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The Jewish community must not embrace Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (Photo: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (Photo: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET)

The fracas over Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis shows that Israel devotees cannot distinguish friend from foe. For obvious reasons, Jews should not count Islamophobes among our friends. 

It’s Pesach again and our people still aren’t quite getting the holiday’s lessons, especially this one: ואהבתם את-הגר  כי-גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים  [Love the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt]

After students, faculty and civil rights groups expressed objection, Brandeis University rescinded an invitation to anti-Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali who was to receive an honorary degree at its spring commencement. Citing its commitment to the free exchange of ideas, Brandeis invited Hirsi Ali to speak at a later date in a forum that would not endorse her view. Predictably, this did not stop Hirsi Ali and her defenders on the extreme right from crying foul and declaring that she had been “silenced.” More astonishing, however, was the reaction from Tablet Magazine, a Jewish publication. Tablet obsequiously offered Hirsi Ali their first ever, impromptu “Moses award” and stated that while some of her statements “ought to be challenged,” Brandeis should not have rescinded her award. The magazine also said the university subjected an “outspoken dissident…to public pillory.”

Well, let’s pretend that a prominent university scheduled an antisemitic public figure to speak and receive an award. I’m not talking about a critic of Israel or Zionism, but someone who openly opines that being Jewish is incompatible with Western values. Let’s pretend that the antisemitic speaker is himself of Jewish origins, who claims to denigrate our religion, community, and ancestry from a place of painful personal experience. Say this individual had called Judaism “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death”and had advocated for the closure of all Jewish day schools in the United States. Wouldn’t it be more than justifiable for a Jewish organization or two to have something to say about it? I sure hope so.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that Jewish organizations were to decide collectively that our antisemitic speaker should speak. Say that Jewish groups were to affirm that our community is tough enough and savvy enough to handle a rabid antisemite in a public setting. Say the Jewish organizations were to invoke the famous words of Justice Brandeis: “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Would the Jewish organizations be at all justified in taking exception to the university offering our antisemitic speaker an award? I think they would be.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali claims (and her family disputes her account) that she was subjected to various forms of abuse as a girl growing up Muslim, including female genital cutting. She has stated that the abuse she allegedly endured is religious in its origin and that this kind of abuse is endemic to Islam, a religion which she claims has no moderate voice. Despite calling herself an atheist and a critic of all religions, Hirsi Ali singles out Islam for special opprobrium. In an interview with Reason Magazine, she states: “I accept that there are multitudes seeking God, seeking meaning, and so on, but if they reject atheism, I would rather they became modern-day Catholics or Jews than that they became Muslims.” She goes on to state that she believes Islam should “be defeated.” When the interviewer asks her if she meant radical Islam, she states “No. Islam, period. 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.” In other words, Hirsi Ali believes that Islam is incompatible with free societies and believes that pious Muslims are more loyal to their faith and their own kind than to the countries in which they live. Shouldn’t this sound at least a little familiar and a little troubling to Jews?

At Tablet, it seems not to be troubling at all. I think this can only be due to the fact that the debate on Israel has completely blurred our moral sense and our ability to empathize with the people some want to characterize as our ‘enemies’. Even though Palestinians and their armed organizations have Christian, Muslim, and secular members, right-wing Israel fanatics seem to find it easier to perpetuate the most pigheaded, unsophisticated stereotypes about Islam. How they think this solves Israel’s many problems in the world, I don’t know. But it seems to make them feel pretty righteous and it wouldn’t surprise me if it generates some money. Tablet claims that it condemned equally the cancellation of Rashid Khalidi’s talk at the Ramaz School, but these two instances can hardly be compared. Khalidi is a well-credentialed professor, a Palestinian, and a thoughtful critic of Israel. He is not merely a ‘controversial speaker.’ He has also never claimed that being Jewish is somehow illegitimate or suspect, the way Hirsi Ali does about being Muslim. He does not say that Jews should stop being Jewish.  He is a participant in a debate about policy, he does not take issue with our communal identity or creed. The fact that Tablet’s editors would draw such a comparison is cause for concern because it indicates that the crazed tenor of the Israel debate encourages us to conflate a political adversary with someone who intends harm to Jews. It also seems that there is a section of the community that believes that casting Muslims and Islam in a negative light somehow adequately rebuts questions about Israel’s behavior toward Palestinians.  This is obviously very silly and avoids the issues we must confront in order to achieve peace.

The Brandeis community and Muslim organizations did the right thing in challenging Hirsi Ali’s award and the university did the right thing in inviting her to speak in a neutral forum. It is sad that a Jewish publication is offering this woman an award in response when we should be the ones speaking out the loudest against her Islamophobia. This woman is not our friend. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For more on this topic, check out Ali Gharib’s excellent opinion piece in the Jewish Daily Forward

And thinkprogress’ roundup of the issue.

This piece first appeared at Rachel Roberts’s blog


About Rachel Roberts

Rachel Roberts is a civil rights attorney and a writer. She writes at: ."

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97 Responses

  1. American
    April 12, 2014, 2:08 pm

    There will be the usual crowd who will latch onto and promote Hirsi Ali……Geller, Spencer, Pipes etc..

    Remember the famous “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis”, written by the Jewish Egyptian woman, Gisèle Littman under the pseudonym of Bat Ye’or who claimed Islam’s goal was to move into and dominate Europe and impose Islamic law on the world and so Muslims were immigrating to Europe for that purpose?
    Even Jews like Laura Rosen promoted this book on her blog site back in the early 2000’s—that’s when I dropped Rosen as a objective news and opinion source.

    But the good news is that despite all the best efforts of Uber wing of I-Firstdom to demonize Muslims in the US it never really took hold in the majority of the public –there was no vast public uprising against US Muslims or calls for deporting or imprisoning them.
    Although the I-Ubers were successful in getting the government to spy on and harass and punish Muslims and some of their charity groups.

  2. LeaNder
    April 12, 2014, 2:09 pm

    Very important piece, Rachel. I have just meandered around a couple of angles of the topic that feel to me connected.

    Apart from Hirsi Ali, there are quite a few Muslim “experts on the threat of Islam” around lately. A phenomenon comparable to the real anti-Semites under the early 20th century self-hating Jews.

    When I looked into it, her story seemed to be slightly murky. As if at one point made to fit into a larger post 911 Zeitgeist. Didn’t she get a job at the American Enterprise institute at one point?

    We have a comparable male over here. There must be some that made it to the top among “experts” in this “field” in other countries.

  3. Rachel_Roberts
    April 12, 2014, 2:38 pm

    Thanks, LeaNder. At one point, her bio says she did work at AEI. I believe she accepted a fellowship with them when the Dutch government was threatening to revoke her citizenship after discovering several inconsistencies in her application for asylum. It’s interesting that they seem to care not for measures designed to even the playing field between men and women in this country, but concern themselves quite a bit with rights for women in other cultures. The appeal of Hirsi Ali is that she is a turncoat. The cause of Palestinian rights has thoughtful, qualified advocates of Jewish background, like Naomi Klein, like Amira Hass, like Ilan Pappe, like Noam Chomsky, who oppose what Israel is doing. We know that it is the substance of what these folks say that makes them worth hearing, not the fact of their Jewish ethnicity. Folks on the right are just more superficial in my estimation and can’t see past identity. We bring them Chomsky, they fire back with Irshad Manji. They think that this enhances their credibility, but of course, it does nothing for their arguments and it does nothing to solve Israel’s problems…

    • CloakAndDagger
      April 12, 2014, 3:24 pm

      @ Rachel Roberts

      Folks on the right are just more superficial in my estimation and can’t see past identity.

      I find the use of the term “Right” a tad disturbing. I find this Left/Right dichotomy to be something that we have been fed as justified polar positions in this country, and it is just not true. I have been called a member of the “Right” because I supported Ron Paul – even though I don’t agree with All of his views, and I don’t completely fit the label of libertarian although I come close on many of their positions. There are people in this country who are described as “Left” or “Progressive”, who are monstrous in their support of wars and intervention in the affairs of other countries to the detriment of our own. Outside the US, someone described as “Leftist” in Israel, would probably fit somewhere to the right of most conservatives in the US.

      I am quite okay with the term “neocon”, and lest we forget, they were originally part of the “left” before finding shelter in the “right”.

      • RoHa
        April 13, 2014, 9:05 am

        “I find this Left/Right dichotomy to be something that we have been fed as justified polar positions in this country, and it is just not true. ”

        You don’t say which country you mean by “this country”, but the L/R scale is used in most countries I know about. Political scientists know it is inadequate, but no replacement has become popular. Stefan Björklund used three scales to locate ideologies in a three dimensional space. They were:
        Economic collectivism to economic individualism
        Economic equality to economic inequality
        Political individualism to authoritarianism.

        An improvement on the L/R scale, I think, but still not adequate. It concentrates on economics and personal freedom, which were the main concerns of the standard European ideologies, but has no way of representing the main concerns of (e.g.) environmental or religious parties.

        (Björlund, S. (1971) Politisk teori , Aldus, Lund.)

      • LeaNder
        April 13, 2014, 11:08 am

        I find the use of the term “Right” a tad disturbing. I find this Left/Right dichotomy to be something that we have been fed as justified polar positions in this country, and it is just not true. I have been called a member of the “Right” because I supported Ron PaulFolks on the right are just more superficial in my estimation and can’t see past identity.

        You should differentiate between fast and unreflected labels and your present political positions. I guess, I wouldn’t have called you “right” only based on that voting decision without further evidence. It could have been a protest vote.

        But if I were American, I wouldn’t have voted for Ron Paul either. First: It hate to waste my vote. And often the choice is about the lesser evil. Second: his anti-intervention position was about the only thing that felt attractive, but for a vote that wouldn’t have been enough for me. …

        Last time I voted strategically here in Germany. I reflected a lot about it, before I actually did. Luckily enough a lot others seem to have come to that voting solution and so far it seemed to have the impact we wanted. We’ll see if it is ignored during the next elections.

        Personally I find it interesting to dive into tests in the political field:

        Time Magazine. Your Personality Makes Your Politics Red state, blue state, liberal, conservative—your moral beliefs make all the difference

        I’ll leave out meanderings about “isolationism”, “unilateralism”, or empire versus “multilateralism” and their complications in recent times. More recently multilateralism versus Turkish interests. I shouldn’t even try to pretend I have come to terms with it by now. And the face Turkey showed lately to the world does not seem very democratic to me. But see above …

    • LeaNder
      April 13, 2014, 11:45 am

      The cause of Palestinian rights has thoughtful, qualified advocates of Jewish background, like Naomi Klein, like Amira Hass, like Ilan Pappe, like Noam Chomsky, who oppose what Israel is doing.

      Rachel, I could easily add to your list. Both more prominent people and people here both above and here below in the comment section. I also think it is very important for us non-Jews, in spite of the verbal struggles about that topic occasionally down here.

      We know that it is the substance of what these folks say that makes them worth hearing, not the fact of their Jewish ethnicity.

      Yes, absolutely and that is why they are important voices on the issue.

      Folks on the right are just more superficial in my estimation and can’t see past identity.

      Interestingly I would have chosen the same quote as CloakAndDagger did above, had I replied yesterday. But then I decided that I had flown off into mentally undigested matters enough for the day. Maybe in an attempt to be less direct? Could be.

      Hirsi Ali, choose sides with the power camp in an atmosphere where many of us struggled to come to term with events. That’s her right and ultimately paved her road to success and a multitude of honors. BUT: I cannot see anything really brave in this, in spite of the fact that she now needs bodyguards and Salmon Rushdie supports her.

      Where I would hesitate is, describing the right/conservative/neoconservatives as “superficial”. I doubt they are. There are solid political positions underlying their views. Their political positions are just as solid as our own, they only are different.

      Mine teetered a lot during the last one and half decade. Maybe since the right used basically left positions to their own advantage, completely unconnected with reality. Women’s rights were one of them. I was admittedly baffled to see some from the feminist camp join the powers that be flags flying. Females had to be freed in Iraq? Really? I wasn’t completely sure about that. Can bombs really change the habit of clitoral circumcision? I somewhat doubt that too, since it doesn’t even seems to be based on Islam but is more a cultural habit.

      Thanks for your response. And see above, why I answered slightly late. ;)

    • Sumud
      April 13, 2014, 1:08 pm

      AHA is still listed as a fellow on the AEI web site, she’s a “scholar” apparently:

      All part of the nazi propaganda machine designed to dehumanise the jews, oops… I mean the neocon game to dehumanise muslims in the name of getting rich off the Global War On Terror – and spilling American blood on behalf of Israel.

  4. Taxi
    April 12, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Hirsi Ali is a micro archetype of the prey turned predator; the victim turned aggressor; the meek turned monster.

    The macro archetype would be israel.

    It’s no surprise therefore that the despicable duo would party together at their hate fest.

    • Sumud
      April 13, 2014, 1:12 pm

      …meek turned monster

      I’ll bet a handsome brown man teased Geert Wilders about his ridiculous hair when he was young.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        April 13, 2014, 3:17 pm

        Did you know that Wilders is naturally dark haired? He’s a bottle blonde!

        Some have speculated that Wilders – who is partly Indonesian by ancestry – chose to colour his hair blonde so as to look more stereotypically ”Dutch” and play down his ‘ethnic’ background.

      • Sumud
        April 16, 2014, 8:10 am

        It does look so fake Maximus I assumed it was bleached – I never knew it was so dark though…

  5. CloakAndDagger
    April 12, 2014, 3:11 pm

    @ Rachel Roberts

    A very cogent article and very well-argued (not surprising since you are an attorney!)

    It is interesting that Ms. Ali’s being a (purported) muslim, gives her more credibility when she denounces Islam, regardless of the fact that she is among only a few of the 1.5 billion+ muslims in this world. I am trying to think of adherents of other religions, who may command such credibility and renown when they castigate their birth faith.

    We all know about people like Gilad Atzmon to name one, who doesn’t come anywhere near the vitriol of this lady, but his credibility is very limited, and I am not seeing him getting any honorary degrees from anywhere. I am sure there must be some christian, jew, hindu, buddhist, taoist, or follower of some other faith that we can equate to Ms Ali, but I am having a hard time coming up with a name. Perhaps others here can help?

    • puppies
      April 13, 2014, 1:00 am

      @Cloak and Dagger and all others – Can we please stop this ludicrous and detestable practice of calling “Moslems” (or also “Jews”, etc.) people we don’t know individually, who have not confided to us their religious or irreligious thoughts, who we have not personally seen in prayer, etc?
      Pretty please?
      What does this show that we have in place of a brain?

      • CloakAndDagger
        April 13, 2014, 12:55 pm

        What does this show that we have in place of a brain?

        Ignoring your ad hominem, I don’t really know what it says about your brain or your reading comprehension.

        Of the two people I mentioned above, and in one case I even used parenthetic “purported”, Ms Ali has stated that she was born Muslim and then became an atheist, and Mr. Atzmon has stated he was born a Jew, but isn’t one anymore. I think that counts as “having confided in us their religious or irreligious thoughts”.

        I fail to see the point of your rant. Good luck with whatever inner demons you are fighting with.

      • puppies
        April 13, 2014, 10:46 pm

        @Cloak and Dagger: It may check in these particular cases. You don’t want to tell me that the general tendency of using words like “Muslims, Islamophobia, etc etc.” when hostility towards people from specific geographic locations is meant –functionally the religion plays no role at all. Apologies for exploding on the wrong post, though.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      April 13, 2014, 8:13 am

      ”It is interesting that Ms. Ali’s being a (purported) muslim, gives her more credibility when she denounces Islam, regardless of the fact that she is among only a few of the 1.5 billion+ muslims in this world. I am trying to think of adherents of other religions, who may command such credibility and renown when they castigate their birth faith.”

      Exactly. Plus, not only is Hirsi Magan a ”Muslim”, but she’s also black, and a native of an African country. Therefore, she’s a very useful tool for the Islamophobic far-right, because she can get away with saying all sorts of stuff that they can’t – though Pamela Geller comes pretty close. Even though Magan actually doesn’t have much experience of the ”Islamic world” – which she speaks of as though it were one unit (she has lived in Christian countries since her teens) she can pass herself off as some kind of ‘expert’ with inside knowledge – and how dare anyone, including any of the hundreds of millions of Muslim women, say she is wrong.

      Incidentally, there was quite a trend for ‘native informants’ in the years after 9/11. By which I mean telegenic Muslims turned ‘critics of Islam’ nearly all of them women, and coincidentally or not, fans of Israel. I’m talking about the likes of Magan, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan and Irshad Manji. Of them, only Hirsi Magan seems to have stood the test of time. The others seemed to have faded back into obscurity, which hopefully is where they’ll stay.

      • CloakAndDagger
        April 13, 2014, 1:13 pm

        @ MDM

        Incidentally, there was quite a trend for ‘native informants’ in the years after 9/11. By which I mean telegenic Muslims turned ‘critics of Islam’ nearly all of them women, and coincidentally or not, fans of Israel. I’m talking about the likes of Magan, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan and Irshad Manji.

        Hmmm, I seem to have missed hearing about those names. Of course, with 9/11, we were all preoccupied with other thoughts. I will google them to see what I can find.

        The only “muslim” I remember from those days was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador who told us on TV, in perfect, unaccented American English (valley girl), that Iraqis were killing incubator babies, so we needed to attack them. Even she, while purportedly muslim, was not denouncing muslims en masse – just Iraqis. I believe her claims were debunked later and there is speculation that it was the typical demonization of the enemy tactics that are precursors to attacks perpetrated by the attacking forces.

      • annie
        April 13, 2014, 1:15 pm

        Nonie Darwish is an awful islamophobe. she does on tour with w/the campus watch team

      • CloakAndDagger
        April 13, 2014, 6:32 pm

        Interesting – I did a little googling and in Ms Darwish we have another Islamophobe who has claims to credibility and is invited to voice her opinions on important matters by people in power:

        It is also notable, that being an Islamophobe, immediately means being pro-Israel, as in her case. It is also interesting that none of these Islamophobes can argue their case based on a clear statement of facts, and instead rely on twisted restatements of selected “facts” or blatant lies, as called out in the above post.

        This quote is particularly educational to me:

        Islam has no hierarchy, and no Pope. Islam has 8 mathabs or schools of thought, according to the Amman Conference Statement to which I subscribe. There are many understandings of Islam – not one monolithic understanding. Therefore to object to the fact that Muslims hold different opinions about any particular issue and see this is some sort of purposeful deception is deeply dishonest.

      • annie
        April 15, 2014, 11:37 am

        C&D, check out these videos

        i recalled drafting this and communicating w/danya about this action @ UNM protesting nonie darwish. how could i forget! the stand w/us crowd start lunging into the protestors!

        and Walid Shoebat, he was another that made the rounds until he too was outed as a liar.

        it’s an industry, islamophobes for hire. especially if you are ex muslim or a convert there’s a lot of money in this.

  6. seafoid
    April 12, 2014, 3:44 pm

    “A New York Times opinion piece that suggested Israel may be drifting towards theocracy was strongly refuted by an article in Tablet online magazine on Saturday.”

  7. seafoid
    April 12, 2014, 3:48 pm

    “Pamela Geller has been called “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Her admirers include Dutch MP Geert Wilders (“You are a hero”), Steven Goldberg, National Vice Chair of Zionists of America (“An American and Jewish national treasure”), and the Nassau County (N.Y.) Federation of Republican Women (they gave her the Guardian of Freedom Award in May 2013). Perhaps emblematic of what makes Geller tick is what she told the New York Times in October 2010: this quote from The New York Times: “If you don’t lay down and die for Islamic supremacism, then you’re a racist anti-Muslim Islamophobic bigot. That’s what we’re really talking about.”
    Last year, Etzion Neuer, director of community service and policy for the ADL’s New York region, said that Geller is fuelling “anti-Islamic bigotry” by demonizing an entire religion. On top of that, despite the fact that Geller sees herself as “a pro-Israel advocate, “Geller doesn’t do us any favors. She muddies the waters because she hands the platform to the extremists in our midst. Instead of thoughtful, fact-based dialogue on the issues, we get incendiary rhetoric and xenophobia.”

    Ms. Geller, Boston has no use for anti-Muslim hate-mongering – for smearing our Muslim friends and neighbors with outrageous, unfounded stereotyping – at any time, and particularly as we approach the anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing tragedy. Nor are either Israel’s interests or the fragile cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace served by your provocations. Our trains, buses, and stations – indeed, Western civilization -will fare quite well without the benefit of your “savage” posters.

    Thanks for trying to save us from ourselves, but, please, leave Boston alone. “

    • jayn0t
      April 12, 2014, 10:59 pm

      “Seafoid”, quoting “The Jewish Week”: “despite the fact that Geller sees herself as “a pro-Israel advocate“, Geller doesn’t do us any favors.” Pam Geller doesn’t do Israel any favors. So what’s the problem, then?

  8. Donald
    April 12, 2014, 5:54 pm

    Look at some of the comments below the Tablet endorsement. Some are critical of Tablet and some are supportive. And both in the name of Judaism.

    White southern Christians faced one of the great moral issues of our time during the era of Jim Crow and the majority flunked the test. Looks like a segment of the American Jewish community is following in their footsteps. The Tablet editors must be very proud of themselves.

  9. Denis
    April 12, 2014, 6:38 pm

    Seems like we’re missing the issue here. What was the point of extending the invitation to Ali just to yank it away? She was obviously set up by Brandeis to try and embarrass her. Here’s their explanation according to the LAT:

    “And we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.”,0,7940815.story#ixzz2yiAmy7v3

    Like, we regret to inform you that we didn’t know who the hell we were bestowing the honor on because we are too stupid to do a little due diligence. WTF?

    Brandeis was just toying with this woman and they come out looking like idiots.

    RR: Let’s pretend that the antisemitic speaker is himself of Jewish origins,

    “Jewish origins???” Kind of ambiguous here, eh? If you mean he’s hypothetically Jewish, go ahead and say so. Then what we’ve got is the prototypical, hypothetical antisemitic Jew, which, I think, logically doesn’t exist anymore than a misogynist feminist, unless you are using “semitic” in its broad and proper sense to refer to all the descendants of Shem — Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, Assyrian Christians, yada yada — it’s a long list. I guess in that case, that hypothetical Jew could be selectively antisemitic if he, say, dissed Assyrian Christians. Abe Foxman would be OK with that.

    BTW, this Ali lady is a very, very impressive and courageous woman, particularly considering how apostasy is considered punishable by death by a lot of these violent “pigheaded” radical Muslims — and that is not merely a “pigheaded, unsophisticated stereotype about Islam..” Just ask the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who’s 600 lashes sentence for “propagating liberal though” was overturned in Dec.2013 and he is now awaiting a hearing on an upgraded sentence of stoning for apostasy.

    • Donald
      April 12, 2014, 11:57 pm

      “She was obviously set up by Brandeis to try and embarrass her.”

      Oh yes, obviously. I’m sure that was the secret plan all along, because I have a copy of it here that I translated with my magic decoder ring.

      And “courage” doesn’t give someone a license to preach hate, which she does. Unless, of course, you endorse the notion of declaring war on Islam. Maybe you do.

      “Then what we’ve got is the prototypical, hypothetical antisemitic Jew, which, I think, logically doesn’t exist”

      Logically doesn’t exist? So a person couldn’t be Jewish and hate Jews, a person couldn’t be black and hate blacks, or white and hate whites, etc…? It’s logically impossible? Where’d you take your course in logic?

      • piotr
        April 13, 2014, 9:37 am

        I had a few courses in logic, and I have no idea what does it mean to exists logically. In any case, “anti-Semitism” is defined in terms of beliefs, and the logic of belief is not simple, and clearly divergent from real life.

        In a simple system, if you believe that X, and that X implies Y, then you also believe in Y. It sounds OK, but nobody really does that (meaning, everybody has exceptions). So you should apply “belief” rules to “fuzzy logic” rules: since most beliefs are held with uncertainty, you could believe in X with 60%, in X implies Y with 60%, and in Y with 20%.

        In another thread, J Street was accused of anti-Semitism because they accepted funding from George Soros. Unravelling the moral and logical status of that attack would be interesting. Possibility one: the accuser lied, namely he did not believe that himself. But this possibility raises the question why the accuser believed that the accusation is good for the “Jewish Community”.

        Actually, there is a concept in the “Jewish Community” that does not square with the logic I have heard about, namely “the narrative”. Some people say that nobody has the right to their own facts. But “narrative” idea is the opposite: we have the right to our “narrative”. As far as I can honestly figure out, in a “narrative” facts have modality of “important” and “unimportant”. “Our narrative”, presumably that of “Jewish Community” uses the criteria: if fact A is good for JC, then it is important, in “our narrative”.

        Thus we have a rough outline of the logic employed here: it is fuzzy, and employs modalities of “our narrative” / “not our narrative”. That is probably not enough to explain it. For example, “our narrative” is “good for Jews”, but for some Jews the fact that they are Jewish is not good for Jews, say George Soros or Weiss of Mondoweiss.

      • Denis
        April 13, 2014, 7:28 pm

        OK, Don. Great reply. Let me take it point by point.

        Point 1
        Having emphatically dismissed the theory that Ali was set up by Brandeis, you obviously subscribe to the only viable alternative: Brandeis was too freaking stupid and incompetent to do their due diligence to check who they were inviting to receive a very prestigious award and speaking opportunity.

        I’m willing to agree with you on that. No problemo.

        Point 2
        D: So a person couldn’t be Jewish and hate Jews

        That is correct. A person who hates Jews cannot be Jewish. His mother may be a Jew, he may wear a kippa, he may be foreskin-challenged — but he is not Jewish. Ask your rabbi, assuming he doesn’t hate Jews.

        Point 3
        You are putting words in my mouth, a clear indication of one’s propensity to speak deceit to truth. Tsk, tsk.

        I have not argued that courage gives anyone license to do anything. And as for preaching hate, in America one is not required to be licensed in order to preach hate. Anyone can go ahead and do it without a license and that’s a 1st Amendment bonus for living in America. Geller, Foxman, Dershowitz, Oren — they all have a right to spew hate if it suits them. Don’t like it? Leave. Please.

    • piotr
      April 13, 2014, 9:45 am

      About the courage of Ali Hirsi: the argument harks to the sophists of Classic Greece, namely, denying that there are distinctions of time and space (they lead to paradoxes of the hare and turtle etc.). A very mild apostasy can be very courageous in Riyad, and passed over in Jedda, while a radical apostasy can be suicidal in Pakistan and land you a cushy job in AEI. (A radical apostasy from Judaism can also yield some living wages, but comparatively those are bubkes.)

      If I had my druthers, I would not bestow any honors on anyone employed by AEI, a singularly creepy outfit.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        April 13, 2014, 10:34 am


        Good points re the ‘courage’ of Hirsi Ali.

        Now, I am aware that she has received credible death threats, and that is appalling, whatever one thinks of the woman and her ideas. However, as I said on another thread, plenty of people – Vanessa Redgrave, Norman Finkelstein, the late Edward Said – received death threats from Zionist hoodlums. Yet I don’t recall the likes of Denis praising their ‘courage’, much less implying that ‘courage’ equalled credibility.

        The fact is that ‘courage’ may be admirable in itself, but has no bearing whatsoever on a person’s morality or credibility. Plus, given, as you say, that Hirsi Ali has profitted massively from her ‘apostasy’, those of us who don’t buy into the ‘brave victim Hirsi Ali’ myth might say that she’s hedged her bets, and not done too badly out of it.

  10. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    April 12, 2014, 8:27 pm

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a politician in the Netherlands and left overnight [off the top of my head]. Perhaps Dutch can shed some light on her overseas past?

    • DaBakr
      April 12, 2014, 11:39 pm

      After watching her partner Van Gogh slaughtered in the streets for insulting islam she may have felt a little bit threatened. She spoke out and politicians on the left dug up some dirt on her finding descrepancies in her visa and threatened [again]and she was offered some form of ‘protection’ from AEI. I believe the gov’t then backed off but with {radical-not mainstream} Muslim bounties (Fatwahs) on the heads of the cartoonist and herself-I suppose she fled.
      I would be willing to wager BIG time that were Ms. Hirsi anti-Zionist she would be one of the most popular speakers on the left wing circuit

      • Dutch
        April 14, 2014, 12:02 am

        @ DaBakr

        You are very wrong. I guess you weren’t among the tens of thousands at Dam Square, right ánd left, after Van Gogh was murdered. There is no link between the left and the maniacs that threatened Van Gogh or Hirsi Ali.

        There was also no link between the left and the lies of Hirsi Ali. She brought them up herself, in an interview with a prominent medium. She added that she was aware she was risking her citizenship and her membership of parliament. Four days later she resigned herself and announced she was going to the AEI.

        She went to the AEI to work for them, not because they offered protection. They did not. That’s why the Dutch sent along a bunch of agents, for a period of 12 months. After this year Hirsi Ali returned to Holland, where she has permanent protection.

        And so your guesses about our government are no more than that: wild guesses. And FYI, Ali used to be a popular speaker in the left-wing circuit. She was a popular member of the social-democrat PvdA (Labour), but changed over to the Liberals (VVD) in 2002 when the anti-islam meme became popular.

        Listen DaBakr. Holland went through a shock. Rightests misused that in the same way you do. That brought a lot of harm to our society, that we are still recovering from. An open society is vulnerable, in case you don’t know. The last thing we need is your antique baseless crap. The matter is too important for us. Do you understand that?

      • talknic
        April 14, 2014, 3:11 am

        @ DaBakr “I would be willing to wager BIG time that were Ms. Hirsi anti-Zionist she would be one of the most popular speakers on the left wing circuit”

        Uh huh. BIG time speculation can be fun. You can safely and meaninglessly bet on anything

    • Dutch
      April 13, 2014, 12:17 am

      @ Daniel Rich

      Oh boy – a lot to tell here.

      Most important is that Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands in 1992, during the crisis in Somalia. Upon entrance shy lied about several facts. She claimed to flee Somalia, but in fact she lived in Kenia and Germany for 12 years. She also lied about here age and her name. Based on these lies she was granted Dutch citizenship in 1995. She lived here from 1992-2006 and 2007-2011 (about 2011 I am not certain).

      Hirsi Ali became a member of parliament. In an interview in 2006 she herself mentioned that she could loose that membership and her nationality because she had lied upon arrival. Days later she declared to leave parliament by Sep. 1, and to start working for the AEI. In the end she did not lose het citizenship, but I’m not sure if she still is Dutch (she is a US citizen since April 2013).

      She returned to Holland in Oct. 2007, because the Dutch stopped her protection in the US after a year. She was protected since the murder of Theo van Gogh (January 2005), with whom she made the film Submission. At some point, I believe in 2011, she returned to the US, (re)married and gave birth to a child.

      Hirsi Ali later explained her lies (upon entering Holland) by her fear to be tracked down by her husband or possible wrenchful family members. Later even she called herself an ‘economic refugee’, the prototype of a ‘luck seeker’, who preferred living in Holland to Germany or Kenia. Most recently she blamed ‘extremist islam’ for giving up her Dutch nationality.

      Hirsi Ali could claim a position in the Dutch political landscape because of the post-911 madness. She won respect on the left as a fighter for ‘women rights’, and on the right as ‘anti-islam’ propagandist. By all camps she was honored for picking up so fast, being the victim of a brutal conflict, coming straight from the batlle field.

      She still publishes in Holland, most recently a few days ago an Op’ed about the Brandeis matter. She is furious.

      BTW, she and Wilders were parliamentary collegues for the Liberal party VVD.

      • Daniel Rich
        Daniel Rich
        April 13, 2014, 2:26 am

        @ Dutch,


        Did she [with all those lies] endanger the applications/entrances/acceptance of women who’re real victims of all this madness?

        You mention Wilders in one sentence with the word liberal, so I’m inclined to draw the conclusion that the Japanese LDP and the Dutch VVD are cut from the same branch of a rotten tree?

        LDP = Liberal Democratic Party. I can’t think of a bigger monstrosity and misnomer than a party that’s effectively been ruling the islands for a good 6 decades now [with a brief interruption]. I guess that’s why only ~19% of the population shows up to vote.

        Anyway, thanks again for the info. Appreciated.

      • Dutch
        April 13, 2014, 10:42 am

        @ Daniel

        [Did she [with all those lies] endanger the applications/entrances/acceptance of women who’re real victims of all this madness?]

        Holland became a lot strickter than it was in this period of time, that is a fact. But her lies didn’t play a role in accepting others; they brought down the government, though.

        No, VVD is not like the LDP. Wilders left the VVD to radicalize, starting his Group Wilders and later the PVV (Freedom Party) that now cooperates with LePen.

        @ DaBakr

        [She spoke out and politicians on the left dug up some dirt on her finding descrepancies in her visa and threatened [again]and she was offered some form of ‘protection’ from AEI.]

        Are you kidding or just ‘digging up some dirt’? Hirsi Ali started the ball rolling herself, by explaining she lied in an interview. ‘The left’ never played a role in this theatre.

      • Daniel Rich
        Daniel Rich
        April 14, 2014, 12:52 am


        Going off topic here.

        Do you have any idea why those parties [PVV/FN] thrive [at the moment]?

        Is there a correlation between economic misery and the unfortunate blossoming of extremist parties?

        I’ve been a ‘foreigner’ most of my life in many, many countries, but, fortunately never felt ‘not accepted.’ Didn’t Europe, as a whole, rely on an influx of foreign workers, back in the day? With the EU annexing a host of poorer, eastern European countries, has there been another watershed?

        P.S. I meant from the same branch of a rotten tree as in the LDP/VVD/PVV lavishly throw around terms and phrases like ‘liberal’ – ‘democratic’ – ‘freedom’ , but in realty are nothing but a bunch a wannabe, closet-hugging tyrants.

        P.P.S. Mr. van Gogh’s murder and Mrs. Ali’s death threats can only be condemned and those responsible for it/them have to be brought to justice.

      • Walid
        April 13, 2014, 6:44 am

        “BTW, she and Wilders were parliamentary colleagues for the Liberal party VVD.”

        In next month’s European Parliamentary elections, Wilders has already teamed up with fellow EU-integration rejectionist Marine Le Pen. Their extremist parties are expected to win big, especially with the EU blunders with Russia on the Ukraine conflict. Big but not big enough to take the Netherlands out of it. Gives an idea of the type of people Hirsi hung out with.

  11. jayn0t
    April 12, 2014, 10:50 pm

    Rachel Roberts argues that the “Jewish community must not embrace” Ali, an ex-Muslim. But her argument rapidly moves on from telling the Jewish community what it must and must not do. She draws an analogy with a university hosting “someone who openly opines that being Jewish is incompatible with Western values”, and says she thinks “Jewish organizations” should “take exception” to a university offering this speaker an award. These organizations are more powerful than the phrase “take exception” implies. The ADL and numerous other Jewish groups actively oppose freedom of speech on Jewish issues. Why wouldn’t they “embrace” Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

    • piotr
      April 13, 2014, 1:34 am

      I had the same thought. “Jewish Community” as defined by “major American Jewish organization” should be most comfortable with a foul-mouth apostate of a religion deemed hostile to their beloved Israel. Individual Jews — that obviously varies. In another thread it was reported that a Jewish organization was accused by the inquisitors from Major Jewish Organizations for accepting money from a dirty Jew, certain George Soros, as opposed to a clean Jew like Sheldon Adelson. If Ali Hirsi is good for Sheldon Adelson, she is good for the Community.

      Concerning apostates, as opposed to folks who abandoned their faith with lesser public vehemence, they often do important job, but bestowing honors on them is inflammatory. Imagine a Muslim university giving honorary degree to Shmarya Rosenberg. Her (his?) website is quite informative, but if there exists a rabbi who in neither involved in child molestation, nor in drug smuggling, nor in pornography rings, or in fraudulent certification of kosher meat, one will not learn about him in Failed Messiah.

  12. PeaceThroughJustice
    April 13, 2014, 1:40 am

    “The Jewish commuity must not embrace Ayaan Hirsi Ali.”

    It was the American Jewish Committee (which remember is the “liberal” wing of the Lobby) who first brought Hirsi Ali to this country and set up her speaking engagements. It was Bruce Kovner at the AEI who gave her a position and a salary. We would not have heard of her were it not for the American Jewish community.

  13. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    April 13, 2014, 6:03 am

    Let’s abstract from the specific issue of Islam and try to discern the general principles being promoted in articles like this one. Certain views are being denigrated as illegitimate (or at least not fully legitimate), although some allowance may be made for their expression in deference to the right to free speech. The rules seem to be as follows:

    Rule No. 1. No religion may be described as inherently oppressive or harmful. Certain variants of any given religion may be so described, but not the religion as such.

    This also delegitimizes a militantly anti-religious stance that views the phenomenon of religion as such, i.e. all religions, as inherently oppressive or harmful.

    Rule No. 2. No religion may be appraised as inherently better or worse than any other religion.

    In order to maintain these rules it is necessary to delegitimize the critical examination of the inner content of religions, because there is inevitably a risk that such examination will lead to conclusions that contradict the above rules.

    Let’s consider Hinduism. And let’s assume we agree that the caste system in general and untouchability in particular are oppressive and harmful. These rules require us to take the view that the caste system is not essential to Hinduism, only to certain variants of Hinduism. But what if careful inquiry into the content of Hinduism leads us to the opposite conclusion? For much of his life Dr. Ambedkar, the great champion of the untouchables (Dalits), thought that a non-caste Hinduism was possible, but eventually he concluded otherwise and converted to Buddhism.

    • seafoid
      April 13, 2014, 8:20 am

      “And let’s assume we agree that the caste system in general and untouchability in particular are oppressive and harmful”

      Caste is a south Asian thing. It is self defeating, in my opinion, because the higher castes have such a limited pick of members and there will always be people in the lower castes with more talent than the average higher caste member.

      If you do think caste is dreadful how do you change it ? I used to work with a Brahmin lady. She worked long hours and would go home through 2 hours of city traffic in Bombay to cook for her family because as a Brahmin she wouldn’t eat anything that had been prepared by someone from a lower caste.

      Most parents want their daughters to marry within caste.

      The only way to get rid of caste would be to raise income levels, I imagine, but that is never going to happen.

    • Donald
      April 13, 2014, 8:57 am

      “Let’s abstract from the specific issue of Islam and try to discern the general principles being promoted in articles like this one. ”

      One problem here is that you then go back to the specific–the caste system in Hinduism and ignore the specifics of what Hirsi Ali has said. Of course we should criticize a religion if it advocates human rights abuses. But Hirsi Ali doesn’t just criticize genital mutiliation or the oppression of women or religious justifications for terrorism–she advocates war on Islam, the closing of Muslim schools in the US and sides with Israel against the Palestinians because she fits everything that touches on Islam into her anti-Islamic box.

      Brandeis should never have offered her a degree in the first place. They did invite her to speak. The article above endorses this position– “The Brandeis community and Muslim organizations did the right thing in challenging Hirsi Ali’s award and the university did the right thing in inviting her to speak in a neutral forum.”

      Now you’re here and maybe you can answer this question. Why is it that every advocate of Hirsi Ali ignores the specifics of what she has said? Why do you, Andrew Sullivan, and today Ross Douthat all pretend that this is about freedom of speech, when Brandeis University has still invited her to come and speak?

      • tree
        April 14, 2014, 2:22 am

        As far as I can tell she also cites FGM as an Islamic practice when it is not, although some Muslims practice it. It is a practice that occurs mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt, regardless of religion. Christian Copts in Egypt and the Sudan have used it, as have the Beta Israel in Ethiopia. In Nigeria, which has the highest absolute numbers of FGM, it is more prevalent in the Christian predominant parts of Nigeria than in the Muslim predominant parts.

      • seafoid
        April 14, 2014, 4:27 am

        FGM is mostly a Nile Valley thing

        It’s also prevalent in Kurdistan

  14. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    April 13, 2014, 9:01 am

    I don’t see why raising income levels would have that effect, at least not by itself, seeing that high-income Hindus also observe caste.

    Caste is not confined to South Asia. Judaism too contains elements of caste (compare Brahmins with Cohanim as priestly castes).

    But we are getting bogged down in particulars. I am trying to make general points about the problems involved in giving religion a privileged status in terms of immunity to criticism, for what amount to reasons of political expediency.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      April 13, 2014, 11:59 am

      While I agree with you that religions shouldn’t be immune from criticism – even extreme criticism – what Hirsi Ali is doing goes beyond that. She has said, explicitly, that ‘we are at war with Islam’, and has advocated fighting it by all means necessary – including military means. She has also sympathised with Anders Behring Brehvik.

      So we’re not talking about a reasoned, informed critique of a belief system. We’re talking about blanket condemnation of over 1 billion people. She is basically saying that the mild-mannered Pakistani guy who runs your local curry house is as much a danger as a member of Al Qaeda. This goes way beyond ‘critical examination’. If someone were to do the same regarding Jews, the UN would meet in emergency session.

      And I’ve asked this question before, but what exactly makes Hirsi Ali an authority on Islam? She has no relevant academic qualifications. She does not know classical Arabic (or any other form of Arabic afaik). She has never even lived in a Muslim country as an adult. All she’s got is her much hyped ‘tragic life story’ details of which may very well be fabricated. Take away her ‘native informant’ persona, and we’ve basically got another ranting Islamophobe, no different from Pamela Geller.

    • seafoid
      April 14, 2014, 4:38 am

      I think if Hindus in India had US level incomes and women were free agents and had their own money they’d be far less likely to marry whoever their parents decided. Caste wouldn’t be long falling apart.

      Higher income Hindus benefit from caste – they have status they wouldn’t have in the OECD . They get jobs they wouldn’t get on merit.

      If you ever go to Bombay the Taj Hotel is fascinating. It’s open to anyone – there are no restrictions on entry- but for most people in the city it impossible to think about walking though those doors.

      India is a different world- it’s what the late Middle Ages might have looked like in terms of social organization, I think.

      The Puthirai Vannars live pre Middle Ages


      Don’t look at us, we are cursed

      “Meet the Puthirai Vannars, the outcastes of Tamil Nadu. A community that has been suffering in silence for ages, in perpetual bondage to the dalits, and living in isolation on the fringes of dalit colonies

      By PC Vinoj Kumar

      Invisibles: exiled as manual scavengers, surviving on left-over food

      Condemned and mute, for centuries they have been washing the clothes of dalits, giving them haircuts, slaughtering dead cattle, and doing other menial sub-human jobs

      Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa should read this. This is bound to infuriate her if she really meant what she said a few years ago while seeking votes in Andipatti, that she believes in only one caste: the human caste. It is bad enough that dalits cannot become presidents in reserved panchayats in Tamil Nadu. But shamefully, things are worse for another invisible community living in the state, a faceless, diminished people who are not even a ‘mere vote bank’ for political parties. A people she may not even know — that they actually exist!

      This is something that is hard to believe. A sin that has been covered up for much too long. Unlike the oppressive patterns prevalent in the nation’s caste society, here the sinned are the sinners! This is the tale of a people who are ‘untouchables’ even for the ‘historical’ untouchables. A shocking revelation of a people twice discriminated and daily trampled over.

      Meet the Puthirai Vannars, the dhobis for the dalits of Tamil Nadu. A community that’s been suffering in silence for ages, in perpetual bondage to the dalits, and living in isolation as ‘outcastes’ on the fringes of dalit colonies. Denied human rights and self-respect, there is no political leader or party or democratic institution to speak up for them in this big democracy that is India.

      Condemned and mute, for centuries, they have been washing the clothes of the dalits, giving them haircuts, slaughtering dead cattle, and doing other menial jobs. To this day, they wash the bloodstained clothes of dalit women in labour, and the clothes of dalit girls who attain puberty. Worse, till a few decades ago, they were shunned as ‘unseeables’. It was a curse to even ‘look’ at them. In those days, the Vannars had to complete their work in the night and stay out of sight of the other castes in the daytime.

      If they ventured out during the day, they had to tie a coconut leaf to their body, which they pulled along wherever they went. The frond swept the ground and wiped out their footmarks. They could not even spit on the ground as the others did so routinely. Instead, they had to spit into a halved coconut shell, which hung from their necks. “This horrible practice had been in vogue for hundreds of years. It was the Justice Party that enacted a law abolishing it in 1932. Once declared illegal, the practice slowly faded out,” says TM Prakash, a social activist working among Puthirai Vannars in the dalit-dominated Tiruvannamalai district. Not much headway has been made after that landmark social reform.

      Today, an estimated two million people from this community are living in the state. “Though we are found in most districts, about 50 percent of the population lives in Virudhunagar, Villupuram and Tiruvannamalai districts. Our people are slaves of the dalits — to the Parayars in northern districts, to the Pallars in southern districts, and to the Arunthathiyars in western districts,” says SB Udhaya Kumar of Ramnad, an upcoming leader from the community.

      There is of course the daily allowance — again in kind. It is the traditional practice of Puthirai Vannars to go around the dalit homes, every morning and evening, begging for food. Rosamma from Cuddalore says, “We cry out standing outside the dalit houses, ‘amma, soru podunga amma’ (amma, please give some food.) They give us leftover food which we collect in a vessel.” For many, it’s a daily khichdi meal — of leftover food from dalit houses. Though in some villages this shameful practice has finally ended, in many others the tradition still continues. ”

      “If given a choice, most Puthirai Vannar families would like to put an end to the practice of begging for food. They long for the day when they can cook at home, for it would give them a sense of self-dignity. But dalits don’t allow them to cook. The reason is not far to seek. When the Vannars beg for food, it destroys their self-worth. The tradition perpetuates the slave mentality, pre-empts and crushes a rebellious spirit.

      “It’s worse than the slavery that existed in the West,” says Professor A. Sivasubramanian, currently doing research on the community. “People bought the slaves there. To a certain extent, they were looked after well because the owners had to suffer losses if they fell sick or died. But the Vannars have no such advantages. Dalits treat them just as slaves but refuse to take their responsibility in terms of welfare.”

      In most ways, this social oppression is the mirror image of how dalits are treated by the upper castes all over India. Till date, in many villages, the Vannars cannot sit in front of a dalit. They are not allowed to take water from their street taps. “When there is a death in a dalit house, we have to perform special duties. We prepare the dead body and make the padai (burial cast). As people walk to the crematorium, we are required to spread sarees on the ground before them to walk on it. After the rituals are completed, we sit down wearing a white dhoti and the mourners drop coins on it,” says Santhappan of Velankani Nagar in Tiruvannamalai district.

      According to another tradition, the Vannars are required to carry the ‘theepantham’ (a flaming torch) during wedding processions. There is fire in their hand, and darkness within.

      Those defying this ancient heirarchy are repressed ruthlessly. There have been instances when Vannars in some villages have refused to beg for food. But they have either been forced to fall in line or driven out of the village. Rosamma of Elanthapet village in Cuddalore district decided to stop this daily house-to-house begging for food, and instead started cooking food at home. But she was forced to go back after direct threats from dalits. “They forced me to eat the leftover food,” she says.

      About two years ago, in Athanur in Villupuram district, a man was forced to eat leftover food by a dalit family. When he refused to eat, they chased him out of the village. The diktat is clear. If you are born a Vannar, you are destined for a predetermined way of life. Live as your ancestors did. Have no dreams or aspirations. Die everyday.”

      Judaism should be better than caste. Honestly.

  15. Ellen
    April 13, 2014, 9:09 am

    Rachel, she is accepted with open arms and given a platform to build a veneer of credibility for her Islamaphobic (to create fear and hate) messages.

    She will be speaking at a seemingly “highbrow” speaker series in St. Louis.

    Btw, this is also being advertised on the local Public Radio stations.

    I do not think she should be disinvited, but this should be called out for what it really is. And if people want to support her go for it, but do not pretend she is serious or credible.

    It would be interesting to know exactly how speakers are chosen.

  16. Donald
    April 13, 2014, 9:16 am

    ” I am trying to make general points about the problems involved in giving religion a privileged status in terms of immunity to criticism, for what amount to reasons of political expediency.”

    And you’re failing, because you ignore the specifics of this case. Brandeis isn’t offering an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, but they did invite her to speak. Rachel Roberts endorsed this stance.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that opposition to religion in general makes some people irrational. I’m not generalizing–I don’t mean that everyone who opposes religion acts this way, but some seem to judge the merits of an issue like this by latching on to the fact that person X opposes a religion and judging the rights and wrongs of an issue based solely on that . But it is an empirical fact that some opponents of religion can be one-sided and bigoted in their attitudes. Hirsi Ali, for instance, siding with Israel because in her view the root cause of the conflict is Islam. I have a Christian Zionist friend who says exactly the same thing. It’s an absurd position and both my friend and Hirsi Ali take that position because of an irrational commitment to seeing the world through an anti-Islamic lens. And then some people leap to Hirsi Ali’s defense, without noticing the specifics of the case.

  17. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    April 13, 2014, 9:51 am

    Has Hirsi Ali ever come out with a single original, sophisticated and thought-provoking comment in her life?

    If she has, I’m yet to hear of it. Though I suppose her claim that Deuteronomy is a person, and that Catholics don’t believe in hell, could be described as…. interesting.

  18. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    April 13, 2014, 10:27 am

    I just listened to a few videos of Hirsi Ali to try to form my own view. I think the first thing to say is that she agrees with the militarist jihadis like Al-Qaeda that what they stand for is the true Islam. So when she says that the West is at war with Islam she is referring to those forces. If it were pointed out to her that there are also many people who call themselves Moslems but believe Islam is a religion of peace, I think she would say that she has nothing against such people but they are mistaken in thinking they are Moslems. They have thought up a new religion that is not the true Islam. So there is a misunderstanding here about terminology.

    This view of Islam, which Hirsi Ali shares with Al-Qaeda, may be right or it may be wrong. To decide whether it is right or wrong it is necessary to investigate the content of Islamic doctrine. I am not going to attempt that here and I do not consider myself competent to do it. But her view of the matter — that Islam as such is the problem and not just an incorrect interpretation of Islam — should not be rejected in advance as illegitimate. She shares it with some scholars who seem to me very knowledgeable, such as Ibn Warraq.

    I wholly agree with the point that viewing the world through an ‘anti-Islamic lens’ or fitting everything into an ‘anti-Islamic box’ creates a highly distorted perspective. Here even Ibn Warraq is vulnerable to the same criticism. Focusing exclusively on one particular problem (cause, evil) leads naturally to interpreting and assessing everything solely from that point of view. By fighting against one evil you end up supporting other perhaps even greater evils (because those evils are also fighting the evil with which you are solely concerned).

    • jayn0t
      April 13, 2014, 11:19 am

      That’s a brilliant comment, Stephen. I don’t know which branch of Islam is the most authentic. Neither do most of the commenters on this and similar blogs. Yet many of us are quick to say that bin Laden’s crew don’t really represent Muslims (I must have said that a dozen times during w/e September 15th 2001). Maybe Ali is right, and al-Qaeda are the most Muslim Muslims. Maybe it’s logical for Sunnis to regard Shi’ism as a heresy, just as it was logical for Catholics to burn Protestants. We don’t want to believe that, because it’s Islamophobic. I stopped listening to allegations of ‘anti-semitism’ years ago. It’s time to stop worrying about ‘Islamophobia’ too.

      • Donald
        April 13, 2014, 4:01 pm

        “I stopped listening to allegations of ‘anti-semitism’ years ago. It’s time to stop worrying about ‘Islamophobia’ too.”

        Well, both reactions are wrong. There are people who hate Jews, and there are also people who make false accusations of Jew hatred to suppress criticism of Israel. There are real reasons to criticize some Muslims and to examine in what way Islam or various other religions provide excuses for human rights violations, and there are also bigoted reasons for bashing all of Islam.

        On the other hand, this is a blog comment section, so nuance is the enemy.

      • Citizen
        April 13, 2014, 4:11 pm

        Guess who’s coming to dinner? To Seder? Time travel:

    • aiman
      April 13, 2014, 11:35 am

      “Focusing exclusively on one particular problem (cause, evil) leads naturally to interpreting and assessing everything solely from that point of view.”

      Again there’s an a priori assumption that something is “evil” without knowing fully what it is. It is no different than a Salafist assumption that Socialism is evil.

  19. Walid
    April 13, 2014, 11:13 am

    Stephen, Hirsi is wrong in assuming that the al-Qaeda doctrine is the real thing and you are wrong philosophizing whether or not she is right. Simply ask how many terrorizing fanatics there are among the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.

    • jayn0t
      April 13, 2014, 11:25 am

      Walid asks us to resolve this vexing question by taking a vote on it. But the hardline Sunni factions say that Islam isn’t a democracy, and how would we know that they are wrong, and Walid is right?

      • Taxi
        April 13, 2014, 1:16 pm


        The prophet Mohamad was against slavery, against oppression of women and against forced conversions. This is stated in the Quran. Clearly the followers of wahabism and it’s ugly sisters are not following their prophet.

        If islam is not compatible with democracy, how then would you explain Turkey? A staunchly islamic sunni state that practices democracy.

      • American
        April 13, 2014, 2:11 pm

        @ Taxi

        I seem to remember from reading the Quran way back in high school several things that pertained to women…one if I remember correctly was that daughters not be discriminated against in family heritances and some other rules about responsibility for a brother’s widow and so forth.
        Too long ago for me to remember much more but my impression was it did not treat women as less than males and seemed to include some rules or ‘family duties’ for their welfare.

      • Walid
        April 13, 2014, 1:34 pm

        Maybe Walid knows a little bit about Muslims. If the democracy you have in mind is like one practiced in the Middle East’s alleged most democratic country or like the one that was brought to Iraq and Afghanistan at a cost of a million lives, then no, it wouldn’t be in that sense of the word. Your starting point should be that fanatic Sunni factions that kill unbelievers simply because they view them as unbelievers or that are suicide bombers aren’t true Muslims to begin with and are in no position to dictate which ones are. You may have missed the parts of the religion that forbid the killing of civilians and of taking one’s own life. Anyone breaking these 2 rules has stepped out of the bounds of Islam.

      • Taxi
        April 13, 2014, 2:25 pm

        Al-Mayadeen TV has a religious discussion program that hosts a variety of experts on islam: Arab thinkers and scholars and religious sheiks and imams and christian priests and pastors who’ve all studied the Quran. Much denunciation of takfirism and its inhumane, un-islamic violence is always voiced and all denunciations are backed cogently by recited koranic verses and relevant episodes from islamic history. Hirsi wouldn’t last a minute debating on this program: her arguments have no bearing on the reality of islam that is experienced by over one billion moslems. Neither she nor al-effing-quaida are the definers of islam.

        And to those who haven’t read the Quran and really can’t tell the difference between “authentic” islam and fake islam, why the heck don’t you guys go read the darn thing yourselves?! It’s just a book, you know – it won’t bite!

      • jayn0t
        April 13, 2014, 11:00 pm

        “You may have missed the parts of the religion that forbid the killing of civilians and of taking one’s own life.” “Why… don’t you guys go read the darn thing yourselves?!” – I did. Like most religious texts, it’s full of contradictions – “compassion” one minute, wishing violent punishments on kafirs the next: “but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them”.

        “Neither she nor al-effing-quaida are the definers of islam.” Maybe not, maybe so. Why should I take Walid’s authority over Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s?

      • Taxi
        April 14, 2014, 6:31 am


        I’ve been told by shias that one of the divisions between shia and sunni is the women’s inheritence issue: the shias allow it but the sunnis don’t. I’ve been told that some conversions from sunni to shia is due to this. Maybe Walid, being a sunni Beiruti (living in Canada) can confirm this. Mindful here that there was no such thing as sunni and shia during the life of the prophet Mohamad.

      • Taxi
        April 14, 2014, 1:55 pm


        Sorry dude, I don’t believe you’ve read the Quran. Cuz you’re quoting Pamela

        I’d say Walid has by far more credibility than Hirsi – at least we know he reads Arabic so he’s read the Quran in its original language, whereas you don’t know Arabic- and neither does wotsherface.

        Myself I’m not a fan of any religion in the slightest, but I’m certainly not gonna go around demonizing religious people.

        I advise you go and for real read the Quran. Maybe Walid can refer you to a good translation. I hear most Qurans are translated into English by zionists – and you know how it is with translations: one single wrong word and the whole book goes skewy-hooey-wywy!

      • Sumud
        April 13, 2014, 2:23 pm

        It seems sensible to refer to the most common interpretation(s) rather than believing the reactionary extremists when they say their version of islam is the true one.

        Do the KKK represent the true face (whatever that is) of christianity? I don’t think so.

        I think you wondering what is the most “authentic” version of a religion is a bit muddle-headed. Are you really going to tell a catholic or protestant that one version or the other is more authentic? Movements splinter and change over time – even a short time, that’s just how it is. And even within a single denomination, interpretations change.

        Would the kind of catholicism that forced my great aunt to have her left hand tied behind her back as a child so she wouldn’t write with it (because left-handedness is a mark of the devil) be considered more authentic than a modern interpretation which would condemn it? Is there even anything textual in the bible about left- and right-handedness anyway? I honestly don’t know and actually don’t care. It’s ridiculous – and we reject any such notion because we – our society – has evolved beyond such backwards notions.

        Is it right to separate ideas on religion from the cultural and political environment in which a religion operates? We justly condemn the 9/11 hijackers, but to simply reject them as terrorists, extremists, fundamentalists without paying attention to their grievances is stupid beyond imagination.

        Hirsi-ali and her neocon friends don’t want us to think about the fact the hijackers were pissed off by:

        • US complicity in the ongoing atrocities against Palestinians
        • The genocidal sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s – a nation of about 30 million:

        (Would it be appropriate to describe that mass murder as a christian project?)

        But these are irrelevant for Hirsi-Ali. The problem is not what the jihadist are mad about – because they can have no legitimate grievances or even agency – for Hirsi-Ali they are programmed robots, not far from a Dalek: “exterminate, exterminate, exterminate” – and be afraid, they’re coming to get YOU.

        It’s actually pretty absurd when you unpack it.

        How can we talk about the Syrian horror without talking about the fact that the CIA has been running weapons into the country since almost the beginnings of the conflict? Is that also a reflection on christianity? The annihilation of Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? In God We Trust?

        What does it mean that the engineering masterpiece that is the tallest building in the world is in a muslim-majority state? That 60% of university graduates in that state are woman? That just 60 years ago 99% of the population of that state lived in grass huts with no electricity or potable water? Can we attribute that state 60 years ago to religion or intense poverty and lack of natural resources?

        The problem is people, not religion.

        Hirsi-Ali lives in a tiny little world with blinkers on and she wants you there too. I don’t know what her personal demons are, but the world is bigger and more complex and actually a much nicer place than she would have you believe.

      • Taxi
        April 13, 2014, 2:35 pm

        Really great post, Sumud.

      • Donald
        April 13, 2014, 4:04 pm

        Hell must be freezing over. I agree. Great post, Sumud.

      • Taxi
        April 14, 2014, 1:08 am

        No, Donald, “hell” hasn’t frozen over – you just always assume the worst of me.

        But that’s alright, I always forgive you.

      • seafoid
        April 13, 2014, 4:31 pm

        “The problem is people, not religion.”

        I think it’s the system, Sumud

        “an inherent feature of the international system of law is that it claims a single version of the good life as universally preferable and relies on different mechanisms of force to pursue the issue. There are huge differences in culture, politics and economic power. Those differences are not being leveled as the international system evolves but rather are features of the system itself.” Immanuel Wallerstein

        Most Muslims have zero power in the international system.
        The vast majority are decent people who try to live their lives in difficult circumstances. We should stand with them and sideline the hatemongers.

      • Sumud
        April 16, 2014, 9:11 am

        What would you do to correct it seafoid? I’d start with abolishing the UN SC veto and making all 15 seats impermanent.

        The vast majority are decent people who try to live their lives in difficult circumstances.

        So true. Even though I was reasonably politically aware in the early 2000s it wasn’t until I live in the ME later that decade until I fully understood the truly monumental scale of the anti-arab and anti-muslim propaganda we (westerners) have all been subjected to, the ultimate Big Lie.

        PS. you might have notice I call you seafood sometimes – it’s the stupid autocorrect, I don’t always catch it, oops…

      • Citizen
        April 16, 2014, 9:23 am

        @ seafoid
        By the system, are you referring to fiat monetary system, usury, military power partnership? Plus the compliant press?

      • seafoid
        April 16, 2014, 9:44 am

        It’s a hard one, Sumud. Maybe open up international institutions like the World Bank to poor countries.
        Take the Sauds out.
        Israel has to be defanged as well.
        Climate change may make some things happen.

        I hate the vilification of Islam while certain people have never been better off.

      • CloakAndDagger
        April 13, 2014, 6:06 pm

        @ Sumud

        I agree with others that this is an impressive post indeed and hard to refute.

      • Sumud
        April 16, 2014, 8:38 am

        Thanks all.

      • RoHa
        April 13, 2014, 10:23 pm

        “What does it mean that the engineering masterpiece that is the tallest building in the world is in a muslim-majority state? That 60% of university graduates in that state are woman? That just 60 years ago 99% of the population of that state lived in grass huts with no electricity or potable water?”

        I thought the Burj Khalifa was the current tallest building, but from context it sounds as though you are referring to the Petronas Towers in KL. Is it really true that 99% of the population of Malaysia lived in such primitive conditions as recently as 60 years ago?

      • Sumud
        April 16, 2014, 8:58 am

        Roha ~ you were correct first time I was referring to Burj Khalifa. When I was in UAE I lived a few hundred metres away and watched it being built.

        For you to think I was talking about KL you must have been surprised by something I wrote?

      • Walid
        April 16, 2014, 9:55 am

        When Sumud was living next to it being built, it was still called Burj Dubai. It was after Dubai’s second major financial bailout averting bankruptcy that it took on the name of the bailer, Sheikh Khalifa of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. He also got his hands on Dubai’s prestigious and very profitable airline ‘Emirates” in the bailout. The UAE’s sovereign fund with Abu Dhabi holding the biggest stake is second largest (after China’s) in the world.

      • jayn0t
        April 13, 2014, 10:47 pm

        “Are you really going to tell a catholic or protestant that one version or the other is more authentic?”. Yes.

      • aiman
        April 15, 2014, 7:21 am

        “Like most religious texts, it’s full of contradictions – “compassion” one minute, wishing violent punishments on kafirs the next: “but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them”.

        Jaynot, at least learn to quote accurately regardless of your conclusions. Here’s the full quote: “Do not, therefore, take them for your allies until they forsake the domain of evil for the sake of God; and if they revert to [open] enmity, seize them and slay them wherever you may find them. And do not take any of them for your ally or giver of succour, unless it be such [of them] as have ties with people to whom you yourselves are bound by a covenant, or such as come unto you because their hearts shrink from [the thought of] making war either on you or on their own folk – although, if God had willed to make them stronger than you, they would certainly have made war on you. Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them.

        The Quran only allows defensive war. This verse applies to those who wish to enslave and kill other people. Innocents and non-combatants are not considered in the equation. This verse may well apply against the Takfiris. However, once the aggressors cease, “God does not allow you to harm them”. As for aggression: “God does not like aggressors.” It is foolish for the theological illiterates like you to say this book says so many things, great scholars like Abduh and Asad not to mention all the old geniuses described the Quran as comprehensive and united in which all parts support each other, not a loose collection of contradictions. Even in this supposed contradiction, aggression by Muslims is prohibited by God. Not only that, the Quran says that God does not destroy a community for disbelief as long as its members behave righteously towards each other (11:117). These are not the “good parts”, but every part supports the other.

      • Sumud
        April 16, 2014, 9:09 am

        “Are you really going to tell a catholic or protestant that one version or the other is more authentic?”. Yes.

        More fool you then!

        One half of my family are catholic and the other protestant. In general, people adopt the faith they were born in to, it rarely has anything to do with authenticity.

        I’m an atheist so you’re all wrong :-) however I advocate a live and let live approach, and know that there are pearls of wisdom to be had in all religion(s).

      • Daniel Rich
        Daniel Rich
        April 14, 2014, 1:07 am

        @ Sumud,

        Q: “The problem is people, not religion.”

        R: I agree. Is that also why people have a ‘best’ friend?

  20. aiman
    April 13, 2014, 11:28 am

    “some scholars who seem to me very knowledgeable, such as Ibn Warraq”

    As opposed to Muhammad Abduh, Muhammad Asad and Fazlur Rahman? Asma Barlas? Not to mention Al Beruni, Ghazali and Ibn Rushd of old? Anyone who knows anything about al Qaeda/Takfiris knows that it is a tribal movement that didn’t take hold until the 21st century, hence the large scale slaughter of both non-Muslims and Muslims, while Islam is a universal religion whose greatest scholars have always expressed humanism. The best commentary to Islam is the Qur’an itself, not any scholar.

    [email protected]
    April 13, 2014, 12:46 pm

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Islamophobia is abhorrent. It is insane that Brandeis was going to give her an award and I am glad that the university rescinded the offer.

    And I realize that Ms. Hirsi Ali has admitted to telling lies on her asylum application.

    That said, she did initially grow up in Somalia and I have no reason to doubt that was a victim of female genital mutilation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , Somalia has the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in the world, at 97.9%.

    Just like the boy who cried wolf was ultimately eaten by a wolf, just because Ms. Hirsi Ali has lied about many things, it doesn’t mean that she has never been subject to any form of violence. If she is from Somalia, it is overwhelmingly likely that she was a victim of female genital mutilation.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      April 13, 2014, 1:04 pm

      ”If she is from Somalia, it is overwhelmingly likely that she was a victim of female genital mutilation.”

      So in other words, she is like millions of other women in this respect.

      If she was a victim of FGM – and I agree that she probably was – that is indeed unfortunate. But why does her experience mark her out from the many millions of other women who have suffered the same trauma? Her experience is, sadly, far from unique, yet I have yet to see any discussion on Hirsi Ali which does not mention it. How does being a victim of FGM in any way qualify her as some sort of expert on Islam, much less on Middle Eastern politics in general?

  22. Citizen
    April 13, 2014, 12:50 pm

    Gee, I don’t personally know any uncivilized muslims here in the USA. For me, they are good neighbors.

  23. seafoid
    April 13, 2014, 5:06 pm


    Nothing but the same old story

  24. pabelmont
    April 14, 2014, 7:35 am

    We have seen various people “silenced”: Norman Finkelstein and others denied tenure, speakers dis-invited, etc ad naus.

    OK, that was due to “the people” speaking I suppose, “the people” in those cases being big-money folks.

    Did the Tablet, The Forward, The NYT, The NPR, The Presidents of blah-blah raise their voices, collectively or severally, to condemn all this silencing, all this anti-academic-freedom-ism?

    But here they (or some of them) raise their voices to condemn (as if on a matter of principle) in the case of a woman being dissed (as to an honorary degree only — she did not lose a bid for tenure and was invited to speak later, so she was not precisely silenced).

    Some matter of principle! Jews OKing the silencing of other Jews but condemning the not-really-silencing of a person of Islamic upbringing who had complained rather fulsomely of all Islam (without exception, as I read somewhere).

    Why is this honorary degree different from all other honorary degrees?

    • LeaNder
      April 14, 2014, 8:22 am

      Well said, pabelmont. I love the anger that is present in between your words and lines.

      But strictly consider, I wont go into details to what extend this has been my personal post WWII obsession, since that is the era into which I was born, five years after,

      consider this:

      “herd instinct”. If someone is honored to such an extend, you surely don’t need to reflect if the person deserves it. And as a journalist with too much different stuff at hand, it assures you, you don’t have to look closer into matters.

      As an afterthought. A vague memory admittedly. There was this specific American, I don’t remember, if Jewish or not. But the chances are high he actually was, due to MW’s focus and my own special focus on the neocons post 911. This guy desperately needed an award, any award. To the extend I remember it, he devised means to bring it about. I suppose he recognized the pattern. Herd instinct.

      Take care.

      • Sibiriak
        April 16, 2014, 4:08 am

        LeaNder, it’s “to the extent,” not “extend .” Sorry to nitpick, but you made the error three times, so I thought it might be helpful to point it out. I very much appreciate your posts here–they always have some mysterious ambiguous element that keeps me thinking, like poetry.

  25. Walid
    April 16, 2014, 3:44 am

    Comment in the Daily Star by Rami Khouri:

    “… I applaud the decision to withdraw the invitation, because Hirsi Ali’s wild and mostly false criticisms of the Islamic faith should not be honored with a degree from a quality university such as Brandeis. Yet the decision is problematic because it muddies the line that separates clearly unacceptable public statements from those which are simply aggressive and hurtful. Someone who makes a living spewing the filthy rhetoric that Hirsi Ali does will always find some place to speak on a college campus. But her ideas clash violently with the truth-seeking mission of a university – because her accusations against Islam as a whole are so extreme and false that they fall out of the category of intellectual debate and slip into the gutter of racist slander.

    The faculty, in their letter to the Brandeis president, Fred Lawrence, wrote that they were “shocked and dismayed, owing to Hirsi Ali’s virulently anti-Muslim public statements. We are saddened that Brandeis would choose to honor such a divisive individual at commencement, a moment of unity for the Brandeis community,” they wrote.

    Among the cited comments made by Hirsi Ali were calling Islam “the new fascism” and saying that Islam must be “defeated.” The faculty noted that journalist David Cohen had quoted Hirsi Ali as saying: “Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder. The police may foil plots and freeze bank accounts in the short term, but the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realize that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself. … Islam is the new fascism.”

    They also noted that Rogier van Bakel had quoted her as follows: “Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love. … Those are lovely concepts of God. They can’t compare to the fire-breathing Allah who inspires jihadism and totalitarianism.”

    Van Bakel then spoke of religions’ ability to bring about change for good: “Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?” Hirsi Ali answered, “Only if Islam is defeated.” Van Bakel then asked, “Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?” To that she responded, “No. Islam, period.”

    … Hirsi Ali is one of a handful of Muslim women who have left their home societies and set up shop abroad, in the United States mostly, where they spend much time trash-talking Islam as a religion of violence, hatred and cruelty and violence to women. Of course, there are many Muslim individuals who exhibit those traits and even worse ones. But making Islam itself the problem and calling for an Islamic reformation in order to copy the Western trajectory strike me as simultaneously simplistic, insulting and factually wrong.

    … Brandeis should and did invite her to engage in a campus debate with others. Hateful and false as her views are, they should be banished from the public sphere not by executive fiat, but by the ridicule and factual retort in public. Hirsi Ali drew attention initially because she was an entertainer whose product is hate and venom, in a wounded American society that will accept almost any criticism of Islam or Muslims in its elusive quest to understand why it was attacked by a handful of Muslim terrorists among a world of 1.4 billion nonviolent Muslims.

    Intellectual freak shows such as Hirsi Ali’s eventually lose their appeal because they are exposed as hollow, false, and hurtful – not only to Muslims but to American society and the world.”

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