Brandeis University’s Disgraceful Act

jiBelow is a letter written to Brandeis president Fred Lawrence by historian Jeffrey Herf, who received his PhD from Brandeis, in regards to Lawrence’s decision to withdraw the offer of an honor degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Dear President Lawrence:

As a scholar whose 1981 PhD comes from Brandeis, I read the news that you rescinded the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali with particular disgust and anger. Your decision is an act of cowardice and appeasement to those 85 faculty members who signed their document of intolerance, and it has done deep and long-lasting damage to a university whose very existence is predicated on redressing the damage that discrimination within the academy had done to American Jews for so many years. Unless you can find some way to repair the damage you have done, I will not identify with or support Brandeis as long as you are its President.

Ms. Hirsi has had the courage to say unpopular things about the religion of Islam and the ideology of Islamism. In two of my prize-winning books, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale University Press, 2009) and The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006), I have had occasion to address the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of Jew-hatred. In publishing work that documents the role of the Islamist interpretation of the Koran in promulgating the most absurd and idiotic ideas about the Jews, I have faced intolerance from scholars working on the Middle East. They have denounced well-founded scholarship as “Islamophobia” or “Zionist propaganda” and denied that the Koran or Islamism could possibly have anything to do with anti-Semitism. Like Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu, to whom Brandeis has given honorary degrees, they have erroneously argued that Arab and Islamist antagonism to Israel is exclusively the result of the alleged sins of Israel. As far as I know, neither has had anything of substance to say about the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of hatred of the Jews and of Israel. These critics have said that those of us who point to the anti-Jewish elements of the Koran and the Jew-hatred of modern Islamists are guilty of intolerance towards Muslims. I have seen this up close for years now. The last place I expected to find groveling, embarrassing appeasement of this rubbish was from the president of Brandeis University.

No doubt, Hirsi’s comments about Islam offend many believers. The same was true of Sigmund Freud’s Future of an Illusion. Freud, you will recall, dismissed religion as the product of a universal infantile neurosis of humanity. Yet I doubt that if Freud were alive today, those 85 faculty members would have protested his honorary degree. On the contrary, his criticism of religion in general, especially of Judaism or Christianity, would be seen as simply an entry ticket into intellectual respectability.

Your decision reflects a now-widespread double standard of broad criticism of Judaism and Christianity combined with fear—yes it is fear—to write and speak with equal critical spirit about Islam. We historians of modern Germany and Nazism know that the Nazi interpretation of Christianity as well as the core texts of the Christian tradition itself, were used by the Nazis to justify their mass murders. In our own time, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brothers, Al Qaeda and the government of Iran, despite their differences, all draw on phrases from the Koran and in the texts of subsequent Islamic commentaries to find theological justification for antagonism to Jews, Zionism and the state of Israel.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been willing  to point this out, something Kushner and Tutu have never done. That the president of a university founded by Jews in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust should have rescinded an honor to a woman who has had the courage to attack the most important source of Jew-hatred in the world today is a disgraceful act and a failure of leadership. Instead of appeasing intolerance in your faculty, you should have taken this moment to reaffirm the values for which Brandeis has stood for so long and reconfirm the place of universities as models of tolerance and enlightenment in our troubled society. Once a proud alumnus, I will be forced to disavow my relationship with Brandeis in the future.


Jeffrey Herf

Professor, Department of History
University of Maryland
College Park


Don’t miss this week’s episode of The Glazov Gang in which Dr. David Wood discusses Brandeis’ Surrender to the Brotherhood on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and takes us behind the scenes of a university’s shameless surrender to Sharia:

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  • wileyvet

    As I learn more and more about Islam, its founder, its tenets and the history of Islamic conquest and the conditions therein, the more I see to dislike. If desiring a free society; in thought, speech, conscience and enquiry makes me a bigot, then so be it. I will not be shouted down as intolerant by adherents of the worlds most intolerant religion or those that give it cover or the veneer of respectability. No ideology, belief or creed is beyond criticism in a truly free society. Any religion that cannot stand for enquiry or criticism from within or without and threatens death to those that do, is no example to be followed let alone be tolerated and respected.

  • truebearing

    The withdrawal of the honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali was done on the grounds that she violated “the core values” of Brandeis. It is time that Brandeis states, in writing, exactly what those values are and how she violated them, while others did not when criticising Christianity or Judaism. This should be the drumbeat of protest against Brandeis.

    If Brandeis won’t publish their precious core values, we know that they have none and its all just another lie in service of the Left’s agenda. Of course, we already know that, but they should be forced to refuse to defend their actions.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an existential threat to the Left’s narrative and multicultural coalition. Admitting that Muslims are homicidally misogynistic could seriously damage their relationships with two allies in the war on America: Muslims and feminists. Best to keep it quiet.

    Denying women’s rights is problematic given the Left’s dependence on the female vote, but they have chosen to appease the Muslims and hope the corrupt, ironically named Women’s Movement will keep quiet about the greatest atrocities faced by women anywhere on earth. So far, the leftists in the women’s movement have shown no conscience and have kept quiet, like good little submissive dhimmis. I guess they have recognized the primacy of male dominated cults.

    • lyndaaquarius

      brilliant comments!

      • truebearing

        Thank you. It is a pleasure to slam such abject cowards and liars.

    • TheSuitIsNotBlack

      I completely agree with most of what you say, but what does this have to do with “the left”? From my perspective, people are angry about this from all sides. Have I missed something? Who exactly are you referring to?

  • TheOrdinaryMan

    Thank you for this right-on-target article, Mr. Herf.

  • Anamah

    Dear Jeffrey Herf, please allow me to add my name to everything you have said here addressed to Brandeis president Fred Lawrence.
    Thank you so much, you have said it all.
    Mr Lawrence miserable attitude speaks volumes.

  • Arafat

    Harvard joins Brandeis.

    You must write a comment to this link. Let Harvard know what a bunch of Quislings they are.

    • Habbgun

      Nice job saying how good their article was with the Arafat nick. You really fooled the bastards.

    • wildjew

      Notice the “weasel words” The Harvard Crimson editor uses in this sentence: “It is one thing to condemn certain cultural practices that infringe on women’s rights. Hirsi Ali’s childhood in Somalia—a childhood that was marred by genital mutilation and an attempt at arranged marriage—has given her first-hand experience of the unique difficulties faced by girls in certain parts of the world. But even while acknowledging Hirsi Ali’s experiences, we (and Brandeis) should not disregard her unilateral condemnation of a religion which many people practice peacefully….”

      “…genital mutilation and an attempt at arranged marriage—has given her first-hand experience of the unique difficulties faced by girls in certain parts of the world.” Female genital mutilation as a religion custom is practiced in certain parts of the “Muslim” world. In what other societies is it practiced today as a religious custom. If it is why aren’t we reading about it?

      As bad as this Harvard institution (The Harvard Crimson) is in identifying with Brandeis – little doubt Professor Dershowitz is not pleased – unlike Brandeis Harvard is not a Jewish institution which to me makes Brandeis all the more culpable.

  • George Jochnowitz

    According to leftists, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is so bigoted that she fled her country
    in order not to be forced into a marriage she didn’t want, thus expressing her intolerance for Islam’s right to have its own laws. She then wrote a book
    describing in detail her FGM experience, not only expressing her intolerance but
    actually attacking an old, honored tradition. The horror.

    • TheSuitIsNotBlack

      According to which leftists? Who are you referring to?

      • skipsailing

        all of you

        • TheSuitIsNotBlack

          Who? Which leftists are saying that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is bigoted? Where are you getting this from? What’s your source? What do you mean by “leftist”?

          • skipsailing

            oh I was joking. I don’t know if it is leftists (liberals) in particular but it certainly seems that liberals prefer weakness to strength. CAncelling this appearance was an act of weakness.

          • TheSuitIsNotBlack

            Why do you think liberals prefer weakness to strength? Why do you think Brandeis University is representative of the entirety of what it means to be liberal? I agree it was an act of weakness, but what does that have to do with liberalism? The same move could have been done by a conservative college. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  • lyndaaquarius

    anyway to ever find out if alumni $$$ dries up? How can it not? Profoundly sad! Such cowards. No convictions. Publish those “precious core values” ASAP!! Love to know who else has violated their “core values”? It’s just sickening. Brandeis is a university running on hate.

  • Clare Spark

    After reading Hirsi Ali’s NOMAD, I wrote this tribute to her and to her courage in writing three books that were bound to put her life in danger. See “Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Love Letter to the World.” And my thanks go out to Jeffrey Herf’s academic writing that details propaganda in the world of Nazis and Muslims. He is a fine scholar and very readable.

  • wildjew

    I wonder what Louis Brandeis would have done. I got part way through one of his biographies. Did he distinguish himself during the Holocaust for example? I cannot remember.

    • mitchelllangbert

      That’s a good question. The history the Jewish community in that period was far from stellar. The Hitler-Stalin pact was one of the nadirs of the left’s murderous history.

  • RAM500

    What Brandeis fears most is that someone might detect some distance between its belief set and the left-liberal consensus.

  • Walter Sieruk

    That so many Muslims object to Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaking at that university only shows further proof that the foundations and doctrines of Islam are so weak that they can’t stand up to or hold up to criticism.

    • shutupandknit

      Kind of like how Jewish institutions in the US that bar anyone who disagree with Israeli policies?

      • waldemar daninsky

        Sure. Name some. I’ll name a dozen that revel in disagreeing with Israel’s policies.

  • Bastiat

    No one, including Ms. Hirsi Ali, should receive an honorary degree from a university. This is a made up controversy so the right wing can get riled up against anyone that opposes their points of view.

    • DJ1706

      What “point of view” of “the right wing” is in question here, and who opposes it?

      And you think criticism of Brandeis is illegitimate simply because YOU think no one should given an honorary degree?

      • Bastiat

        People can criticize Brandeis all they want, but it still doesn’t change my view that honorary degrees should not be awarded to anyone no matter what their political beliefs are.

        • DJ1706

          Way to completely dodge my questions. Understood: you have no actual answer.

  • mitchelllangbert

    Thank you Professor Herf for protesting the intolerance at Brandeis. Of course, the intolerance of any view not in accord with the dictates of the German historical school–mistakenly called “Progressivism” in the United States– and its sister faith, Marxism, at American universities is not new. In the late 1980s Brooklyn College, where I work, denied Brooklyn’s Bishop Francis Mugavero an honorary degree because many in the faculty disagreed with his views on abortion. More recently, the New York Times opined that CUNY Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld should be fired because, as part of an academic review process, he argued that anti-Israel bigot Tony Kushner should be denied an honorary degree. The Times, which also covered the Mugavero story, had no trouble with denying his honorary degree. In contrast to its handling of the Mugavero story, The Times claimed that Wiesenfeld violated Kushner’s academic freedom, even though Kushner is not an academic. The Times held that Wisenfeld, who was expressing his views within the context of an academic review process, should be fired. Illogical argument and self-contradiction have always characterized the German historical school and the Marxists, whose ideas have repeatedly failed and continue to fail today. The chief devices the totalitarians have to defend their views are suppressive, and that includes the bigoted suppression of victims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

  • Norman Bernard

    I am horrified at the behaviour of what I had always thought was a serious university.
    I retract that view following your withdrawal of the hon Phd to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is against FGM and lot more practices that are linked mostly in error with Islam. She is right on all counts. Your mistake not to see this. Do you actually have any “core values” at Brandeis? Presumably you would resist honouring Malala, the fantastic 16 year old girl shot in the face by the Taliban for wanting education for women. What a bunch of wimps you lot must be. Get a backbone and get real about who the good guys are. Firing your president would be a good start.

  • numbercruncher1

    All woman faculty at Brandeis and their daughters should all witness genital mutilation in young girls. Perhaps that might wake them up!

    What a disgrace this university has become. The places on this planet that are most hostile to woman, gays, other faiths. Literally the only places on earthy where SLAVERY is still practiced…have one thing in common they are run by Islamist based government. Every thing liberals stand for runs afoul of Islamist States. (Lady faculty try traveling without a man to Saudi Arabia and on top of that renting a car).

    Sadly all the useful idiots that make up the 85 professors who signed that letter are the enemy of the views they supposedly ascribe.

  • barryclinton

    If the “core texts of the Christian tradition” were used to persecute Jews, as Herf claims, it could have only been by distorting them to the point of breaking. Someone hit reply and include some links if I am overlooking something. Thanks you.

    And yes, Herf seems quite right in the main thrust of his piece. Thanks to FPM for publishing it.