‘Racist’ Brandeis University has withdrawn the honorary degree promised Ayaan Hirsi Ali after realizing that Ali, a former Muslim herself, has criticized Islam in the past. In fact, criticizing Islam was the focus of her best-selling memoir ‘Infidel.’
Cathy Reisenwitz is an Editor at Young Voices and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State, a regular contributor to Bitcoin Magazine, and her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, and Talking Points Memo.
HUFFPO The petition to reject her was written by a barely literate undergrad peeved that the university would honor someone who is “an outright Islamophobic.” (An “outright Islamophobic? Oh my, Brandeis certainly doesn’t have the high admission standards it used to)
It’s one thing to point out that, generally speaking, Islamic cultures worldwide tolerate what non-Islamic people would call misogyny more than other cultures. Female genital mutilation, child brides, violently enforced dress codes for women are more prevalent in Islamic societies than in non-Islamic societies. This is true, and needs to be said.
But it’s quite another to say Islam itself is misogynistic. Ali has pointed out that the Quran mandates harsh punishments for women and described the religion as a “cage.” Her message is that Islam oppresses women. She has said, “I think we are at war with Islam.” (And as someone who was born and raised into that culture, who better to speak for it, or, in her case, against it?)
It is lazy and unhelpful to take the craziest, worst people/aspects of a religion or ideology and use them to critique it as a whole. (But it’s not the craziest, worst people, it is most people, following the teachings of the quran)
It’s lazy because it lacks nuance and understanding. (Ah yes, “nuance,” the left’s new favorite buzzword to diminish the opinions of anyone with whom they disagree) Islam is the fastest-growing religion on the planet (mostly by force or intimidation). It’s been around a while and is practiced in a multitude of ways throughout the globe. To say it is necessarily anything, other than maybe monotheistic, is necessarily to stereotype and overgeneralize. (Spoken like a true ignorant liberal who knows nothing about Islam)
And it’s unhelpful. Because Islam isn’t the enemy, misogyny is. Calling Islam misogynistic makes Islam the enemy, which makes the Muslims who love it and hold it dear the enemy. (DING DING DING! That’s the first correct thing you’ve said)
You simply cannot decry an entire religion and then expect to be considered a credible source on how to make it better. (Ever hear of the Reformation?) Defeating the misogyny lurking in how many people practice Islam is best done by first understanding Islam, its context, and its history. (Something you obviously do not, but Hirsi Ali does)
It’s when people fail to do this that they are charged with “cultural imperialism.” And as culture reformers, it’s important to recognize the real threat it poses. There is an imperialist element and history to Western desire to go and tell the rest of the world how they should live. It is presumptuous, at the very least, to assume “our way” is better. That doesn’t mean we’re wrong. It does mean, however, that we should be careful. (Ah yes, a blame-America-first, self-hating, dhimmi Jew if ever there was one)
“Here’s how it might benefit you to do Islam this way,” is an easier, less problematic sell than “Islam is bad.” (Only if you haven’t been a victim of it)
However, we cannot be so afraid of cultural imperialism, as Brandeis appears to be (Brandeis IS), that we refuse to point out, or listen to those who point out, the ways the current practices of many Islamic communities are major human rights violations. (Exactly what Hirsi Ali does)
We need a healthy fear of cultural imperialism. But we cannot let that fear silence cultural critique. We must remember that respect for culture is needed to understand culture, which is needed to critique culture, which is needed to improve culture. (Let’s see how much “respect” you have after they slice off your clitoris)
While there is a tension, and we must beware of cultural imperialism and making enemies out of Muslims, that tension is not best dealt with by silencing Islam’s critics. The way to rebut Ali’s claims that Islam is fundamentally misogynist is to bring in Muslims who agitate for female equality. Because ultimately, a university which prides itself on social justice and equality should not be so afraid of charges of Islamophobia that it squelches critiques aimed at improving life for women and girls throughout the globe. (Yet, that is exactly what you have just done, Cathy)