When, this spring, Brandeis University reneged on its commencement invitation to human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it revealed the cravenness that characterizes many of America’s leading institutions of higher education. The decision of Yale’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program to invite Hirsi Ali to New Haven as part of its speaker series has exposed the same quality in many of that school’s students.
In an open letter sent to Buckley Program student leaders, members of 35 campus groups say they feel “highly disrespected” by the September 15 lecture “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West.” The letter, drafted by the Muslim Students Association, lays out their complaints. They are concerned that “Ms. Hirsi Ali is being invited to speak as an authority on Islam despite the fact that she does not hold the credentials to do so.” They accuse Hirsi Ali of “hate speech” and express outrage that she should “have such a platform in our home.” “We cannot overlook,” they write, “how marginalizing her presence will be to the Muslim community and how uncomfortable it will be for the community’s allies.”
Their remedy, of course, is censorship. The letters’ signees propose in Hirsi Ali’s stead, or alongside her, a speaker with “representative scholarly qualifications.” Presumably the Muslim Students Association would get to decide who has the appropriate “qualifications” to speak about Islam at Yale. As for the matter of potential “hate speech,” that can be easily avoided if Hirsi Ali will agree to “speak only to her personal experiences and professional expertise.”