To the Editor:
Re “Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Rights Advocate, a Critic of Islam” (news article, April 9):
The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomes Brandeis University’s cancellation of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an activist with a long record of vicious anti-Islam statements, some of which are quoted in your article. Honoring Ms. Hirsi Ali would have been an insult to the legacy of Justice Louis D. Brandeis and his great defense of religious freedom and civil liberties.
We should all take note, however, that opposition to the honorary degree for Ms. Hirsi Ali did not come only from the Muslim community, but also from Jewish students and faculty members at Brandeis, one of America’s great Jewish-sponsored institutions of higher learning.
The lesson here is that those committed to a nation and a world of justice and peace can accomplish wonders when working together across different communities. This is in keeping with the values of pluralism, compassion and human dignity enshrined within both Islam and Judaism.
Exec .Director, Philadelphia Chapter
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Philadelphia, April 9, 2014
To the Editor:
Justice Louis D. Brandeis would be turning over in his grave. The university named after the former Supreme Court justice has illustrated the depths of small-minded bigotry and intolerance that now represent the culture on many campuses.
In rescinding an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Brandeis University has abandoned academic freedom and responsibility. Disinviting a controversial figure for fear of student backlash and upset sensitivities sends a perverse message that a college education must never dare offend.
How ironic that it was Justice Brandeis himself who understood that the essence of the free exchange of ideas — something to which virtually all universities nominally adhere — is “to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies,” not by “enforced silence.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has been watching the spectacle of “disinvitation season,” when universities cave in to the loudest bullies.
We call on the Brandeis trustees in particular and higher education leaders everywhere to withstand this trend and to stand firm in defense of the free exchange of ideas — the essence of a liberal education.
Washington, April 9, 2014
The writer is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
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Could they not find anyone but a CAIR shill to express that side of the argument?