Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born women's rights activist and former Dutch parliamentarian, took her commencement speech to the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Friday after Brandeis University buckled to the demands of the Islamist extremist lobby and disinvited her.
"Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women's basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st," she wrote.
"The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect."
Ali suffered female genital mutilation as a child and fled to escape an arranged marriage. She moved to the Netherlands, where she was elected to Parliament, and then to the United States after receiving death threats from Islamist extremists for her role in "Submission," a short film about abuse of women in the Muslim world. The film's producer, her friend Theo Van Gogh, was assassinated in 2004 in Amsterdam by an Islamist extremist. She now leads a foundation aimed at protecting the rights of women and girls.
Brandeis rescinded her invitation to speak after the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a lobby for Islamist extremists, accused Ali of “spew[ing] anti-Muslim hate” and “call[ing] for violence against the entire Muslim world," citing a 2007 interview with Reason magazine. The group has become well-known in its efforts to silence Muslims and ex-Muslims who disagree with extremist interpretations of Islam or call attention to the consequences of those beliefs for women and non-Muslims.
Ironically, the university is named after the first Jewish Supreme Court justice, Louis Brandeis, a champion of free speech.