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Today’s Specious “Free Speech” Martyr

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Many conservatives are attacking Brandeis University for denying Ayaan Hirsi Ali her sacred right to an honorary degree from Brandeis University.

What the university is supposed to have done wrong, I can’t tell you. There’s no issue of “silencing”; she has an open invitation to speak at the university. As to whether she should also have a vested right to receive a special honor, let’s consider what she’s actually said:

Reason: In Holland, you wanted to introduce a special permit system for Islamic schools, correct?

Hirsi Ali: I wanted to get rid of them. I wanted to have them all closed, but my party said it wouldn’t fly. Top people in the party privately expressed that they agreed with me, but said, “We won’t get a majority to do that,” so it never went anywhere.

Reason: Well, your proposal went against Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, which guarantees that religious movements may teach children in religious schools and says the government must pay for this if minimum standards are met. So it couldn’t be done. Would you in fact advocate that again?

Hirsi Ali: Oh, yeah.

Reason: Here in the United States, you’d advocate the abolition of—

Hirsi Ali: All Muslim schools. Close them down. Yeah, that sounds absolutist. I think 10 years ago things were different, but now the jihadi genie is out of the bottle. I’ve been saying this in Australia and in the U.K. and so on, and I get exactly the same arguments: The Constitution doesn’t allow it. But we need to ask where these constitutions came from to start with—what’s the history of Article 23 in the Netherlands, for instance? There were no Muslim schools when the constitution was written. There were no jihadists. They had no idea.

If one were to substitute “Jewish” or “Roman Catholic” for “Muslim,” the question of giving Hirsi Ali an honorary degree would be moot because there’s no chance it would happen in the first place. And rightly so. (And the context doesn’t help; as you’ll note she is very clear that she’s not talking about “radical Islamists” but “Islam”: “So when even a hard-line critic of Islam such as Daniel Pipes says, “Radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution,” he’s wrong?” “He’s wrong. Sorry about that.”) I’m baffled that Brandeis either failed to find or ignored these statements when deciding to give her an honorary degree, but I don’t know why they’re required to go forward with it.

Was the State Department wrong to withdraw the “Women of Courage” award given to Samira Ibrahim after her history of anti-Semitic tweets was uncovered? I certainly don’t think so. And since I think this standard should apply to all religious groups, I don’t understand what Brandeis has done wrong here either.

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