Progressive media are generally approving and maybe even right that it’s not a question of censorship. But Ophelia Benson is right about the offensive and dishonest wording of the Brandeis announcement.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s courage in the face of unspeakable abuse and her resolution to protect others from the same thing may be marred by identifying the source of the abuse both too broadly (all of Islam) and too narrowly (not including similar tendencies in other religions). And she may well be wrong in other ways as well. But there isn’t an educated person on this planet who doesn’t know damned well that she reviles Islam and seeks its transformation by “defeat”.
I don’t know if I would ever offer her an honorary degree, but I hope that if I did I would never make the egregious claim that I hadn’t known her opinions when I made the offer.
It is, of course, ridiculous for any institution to claim that it only confers honours on those who are perfect in every respect. Almost every honoree will have some areas of weakness or of conflict with some aspect what the institution claims to stand for; but there are limits, so it is quite possible that a person who is supremely admirable in some aspects might be rejected because of failings in another. And it is even possible for some secret disqualifying aspect of an individual’s life to come to light after an offer has been made, so it is in principle not unreasonable for an offer to be withdrawn. But the negatively judged aspects of Ayaan Hirsi Ali have all been known to every educated adult on this planet for many years. So the claim that the withdrawal of their offer was due to the fact that “We cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values” and “we were not aware of these statements earlier” is total craven lying bullshit. Brandeis’ withdrawal of the offer (not withdrawal “of her name” as if she had decided against applying for something) was due to the fact that there was a public outcry and online petition which persuaded them that they would lose more by keeping their word than by withdrawing the offer. Probably just a money decision, pure and simple. Or maybe, at best, a change of heart on the basis of having underestimated the feelings of those who were offended by the offer. Either way, perhaps something which could be forgiven if acknowledged as such. But the attempt to weasel out of admitting and discussing the real reasons makes it all much worse.