" No worldview, political position, and certainly no religion is above criticism."
American Atheists President David Silverman has written a letter blasting Brandeis for banning ex-Muslim feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali under pressure from Islamist groups such as CAIR and the Muslim Students Association.
Ms. Hirsi Ali is not “hateful” as some have claimed, nor does she promote violence. She is an eloquent spokesperson for the millions of women and children worldwide who live under the tyrannical thumb of Islam, as she did as a child. She speaks out in defense of justice, equality, and freedom of expression for all people. She speaks for me.
My education at Brandeis has, in no small way, allowed me to rise to the position of president of American Atheists. My job, and indeed my reason for waking up in the morning, is to fight for the rights of those whose voices too often go unheard in the forum of public debate. Those whose most basic freedoms are crushed by theocratic regimes throughout the world.
Addressing some of the most fundamental questions about human rights, particularly the rights of self-determination and free expression, is complex and difficult. When entrenched religious beliefs are used to justify cruel, immoral actions against hundreds of millions of people, we have an obligation to speak out. The criticism of religious beliefs has, in recent years, become taboo for some. This taboo, perhaps, has grown as a result of the privilege we have to live in places where diversity and the agency of individuals is paramount. Ms. Hirsi Ali’s experiences, however, are different.
Her background allows her to speak with clarity about one of the most challenging questions of our time: whether a robust commitment to equality, diversity, dialogue, and social justice is possible when we look the other way when confronted with the realities of Islamic extremism.
What you have done to Ms. Hirsi Ali is rob her of such an opportunity. You have robbed her of the opportunity to speak to Brandeis students about her lived experiences as a child in Somalia and Kenya. You have ended the “dialogue about these important issues” before it has even begun.
Silverman then adds that as a former student, he is cutting ties with his old alma mater.
Today, you have done nothing to “safeguard the safety, dignity, and well-being” of the members of our global community. You have only prevented a powerful voice for such action from being heard by your students. And you have done so in perhaps the most cowardly and dishonorable ways possible.
For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my association with Brandeis University. Accordingly, I am withdrawing my membership in the Alumni Association, ending financial support of the University, and encouraging others to do the same.
I question whether Brandeis is still a place in which all ideas are open for discussion. No worldview, political position, and certainly no religion is above criticism. I will encourage students who value activism, diversity, and freedom of expression to choose educational opportunities other than Brandeis. Until Ms. Hirsi Ali receives an apology from the University, I will continue to question your professed commitment to these values.
American atheists have tended to be quieter than their European counterparts in defense of secularism against Islamization. At least at the organizational level. Maybe this is a sign that things are changing.