Truth even unto its innermost parts

This is the speech Ayaan Hirsi Ali did not give at Brandeis.

One year ago, the city and suburbs of Boston were still in mourning. Families who only weeks earlier had children and siblings to hug were left with only photographs and memories. Still others were hovering over bedsides, watching as young men, women, and children endured painful surgeries and permanent disfiguration. All because two brothers, radicalized by jihadist websites, decided to place homemade bombs in backpacks near the finish line of one of the most prominent events in American sports, the Boston Marathon.

All of you in the Class of 2014 will never forget that day and the days that followed. You will never forget when you heard the news, where you were, or what you were doing. And when you return here, 10, 15 or 25 years from now, you will be reminded of it. The bombs exploded just 10 miles from this campus.

I read an article recently that said many adults don’t remember much from before the age of 8. That means some of your earliest childhood memories may well be of that September morning simply known as “9/11.”

You deserve better memories than 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. And you are not the only ones. In Syria, at least 120,000 people have been killed, not simply in battle, but in wholesale massacres, in a civil war that is increasingly waged across a sectarian divide. Violence is escalating in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Libya, in Egypt. And far more than was the case when you were born, organized violence in the world today is disproportionately concentrated in the Muslim world.

Another striking feature of the countries I have just named, and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day.

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Sadly, the list could go on. I hope I speak for many when I say that this is not the world that my generation meant to bequeath yours. When you were born, the West was jubilant, having defeated Soviet communism. An international coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The next mission for American armed forces would be famine relief in my homeland of Somalia. There was no Department of Homeland Security, and few Americans talked about terrorism.

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.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority—including patriarchal authority—to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.

Yet for that opportunity to be fulfilled, we in the West must provide the right kind of encouragement. Just as the city of Boston was once the cradle of a new ideal of liberty, we need to return to our roots by becoming once again a beacon of free thought and civility for the 21st century. When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I’m used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women’s and girls’ basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

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.

So I ask: Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration? Is it blasphemy—punishable by death—to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era? Both Christianity and Judaism have had their eras of reform. I would argue that the time has come for a Muslim Reformation.

Is such an argument inadmissible? It surely should not be at a university that was founded in the wake of the Holocaust, at a time when many American universities still imposed quotas on Jews.

The motto of Brandeis University is “Truth even unto its innermost parts.” That is my motto too. For it is only through truth, unsparing truth, that your generation can hope to do better than mine in the struggle for peace, freedom and equality of the sexes.

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38 Responses to Truth even unto its innermost parts

  1. johanna

    The motto of Brandeis University is “Truth even unto its innermost parts.”

    Yeah, and the motto of the Royal Society is “nullius in verba”.

    Mottoes, schmottoes.

  2. james

    The motto of Brandeis University is “Truth even unto its innermost parts.”

    Loving it.

    Welcome to the modern world kiddies.

  3. ProEng

    She is a brave women. There should be no restraint on free speech especially discussion on religion. all religions have extremists and these people should be given no succour. Some religions do some good and do charity works but most of the religious movements are not charities. They should be taxed and registered similar to any organisation which is operates for a profit or operates as a non-profit association. No religion should be exempt from council rates or government service charges and they should get no special privileges beyond what is available to an ordinary corporation.
    If there is ever a change to the constitution it should be to remove all mention of culture, race, and religion and insert the right of free speech.

  4. boyfromtottenham

    Wishful thinking! The lady obviously hasn’t read “The God Delusion” by Prof Richard Dawkins, he of “The Selfish Gene” fame. In chapter 9 he explains how the US courts manage to give religious beliefs a special place in the law (or at least most judges’ thinking about how the law should be applied), one in which science, facts and logic are able to be safely ignored in favour of the religious and their strange beliefs. He goes on to talk about politicians having the same defect. With the judges and pollies agin you, no ain’t gonna win!

  5. DrBeauGan

    The people who run universities these days don’t understand their function.

  6. Is this the speech that triggered the uni into revoking her honorary doctrate?

  7. H B Bear

    A US university campus now resembles something from the Middle Ages. More independent thought probably takes place in a 7-11.

  8. Driftforge

    Is this the speech that triggered the uni into revoking her honorary doctrate?

    Now famous for not being given.

  9. Baldrick

    Statement from Brandeis University
    April 8, 2014

    Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. 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. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

  10. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.

    Yeah, well, she is a campaigner for freedom and women’s rights.

  11. Baldrick

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a website called the AHA Foundation, which was established in 2007 to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

    The AHA Foundation focuses on a number of specific crimes and forms of oppression of women and girls that are justified by religion and culture – Honour Killings – Forced Marriage and -Female Genital Mutilation

    .

    Response by Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the Statement from Brandeis University can be found here.

  12. Ant

    I ‘love’ this woman, in the most civil sense of that word.

    She has more courage in her little finger than the cowards that inhabit that university’s administration.

    To think she gets condemned by so many of the scum on the left when she displays such incredible gutsiness in condemning the inbred lowlifes that assert radical Islam so aggressively.

    I wish the IPA would invite her to speak in Australia.

  13. Gab

    Sorry if this has been posted before … it’s a video in two parts; first up Ayaan Hirsi Ali interview over CAIR’s Brandeis University’s chickenhawk decision, followed up by Hitler’s reaction to the University’s original decision, now revoked. Total video time is about 5 minutes. The Hitler parody scene is different to the usual in that it’s not so much a parody as the unfortunate truth of America today. (Also it’s not the usual Hitler film clip).

  14. Gab

    The sad irony of it all given Ali escaped that which she now confronts today in the US. In her book, Infidel, she explains why she fled to America:

    “I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. … I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values”.

  15. Beef

    An actual person who calls out mysogyny where she sees it, how refreshing.

  16. Ivan Denisovich

    “I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. … I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values”.

    Feted university lecturer and feminist icon speaks up for women:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/islam_is_a_feminist_issue/

    The University of Melbourne announced on 28 October 2013 that it will become the global repository for the lifetime archive of Greer’s work. The archive includes letters from family, friends, writers, artists, academics, broadcasters, editors, scholars, critics, politicians and neighbours, in addition to numerous other items and will fill over 150 filing cabinet drawers. The transfer of the archive from Greer’s British home will commence in July 2014 and the University will raise A$3 million in donations to facilitate the entire process. Greer has stated that the payment she will personally receive will be donated to her charity, The Friends of Gondwana Rainforest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germaine_Greer

  17. Gab

    You make a good point, Beef. In fact Ali was being honoured for her work and commitment to women’s rights; it had nothing to do with her comments on islam. And then along came CAIR, called her an islamophobe and the rest is history.

  18. Beef

    Perhaps an honourary position as Professor should be offered to her Gab, or even a gig as Chair of the Global Education Program…Nahhh on second thoughts, she’s waaay to intelligent to be wasted in touchy feel good land.

  19. Mindfree

    Have a look at the interview with Megyn Kelly and Ibrahim Hooper from CAIR

    Interview Part 2 here – you can link to part 1 from that

    http://beforeitsnews.com/opinion-conservative/2014/04/video-part-ii-of-megyn-kellys-interview-with-hamas-cairs-ibrahim-hooper-2834670.html

  20. Baldrick

    Sorry if this has been posted before … it’s a video in two parts;

    Nice video, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an inspiration to all … thanks Gab.

  21. Viva

    First Mozilla – now this ….

  22. blogstrop

    The Middle-East is a disaster area, created by that ideology which none in the mainstream media, and few in politics are game to gainsay. The West, judging by regular phenomena including this outrageous piece of snivelling and kowtowing by a university (once proud bastions of free speech), is going down the same path.
    If you want to know where hopelessly divided countries end up, even with some help to try and change, just look at Syria, Iraq and Egypt to begin with. Iran shows (and Egypt nearly went there via the Brotherhood) where the theocracy later takes the wreckage and binds it too tight to change without a very bloody counter-revolution. That appears to be something the Iranians cannot make happen any more.

  23. Fred Furkenburger

    Ant #1261398, posted on April 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm. What you said plus!!

  24. sabrina

    With sectarian violence spreading and status of women not improving (actually becoming lower), was the invasion of Iraq worth it? It seems the country has gone more into the grips of Iran after spending billions of dollars of western money, and countless western lives.

  25. cohenite

    On another thread I linked to comments Waleed Aly, oft presented as the face of the fucking moderate muslim, had made about this great lady. I linked to a Bolt piece which castigated Aly; in fairness to Aly Crickey had a post defending Aly and relying on an abc interview Aly had made dealing with Ayaan Hirsi; here is the link.

    My take is that Aly is urbane and insidious. Islam is not a monolithic theology he says, bin laden was a radical with the implication he was not your typical muslim; and later Aly distinguishes Laden’s action with the Koran; Laden is radical not the koran. Listen to what he says about the Taliban cutting off the nose of the young wife and the Time cover. How slippery is this guy: he and the idiot interviewer; the war in Afghanistan is a security war not a war to protect women; the Time cover misrepresents the purpose of the war; Aly hates the cover; he says he hates the Taliban BUT the RAWA, the premier women’s association in did not want the war. Both then agree the issues are too complex to be reduced the way Ayaan does but to his credit the interviewer agrees with the cover of Time.

    The notion of islam not being monolithic is problematic; no doubt there are sectarian disputes within islam but the idea that sharia should prevail in the West is widespread within islam. This in fact is the first question which Aly should be asked; does he accept the primacy of the Western secular model’s laws over sharia?

  26. .

    Listen to what he says about the Taliban cutting off the nose of the young wife and the Time cover.

    Why does he get airtime on Channel Ten?

  27. cohenite

    Why does he get airtime on Channel Ten?

    Same reason vegemite is halal certified.

  28. cohenite

    Capitulation, appeasement, coporate cowardice, dhimmitude. You may be interested in Bendigo Bank.

  29. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    This in fact is the first question which Aly should be asked; does he accept the primacy of the Western secular model’s laws over sharia?

    The separation of Church and State is the primary feature of any religious Reformation. It has been hard won and would be sorely lost. Yes, ask him and his ilk to reject Sharia with regard to the State. Or leave.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a true heroine. Mutilated herself, but not mute. Mightily impressive as a person and as a feminist, unlike the intellectual and moral failures populating the Brandeis Chancellery.

  30. rickw

    With sectarian violence spreading and status of women not improving (actually becoming lower), was the invasion of Iraq worth it? It seems the country has gone more into the grips of Iran after spending billions of dollars of western money, and countless western lives.

    Iraq was worth it, the problem is that everyone keeps underestimating Iran and its role in dragging the whole middle east to hell. Iranians I know freely talk about the Revolutionary Guard bringing in potential combatants from the ME, training them and sending them back out to do their bidding and the bidding of radical Islam.

    Almost like WWII, after having done most of the job, we didn’t have the will or forsight to get back in the tanks and take things to a conclusion that would have brought much more stability. ie start with Iraq, finish with Iran (start with Europe, finish with Russia).

  31. cohenite

    The battle against islam is not so much against nation states; after all SA is supposed to be one of the good, moderate, muslim states. What a pack of deadshits they are.

  32. .

    cohenite
    #1262269, posted on April 12, 2014 at 11:33 am
    Capitulation, appeasement, coporate cowardice, dhimmitude. You may be interested in Bendigo Bank.

    I am. I will continue to own shares because they pay good dividends and are conservative with their capital.

    I don’t give a shit if they build a shrine to Nergal or Marduk. A regional bank is not going to pave some hysterical, hypothetical Caliphate invasion of Australia.

  33. Lochlinnie

    ldp, 1262573 posted on April 12, 2014 @ 5.55pm.

    Why hide your identities? If you are so proud of your ideas, come out in public. And just for the record, cohenite is 100% correct…………..you lot are 100% wrong since a regional bank in Bendigo HAS already laid the first paving stone in Bendigo for the hysterical Caliphate. They did this when they denied local citizens freedom to demonstrate against the Caliphate.

  34. cohenite

    They did this when they denied local citizens freedom to demonstrate against the Caliphate.

    Enjoy your blood money dot. Why don’t you have it halal certified and then you can eat it too.

  35. .

    I’m sure “cohenite” and “lochlinnie” are not real names.

    Sandhurst Trustees “blood money” stopping the communities from owning the protest. Hysterical.

  36. cohenite

    Sandhurst Trustees “blood money” stopping the communities from owning the protest.

    You’re becoming incoherent dot; I mean what does that even mean? Still, in supporting Bendigo and therein islam you are in the good company of shareholder activist and all round malcontent Stephen Mayne and the local legal aid solicitor.

  37. JohnA

    boyfromtottenham #1261262, posted on April 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Wishful thinking! The lady obviously hasn’t read “The God Delusion” by Prof Richard Dawkins, he of “The Selfish Gene” fame. In chapter 9 he explains how the US courts manage to give religious beliefs a special place in the law (or at least most judges’ thinking about how the law should be applied), one in which science, facts and logic are able to be safely ignored in favour of the religious and their strange beliefs. He goes on to talk about politicians having the same defect. With the judges and pollies agin you, no ain’t gonna win!

    LOL! You dare to trust Dawkins on religion? You need to check out The Dawkins Delusion

    One Review at Amazon

    “McGrath identifies Dawkins’ flawed arguments with surgical precision. McGrath spotlights Dawkins’ embarrassing biblical ignorance and exposes his religion-as-virus-of-the-mind theory as sociological naivete. This intelligent, yet accessible book is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject or for those with friends sucked under by the new current of atheist literature.”

    (New Man, November/December 2007)

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