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Apr 09, 2014 05:42 AM EDT

Brandeis Not To Honor Muslim Women for Being Critical of Islam

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Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts, has decided not to grant an honorary degree to a Muslim woman and a supporter of women's rights at its May 18 commencement ceremony for making critical comments on Islam.

Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006 and is a public figure. The university said that it admired and recognized her work to defend the rights of women and girls worldwide. However, Ali's earlier statements conflicting with Brandeis University's core values could not be ignored, said university officials in a statement, Tuesday.

The officials said that they were not aware of Ali's past statements.

Speaking about the religion in a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine, Ali said, "Once it's defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It's very difficult to even talk about peace now. They're not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there's no middle ground in wars," abc reports.

Ali, brought up in a conservative Muslim family, survived a civil war, genital mutilation and physical abuse.  

In a separate letter, more than 85 of 350 faculty members requested Brandeis to remove Ali's name from the list of honorary degree recipients. Meanwhile, students created an online petition Monday, seeking her removal from the list too and have gathered thousands of signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

"This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students," said senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition. "But it's not just the Muslim community that is upset but students and faculty of all religious beliefs. A university that prides itself on social justice and equality should not hold up someone who is an outright Islamophobic."

In a letter to Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence, Council on American-Islamic Relations' National Executive Director Nihad Awad said that presenting an award to an advocate of religious discrimination like Ali is similar to encouraging work of "white supremacists and anti-Semites."

"Granting her an honorary degree is unworthy of the American tradition of civil liberty and religious freedom represented by Justice Louis Brandeis and the great university that carries his name," Awad said in the letter, PR Newswire reports.

Thomas Doherty, chairman of American studies, declined to sign the faculty letter. He said that it would have been fantastic for the university to honor a strong believer in human freedom and women's rights.

© 2017 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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