Skip To Content
Breaking News

Brandeis Scraps Honor for Dutch Anti-Islam Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Brandeis University rescinded the awarding of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist and politician who has been publicly critical of Islam.

The Boston-area university made the announcement on Tuesday, a week after saying it would honor the Somalia-born Hirsi Ali at its May 18 commencement ceremony.

At least 85 of 350 Brandeis faculty members signed a letter asking the university to remove Hirsi Ali from the honorary degree list, and an online petition asking the school to rescind the award had garnered nearly 7,000 signatures by Wednesday morning.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called Hirsi Ali, who renounced her Muslim faith, a “notorious Islamophobe” in a letter to Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence, The New York Times reported.

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

The statement invited Hirsi Ali, currently a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to speak about her views at the university. Awarding an honorary degree is akin to endorsing the recipient’s views.

Born and raised in Somalia, Hirsi Ali was forced to have a female circumcision and into an arranged marriage. She renounced her faith and ran away to the Netherlands, where she served in the Dutch Parliament.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.