U.S. university drops plan to honor activist critical of Islam
A private university outside Boston has decided not to award an honorary degree to a Somali-born women’s rights activist who has branded Islam as violent and “a nihilistic cult of death.”
Brandeis University said it had decided not to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian who has been a prominent critic of the treatment of women in Islamic society.
Hirsi Ali said in a 2003 interview with a Dutch newspaper that by modern standards, the Muslim prophet Mohammed could be considered a pedophile, and in a 2007 interview with the London Evening Standard called Islam “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”
“We cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement late Tuesday. “We regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.”
The move followed an open letter from the Council on American-Islamic Relations to the university’s president, Frederick Lawrence, saying that to do so was “unworthy of the American tradition of civil liberty and religious freedom.”
Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director, said that “offering such an award to a promoter of religious prejudice such as Ali is equivalent to promoting the work of white supremacists and anti-Semites.”