Brandeis Takes Heat for Revoking Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

By Jamilah King Apr 11, 2014

When Brandeis University announced that it had reversed its decision to bestow an honorary degree on Ayaan Hirsi Ali at its commencement ceremony on May 18, many Muslim advocates applauded. Ali has made a name for herself as a feminist writer and fierce critic of Islam, who once described it as a religion that’s "not interested in peace."

When the decision to give the honorary degree to Ali became public, critics spoke out. "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 Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told the New York Times. "I don’t assign any ill will to Brandeis. I think they just kind of got fooled a little bit."

The university now says that Ali "is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue," according to a statement released by the school.

Meanwhile, Ali has spoken out about the university’s decision. Predictably, she’s not happy with it. "What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming," she said in a statement Wednesday. "Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles."

Ali was born in Somalia and was a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003-2006. Her 2007 memoir, "Infidel: My Life", was widely criticized for its negative portrayal of Islam.