One of today’s headlines in national news concerns a recent decision by Brandeis University, located nine miles west of Boston, to withdraw their offer to present Ayaan Hirsi Ali with an honorary doctorate. Ali is a staunch critic of Islam and its treatment of women, and after you hear her story, I think you will understand why.
Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage, she renounced the faith in her 30s. Since then, she served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls.
So why would a prestigious university rescind their decision to offer Ali an honorary doctorate during their upcoming May 18 commencement? Because Ali made, what some have labeled, “Islamophobic” comments. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion: "Once it's defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It's very difficult to even talk about peace now. They're not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there's no middle ground in wars."
The problem with quotes like the above is that we have no context. We don’t know what question she was asked. We don’t know the rest of the dialogue. All we know is what some writer selected from some interview as it was recorded in some magazine. That being said, isn’t it interesting that when someone expresses a viewpoint on an ideology, religion, or worldview that goes against the politically correct position, it immediately gets labeled as “phobic”?
That is, unless it’s an attack against Christianity. Then, all of sudden, it’s justified, because, well, after all, it’s the “Christian” worldview that’s “phobic.” Right?
In the book The Search for God at Harvard, author Ari Goldman describes his experience at taking religion courses to enhance his job as a religion reporter for The New York Times. Goldman describes that in his classes in the Divinity School, the professors expressed lavish sensitivity to the customs and religious beliefs of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and African religions, just to name a few. Even if those customs and religious beliefs degraded women and devalued humanity, Goldman was taught that we were not to judge but accept those beliefs as part of the beautiful mosaic of faith expression in our new world. And then Goldman, who is not a Christian, took a course on Christianity. And the rules changed. Goldman was shocked to discover the intolerance towards the customs and religious beliefs traditionally held by Christians, even in the tolerant setting of Harvard Divinity School.
The school motto of Brandeis University is, “Truth, Even Unto Its Innermost Parts.” More accurately, I think the motto should read, “Truth, Even Unto Its Innermost Parts…As Long As We Agree with It.” I find it interesting how restrictive “liberal” universities are. If they disagree with someone’s position, all of a sudden that person’s position is now “phobic” and must not be tolerated.
Yes, a university has the right to offer honorary doctorates, and they have the right to change their mind. It’s the reason behind changing their minds that bothers me.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who was mutilated and beaten and now spends her life wanting to protect women’s freedom, is called “Islamophobic,” because she disagrees with Islam. Is this seeking truth, even unto its innermost parts?
When Dietrich Bonhoeffer visited America in the 1930s and tried to understand the confusing state of the American scene, he was amazed that tolerance trumped truth. Here we are, eighty-some years later, and tolerance continues to be the trump card of the academic, political, and cultural elites, while truth, even unto its innermost parts, is long forgotten.