Last week, I wrote, together with Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim chaplain of Duke University, an article on The Times of Israel that attracted considerable debate. We wrote supporting the decision of Brandeis University to rescind awarding an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born women’s rights activist. The Brandeis administration reached its decision after becoming aware of the fact that Ali had not only criticized Islamism but Islam itself – calling Islam an enemy against which war must be waged.
The central argument of the piece was that both Muslims and Jews need to stop demeaning the other community by promoting and even honoring each other’s renegades. Imam Abdullah and I defined a renegade as someone who damns his or her community, as opposed to a dissident who seeks to change aspects of that community.
I agree with my critics that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is courageous and does admirable work. But our argument was not about Ali’s character or her work. Neither was it about Ali’s freedom of speech. Brandeis has made clear that she is welcome to speak on campus. Everyone is entitled to be heard; no one is entitled to an honorary degree.
Our question to both our faith communities is this: How can we begin to heal our increasingly pathological relationship? One answer, we believe, is that Muslim and Jewish institutions must show restraint in celebrating those who characterize the other as evil.
The point of our article was not to draw a symmetry between those Muslims and Jews who repudiate their own communities. Rather, the symmetry we did draw was in the need for both of our communities to refrain from promoting, let alone honoring, those who demonize the other.Hold it there, cowboy. Remove the demonization stuff from the Koran and the Hadith and you leave some pretty gaping holes in those texts, ones big enough to drive a caravan through.
But I guess you and the imam, unlike Ms. Hirsi Ali, would prefer to paper over that truth for the sake of "reimagining" Jewish-Muslim relations. (Some call it "reimagining." I call it resisting reality for the sake of vapid interfaith feel-goodism.)