When Brandeis University withdrew an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali after a student-professor firestorm branded her an "Islamophobe," the campus in effect declared itself an outpost of Islamic law, American-style. Officially, Brandeis is now a place where critics of Islam -- "blasphemers" and "apostates," according to Islamic law -- are scorned and rejected.
Not that Brandeis put it that way in its unsigned announcement about Hirsi Ali's dis-invitation, which notes: "She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women's rights, 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 ... her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values."
Translation: Hirsi Ali's advocacy on behalf of brutalized women is good, but Hirsi Ali's "past statements" -- advocacy that connects such violence to Islamic teachings -- are bad, or, in faddish twaddle, "Islamophobia." As a dhimmi (non-Muslims under Islamic law) institution, Brandeis cannot possibly honor the infidel.
Islamic blasphemy laws sanction the death penalty for exactly the kind of criticism of Islam that ex-Muslim Hirsi Ali has engaged in: hence, the innumerable death threats she has received for over a decade; and hence, the ritual Islamic slaughter of Hirsi Ali's co-producer, Theo van Gogh, for "Submission," their short film about specifically Islamic violence and repression of women. In the U.S. (so far), punishment for such "transgressions" against Islam usually resembles an aggressive form of blackballing. There are horrifying exceptions, however, including the decision to prosecute and incarcerate Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, producer of "Innocence of Muslims," for "parole violations." To be sure, when it comes to participating in the 21st-century public square -- in this case, donning academic robes and making valedictory remarks -- "Islamophobes" need not apply.
This has long been the case. But we have reached a new nadir when a courageous figure of Hirsi Ali's stature is publicly lashed for expressing herself about the perils that Islamic teachings pose to women's rights, and, more generally, human rights. Brandeis, however, deems such opinions "hate speech" -- exactly the phrase used in an online student petition against Hirsi Ali. After all, name-calling is so much simpler than having to mount an argument. And so much more effective as a political weapon.
In our post-Orwellian time, "hate speech" means publicly reviled speech. A "hate-speaker" thus becomes fair game for public humiliation -- exactly what Brandeis chose to inflict on Hirsi Ali. The humiliation, however, is Brandeis' alone.