje

            Strange… antisemitic Jewish university.

    • peace

      to be honest, your attack on the University is ill placed. It was a head of school political decision. While i vehmently disagree with the politics behind it. Brandeis stands for “Truth, even unto its innermost parts.” Which they are in conflict with today.

      Reality is your “malediction” attack is just a vain attempt to put it into use, hardly applicable and woefully out of place.

      • Hank Rearden

        I see you are an adept of “the core values” of Brandeis. You are pretending not to see the plain truth of the matter.

      • Mark Duran

        Your criticism is what is ill placed You appear to be struggling to comprehend the meaning of representation. The president represents the university, therefore when he does something it is the university doing it. If Brandeis stands for truth and yet its leaders do not, that is Brandeis’s problem. You’re trying to shift the blame from that which stinks to the people that can smell the stench.

      • Drakken

        You useful idiots who preach for peace at any price always get it in the end, in the end, history is filled with Darwin award winners, they are called mass graves. You idiots wouldn’t know truth if it bit you.

    • truebearing

      It is time for Brandeis to publish its list of core values, replete with a thorough explanation of which values Ali was inconsistent with.

      • Hank Rearden

        Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the exemplar of Truth, Courage and Intellectual Rigor

        Those are inconsistent with “the core values” of Brandeis. As I say, I am sure that is true, but I am surprised they would acknowledge it.

        Just think about it. Commencement comes. Very likely a nice late spring day in what I assume is a quadrangle at Brandeis with students and parents there. And now missing, BECAUSE BANISHED is Ali, one of the rare appearances of a true hero in history. She is NOT THERE. What does that say about the crowd that IS there?

        When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi Party was not in control of German civil society. The Party had to break down and take over that society. In the vanguard of that activity was the German Academy. Marching right up there with Horst Wessel, figuratively speaking.

        And now Brandeis has positioned itself in EXACTLY that role…EXACTLY THAT ROLE. The US of A would now be better off if Brandeis liquidated itself: if at the next meeting of the Trustees they decided to distribute the endowment to the poor and sell the campus to the city for a park. That is the truth of it. Its continued existence is an affront to what America stands for.

  • Davros11

    Where have all the real men gone? when Muslims start determining what is allowed and not allowed in America, then we are screwed!

    • GinoMachiavelli

      Peek at the “future”. Now in color!

  • Samantha

    This action from a liberal arts college, in bowing to pressure from Islamist supremacists, is not surprising. It is expected, actually. What is surprising to me, is the fact that more Americans are not outraged.

    • iluvisrael

      Because islamofacism hasn’t touched their lives yet.

    • glorybe29

      I agree! This is such a sickening tragedy!

  • mike52

    Prez L & those who pressed hard to bend his knee, you have weakened me, having made me ashamed of the Ph.D. Brandeis awarded me. But I will continue to look to men and women like Ms. Ali for the courage to resist the cruelty and ignorance to which you have chosen to submit.

  • peace

    I am a Brandeis graduate also and it saddens me to see the PC and propaganda styled leverage on this institution work. The great thing about Brandeis in years past, they would have celebrated diversity and not caved. Under the new regime… it is clear, they caved to lobbying pressure over woman who stands up against female body mutilation and is a leading feminist on the issue.

    Wow! Brandeis isn’t connected to its roots anymore.

  • johngvanvliet

    Excellent comments,,,, It is shameful that this can happen at a academic institution……. and again muslims know they can change the direction of a educational institution by protest and intimidation, the faculty shows a completed ignorance about what Islam is all about…. and those are the one to shape our future??????

  • GinoMachiavelli

    I’ve done some IT work on Brandeis campus and was able to observe it’s daily routine. To summarize general climate, it’s overpriced institution of lower learning and day care for petulant children, in it’s current state.

  • SoCalMike

    The Muslims students are inherently dishonest (Big Surprise!)in their claim that Hirsi Ali is attacking their faith. She’s attacking their culture and their crude, vicious and backward ways.
    If she was clever about it like Sasha Cohen in Borat, the same mediocre dishonest mentally conformed students would have welcomed her because they would have embraced the Jew hatred Cohen so artfully mocked as an affirmation of their own Jew hating impulses.

  • Tim N

    I’m a white guy and discussion of slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK make me feel uneasy. I think those should be banned too. We don’t want to make anyone feel uneasy.

  • wileyvet

    The Muslim Student Association, the campus wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been undermining American universities since the mid 1960s. Their core values are those of Islam as spelled out in the Koran, and illuminated in the a Hadith. So we see that either the faculty of Brandeis is completely ignorant of what Islam is, and the various affiliations of groups like the MSA and CAIR and their goal, or they know and are complicit in those goals. A university established by the Jewish community, now brought under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood is, to say the least, chilling.

  • PatriotGalNC

    If I were a contributor to Brandeis’s endowments, I would withdraw every penny of my contributions to that school. It is time NOW for Americans to wake up to this pathetic and depraved “religion”. It sickens me that Islam cavorts itself as “The Religion of Peace”, and it is anything but. Brandeis be shamed.

  • Elizabeth Cape Cod

    Perfect letter. I am forever shocked when people turn a blind eye to evil. People who do this lack a genuine sense of right and wrong.Or maybe they are just cowards!

  • awfulorv

    Brandeis University’s actions are cowardly repulsive…

  • Stephen Powell

    ‘Islamophobia’ is an Orwellian propaganda term coined by the Muslim brotherhood in the 1970’s to further its agenda in the Western media. Despite the rational basis for fearing Islam based upon its own supremacist doctrines and resort to mass murder and terrorism, anyone declared ‘Islamophobic’ is instantly branded as delusional regardless of the factual basis of their opinion. To see heads of institutions of advanced education parroting an Orwellian propaganda term invented by Islamist propagandists to serve their new masters is truely enough to make one phobic of losing the freedoms that have been so hard won in the west. They speak as if they are barely literate of literature, language and history themselves

  • liamjq

    Hitler said the Soviet Union was a rotten barn and one good kick on the door would bring the whole lot crashing down…he was wrong but the twin towers have proved to be the doors of just such a barn

  • Brian

    I got one…. how about everyone EARNS a degree. Bill Cosby was going to speak at Rice university graduating class of 2003. Rice does not give away degrees,and be declined to speak. Imagine that.. people earning degrees….

  • Jake-a-runi

    I’m not interested in “building bridges” with the religion of pirates. All the difficulties of the Islamic presence have the same solution: Islamic absence.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    Universities are less “institutions of higher learning” than they are indoctrination factories, today. Since they are almost invariably leftist in orientation, they have an “all or nothing” attitude. They are agencies of absolutism.

    Ms. Ali had every credential she needed to be granted an honorary degree. She’s a woman. She’s black and, therefore, oppressed. She was a member of a European government. However, she didn’t fit the Brandeis’ absolutist doctrines. She didn’t approve of Islam.

    Someone might complain …

    Someone … and who does this, these days? … might kill someone else on the basis of “religion”.

    There’s the real problem. The university as an agency of absolutist doctrines is not the problem. Not even multiculturalism is the problem. It’s the Western fear of those who will kill you, if you disagree with them.

    Until we expel this 7th Century murderous cult from our midst, thereby containing it, none of us will ever be safe.

    That said, anybody going to see the Boston Marathon, this year? …

  • Danny

    How much is tuition at Brandeis? $50,000 a year? Think about it. An important aspect of education is leading by example. So, in effect, parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars each year so that their children can learn how to be cowards. This contemptible capitulation by Brandeis to the fascist Muslim Students Association and CAIR (both of which are wings of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group) is quite a lesson for students at Brandeis. It is not a coincidence that Brandeis is a left wing Jewish university, and it is telling that left wing Jews have no problem honouring Jew haters like Desmond Tutu, but are too afraid of honouring Hirsi-Ali. What a bunch of wimps.


      The little monkey desmond tutu doesn’t know that Jesus was a Jew, that his mother was a Jew, that his father was a Jew.

    • laura r

      the jews have just added another nail in their coffin.

  • glorybe29

    La wrence probably caved because the board said..” no deaths on campus”. Do as we say!

  • john spielman

    The Facts: so what does Ayaan Ali’s criticism of Islam’s misogynistic treatment of women is sharia courts have in common with “Zionists”?

  • StanleyT

    “Zionists demand for themselves in the same tone what they try to deny to others”
    Excuse me, but when do Zionists deny others the right to express their “belligerent opinions”?
    You seem to have no trouble whatsoever airing yours on what is undeniably a pro-Zionist site. Or perhaps you just think that being called out for your racist, bigoted Jew hatred somehow denies you the right to be a racist, bigoted Jew hater? If so, kindly explain how.

  • Hank Rearden

    “murdered students?” WHAT are you talking about?

  • Jerry G

    You call yourself “The Facts”. Typical Progressive hypocrisy. A more apt name would be “Fiction”. Again, what murdered students are you talking about? Who murdered them and why? Sorry, those would be facts which people like yourself avoid at all costs.

  • reader

    You’re conflating her anti-Islam stance with some undefined “racist manifestos” and “murder of students” and complain about red herrins? How smart. Not really.

  • iluvisrael

    I think your comments are deleted because they can bore people to death.

  • kikorikid

    HUH! What? Where’d that come from???
    Start over.

  • john spielman

    The Facts; you refuse to answer my question. Ms Ali has NOTHING to do with Israel, but is simply exposing the viciousness of islamic theolgy and practice. You have NO FACTS and should change you name on this blog to: I AM DECIEVED !

  • reader

    Why don’t you link to it? I can’t find any mention of Breivik’s manifesto in any link to this story. I see her quote about islam being “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death,” though. Is it inaccurate in any way? Do tell.

  • Elizabeth Cape Cod

    cair made this assertion in desperation to smear Ali.

    In reality, Hirsi Ali referred to “the neo-fascism of a Breivik” as “abhorrent” and noted that Breivik “may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill.”

    You are pathetic, ‘the facts’, and you probably turn a blind eye to this brutality yourself!

  • The Facts

    Ali posited before AEI that Brevik, who quoted her extensively, was driven to do the murders because his views were censored.

  • reader

    Can we have a direct quote of what exactly did she say, and how is it being construed – by Lawrence, I assume – as condoning Brevik’s act, as I understand your implication here?

  • Drakken

    To bad Brievik missed you. Hopefully that can be changed in the future.

  • The Facts

    Not good enough. She still excuses him. She still blames the people who didn’t give him, e.g. her a forum.

  • reader

    Not only you made an assertion, you stated that Lawrence referred exactly what you asserted here. So, based on your latest post, I assume that you just made a flat out lie. Surprise! Yeah, “the burden is never on you”, but I would throw you out of here, if it was up to me.

  • kikorikid

    Stay away from cliffs, you could be easily led off!

  • reader

    You never produced a shred of evidence of this, a contemptible piece of …. “work.” Real bottom feeder.

  • Drakken

    So you openly side with islamist filth and make excuses for it because your weak and a puzzy, how quaint. One thing is for sure, you do whine and cry like a little bitch.

  • The Facts

    I never produced a shred of evidence that the sky is blue either.

  • The Facts

    President Lawrence referred to her “other statements.” Even she knows what those other statements are. You are denying what even Ali admits.

  • The Facts

    Ali defined them herself. I’m sorry that you still seem to lack a definition. The internet is there.

  • reader

    Wow. Air tight case. I mean, your mental disease, of course.

  • Eddie

    Every student and parent in our USA should read Patrick
    Henrys speech. Which ends with “as for me , give me liberty or give me death”. His was the Quality of character that won the revolution against a tyrannical British king.
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Giant of a Human Being who walks in his foot steps. Her name will stand in our generations history as a champion freedom fighter. While those who oppose what she stands for will shrivel up and blow away with the wind.


    And you didn’t produce a shred of evidence that the self described “Religion of Peace” is what it claims to be.

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    But you were not posting that the sky is blue. You were posting made up nonsense as though it were equally obvious and verifiable as the fact that the sky is blue. See the difference?
    If you were to post that the sky is blue, some of us might — might — believe you. I for one would go to the window just to check.

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    Don’t talk him out of it.

  • Drakken

    I would much rather push his dumbazz off and save the world the trouble.

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    To the ironically misnamed The Facts, EVERYTHING bad has to do with the Zionists.

  • reader

    Asking it to see the difference between obvious and absurd is like asking a turtle to explain the difference between Einstein’s theory and a comics book.