Heckler's veto: Muslim students force Brandeis University to cancel honors for Ayaan Hirsi Ali

These are golden times for the Heckler’s Veto.  From a California school pressured by violent thugs into banning American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo, to Mozilla possibly committing corporate suicide by throwing its CEO to a fascist mob, intimidation tactics are working beautifully.  The cold strategy of the Heckler’s Veto doesn’t even require formal capitulation to the mob; it’s only necessary for the targeted organizations to conclude that standing up for free expression is more trouble than it’s worth.  It’s bad enough to corrupt society with the notion that a majority can tell the dissenting minority to shut up, but you don’t even need a majority to make these intimidation tactics work.

Such was the case at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where Fox News reports that a rather small minority of the faculty and student body have pressured the administration into withdrawing an honorary degree it planned to award Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism.  The craven cowards at Brandeis were quite explicit that their decision is all about suppressing speech that the angry mob doesn’t like:

“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,” said the university’s statement. “That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion, “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. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

All of which was extremely well-known before Brandeis ever made its offer of an honorary degree.  Why send your kids to a school run by nincompoops who try to hide their cowardice by claiming they are unable to use Google?

Ali has plenty of experience dealing with fascist thuggery, and far more courage than the limp noodles who just proved her honorary degree wouldn’t have been worth the paper it’s printed on:

Ali was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage, she renounced the faith in her 30s. She has not commented publicly on the issue of the honorary degree.

In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls. This includes control of their own bodies, access to an education and the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, the website says.

Protecting the basic rights and freedoms of women and girls?  We can’t have that.  It’s grimly amusing to watch Brandeis fold up while the rest of the dishonest Left is shrieking about phony “discrimination” against women in the United States, based on statistical trickery that purports to demonstrate they make less money than men.  You want to know what a “War on Women” looks like, American liberals?  Spend ten minutes talking to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

More than 85 of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter asking for Ali to be removed from the list of honorary degree recipients. And an online petition created Monday by students at the school of 5,800 had gathered thousands of signatures from inside and outside the university as of Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students,” said senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition said before the university withdrew the honor.

“But it’s not just the Muslim community that is upset but students and faculty of all religious beliefs,” she said. “A university that prides itself on social justice and equality should not hold up someone who is an outright Islamophobic.”

A quarter of the faculty threw in with the mob?  Some people who don’t even attend the university singed an online petition?  Wow, that’s impressive.  You can see why the Brandeis administration felt it had no choice but to tear up that honorary degree.

Oh well, at least her critics didn’t have to resort to death threats to drive Ali away, the way they did in Pennsylvania.  And Holland, where fascists murdered her friend Theo Van Gogh because the two of them made a short film critical of Islam.  They wanted to kill Ali, but the couldn’t get to her, because she had already been forced into hiding.  According to the UK Guardianthe majority of Muslims interviewd on the streets of Amsterdam blamed Ali for van Gogh’s murder.  But I guess we’re not supposed to talk about that, because it might make the Muslim Student Association “uneasy.”

Free speech often makes people uneasy.  The proper remedy is not silence and oppression.  Nowhere in all of the blather about Ali’s honorary degree do I see anyone offering a compelling case that anything she says is untrue.  If it was, the proper response would be more speech.  A sharp decline in female genital mutilations would be nice, too.  Funny story: the UK recently opened up a Female Genital Mutliation helpline… which promptly took a call from a guy who wanted to schedule mutilation procedures for his two daughters.  Whoops, I probably shouldn’t have told that story – better to bury facts that angry people say they don’t want to hear.  Right, Brandeis?

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave,” said Gandhi.  That goes double for the love of freedom, which absolutely requires an equally strong love for Freedom’s twin sister, Dissent.  The Heckler’s Veto has become a virus infesting Western society because we are too craven to stand up for our principles and defend free expression, no matter what the cost.  The new concept of free speech, hideously advanced within the Supreme Court recently, is that it’s a “collective” right that might require muzzling some people in the name of social harmony.  All-powerful central authorities will select the right mix of speech and discomfort, because if some people became too uncomfortable, their “freedom of speech” would be passively compromised.  In this obscene distortion of American ideals, oppression becomes a tool of “freedom,” and the muzzle becomes a symbol of free speech.  It doesn’t take much imagination to guess how much influence the loudly and perpetually aggrieved would enjoy within such a regime.

Our current social environment rewards orchestrated rage from highly motivated groups, especially those who believe they won’t face any significant backlash for using ugly tactics.  Sometimes those calculations prove incorrect, as we saw during the “Duck Dynasty” flap, and may yet see with Mozilla.  Does that sound like a recipe for social harmony?  An endless string of lashes and backlashes… social combat instead of conversation?  Personally, I’ll take even the most heated conversation over a wrestling match to find out which side has enough muscle to make its adversaries shut up.

If we had greater strength of conviction in both our government and private spheres, and stood more firmly against these efforts to push people around, there wouldn’t be as much pushing.  This stuff happens, with growing frequency, because it works.

It just worked again at Brandeis, which tried to toss Ayaan Hirsi Ali a little consolation prize by claiming she’s still welcome to come speak there someday.  Why the hell would she want to?  Why should she dignify these cowards, and maybe jeopardize her safety, by showing up to say whatever the Muslim Student Association and its allies decide she should be allowed to say?  Who knows what comment she made ten years ago might suddenly be forwarded to some dolt in the university administration by email, resulting in the sudden cancellation of her speaking event?

Perhaps the students of Brandeis, and everyone else who wants to stick a thumb in the eye of fascism, should consider visiting the website for Ali’s AHA Foundation, especially the “Get Involved” page.  Boy, would that ever make the right people hot under the collar.

Update: I was thinking about checking the list of past honorary Brandeis degree recipients to see if any of them might have held… uneasy views, but Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner got there first.  You’ll never guess what she found.