Brandeis University Decides Not to Give an Honorary Degree to a Women’s Rights Activist

home_AyaanBrandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, has rescinded its decision to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali is a Somalian-born women’s rights activist who once held a seat in the Dutch parliament. In 2005, she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. She is now a U.S. citizen.

In 2007, Ali established the AHA Foundation, a women’s rights organization in New York. According to its mission statement, “the AHA Foundation works to protect and reinforce the basic rights and freedoms of women and girls, including security and control of their own bodies, access to an education, the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, freedom of expression and association, and the myriad other basic civil rights.”

The university said that after it decided to give Ali the honorary award, statements made by Ali were brought to the attention of the administration by students and faculty. In 2007, Ali had stated “we are at war with Islam.”

The university issued a statement which read in part, “Ali 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 certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

In response, Ali issued a statement saying, “The slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles.”

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