Yale’s turn


There’s the new chapter of the long-running serial “University invites Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak and then…Tune in next Thursday to find out what happens.” This time it’s Yale, and its William F. Buckley, Jr. Program.

Hemant brings us up to speed.

Her speech is titled “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West”

Sigh. That’s not a good start.

It’s a jumble of categories. “Islam” is not a “civilization” and neither is “the West.” Both categories are too big and sloppy to mean very much. If you’re going to be provocative, it helps to be careful with your terminology.

But the point is that there’s the usual fuss, only more so.

More than 35 groups — including, to my disappointment, the Yale Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics — have signed on to an open letter expressing their disappointment in the invitation. It goes beyond just a harmless scolding, though. The Buckley Foundation said a representative from the Muslim Students Association specifically called for them to rescind her invitation.

In doing that, they start by saying they totally sympathize with what nasty experiences she had with Islam, but hey, all that was just misunderstanding of Islam, which itself is limpidly perfect and without flaw.

Our concern is 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.

Now that is ridiculous. You don’t need “credentials” to say what your experience was under an oppressive system that oppressed you. Arguably in fact she does have “credentials,” in the same sort of way Maajid Nawaz does: like him, she was herself an Islamist for awhile, so she in fact does know what it’s like to believe in the most reactionary version of Islam.

The comments Ms. Hirsi Ali has made on Islam have been classified as hate speech and have been considered unprotected libel and slander.

By whom? By people who dislike what she has to say, no doubt. That tells us nothing. We know that Islamists love nothing better than to “classify” all criticism of Islam as hate speech, and to tell anyone who will listen that they “consider” such criticism unprotected libel and slander. That’s a very clueless and ignorant thing to say, by the way, since comments on Islam can’t possibly be any kind of libel and slander (and it’s one or the other, not both). There’s no such thing as libel of a religion in the US.

Now about the Yale AHA – I suppose its decision to join in that open letter is not unrelated to the fact that Chris Stedman is its chaplain. I’ve learned to see his point about a lot of things lately, but – if that is the case – I disagree with him on this one.

Comments

  1. chigau (違う) says

    If she had titled her talk “Why I Like Kitties” do you think the reaction would have been any different?
    I don’t.

  2. says

    I’m surprised at the Yale AHA. There’s a difference between an honorary degree (or graduation speech or guest professorship) and an invited talk at a university program. The latter is what happens at universities, and students can protest outside of talks of speakers whose views they oppose.* Additionally, it’s the fucking William F. Buckley, Jr. Program. Who the hell would they expect them to invite? Look at their list of past events – it’s a parade of reactionaries with reprehensible views. (His calling the National Review’s editorial “excellent” and quoting “…[T]he purpose of education is precisely to discomfit and discompose…. Even the most enthusiastic Ivy League shill should know that spending $55K a year to have one’s presuppositions obsequiously endorsed is a waste” is pretty funny, considering that this program is purely an exercise in conservative indoctrination.)

    * Mehta’s patronizing remark about how he thinks the students opposing the talk should go and listen is irritating – it assumes that those students don’t already have ample knowledge about her views, which is unlikely.

  3. Omar Puhleez says

    .
    “Her speech is titled ‘Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West’
    “Sigh. That’s not a good start.
    “It’s a jumble of categories. ‘Islam’ is not a ‘civilization’ and neither is “the West.” Both categories are too big and sloppy to mean very much. If you’re going to be provocative, it helps to be careful with your terminology.”
    .
    Yes, but they are useful categories, and I would guess that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is following Samuel P Huntington there. In ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order’, he divided the world into nine such categories: Western, Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese.
    I dare say Islamic scholars and Islamic fundamentalists would divide the world in perhaps separate ways. But categories are essential in thought and discourse, and the similarities of the ways of thinking of the people in the ‘Islamic civilization’ category (which covers countries stretching in an arc from East Africa to Indonesia, and includes Saharan Africa and much of Central Asia) is I think a good one for many purposes. For example, one knows what to expect (high probability) and likewise what not to (low probability) in the behaviour and expectations of a person if one knows which of Huntingdon’s ‘civilizations’ they are from, than say, from what educational qualifications they may have and from where..

  4. eddiejones says

    ‘Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West’

    If this were the 11th century those would be useful categories, not so much now.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    Hirsi Ali’s position is horribly complicated by the red-diaper left’s relentless hatred of Israel, and their willingness to ally themselves with ANYONE who wants to destroy the Israeli state, or just kill Jews recreationally.

    One cannot face this kind of twisted political/moral mess without finding oneself ‘allied’ to people you wouldn’t share a cup with. Ibn Warraq has written quite a bit on the topic. About finding himself, an atheist humanist progressive, cited by far-right Xian fundies because he gives them ammunition against Islam. Warraq also describes Islamists reading Russel’s ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ while oblivious to the fact that Russel’s work is as much against THEIR religion as Jerry Fallwell’s.

    Ali has practically been driven into the arms of the American Right, because the left would not support her at the risk of ‘offending’ the holy-sacred-lily-pure Muslims.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Sounds like the William F. Buckley, Jr., Program would do better to accept that Hirsi Ali won’t get in and invite johnthedrunkard to deliver a substitute harangue.

  7. Omar Puhleez says

    Pierce:
    .
    “Ali has practically been driven into the arms of the American Right, because the left would not support her at the risk of ‘offending’ the holy-sacred-lily-pure Muslims.”
    .
    I think that johnthedrunk is right there. The trap a large hunk of the western left fell into was the assumption that the enemy of my enemy is necessarily my friend.
    Not so.
    That created what Hitchens rightly and very usefully termed the ‘Pro-totalitarian.Left.’ On that basis, I think they would have been welcomed into the court of Genghis Khan – for as long as the latter was happy to have them.
    ‘Useful idiots’ I believe is the term of currency in such circles.

  8. Folie Deuce says

    Ophelia, thank you for getting free speech right. So many others have gotten this wrong. The Yale Women’s Center, the Slifka Center (Yale’s hub for Jewish life), the Black Student Alliance, and Yale Students for Israel were among the 35 groups signing the MSA’s petition. Many in the atheist and skeptic community have also sided with the MSA. It was a depressing few days seeing the National Review get free speech right and so many (so called) liberals getting it wrong.

  9. Folie Deuce says

    Regarding Hirsi Ali’s alleged “right wing” views. So what? Why do people expect uniformity of thought on all issues? And why do people expect that every issue breaks down neatly into right/left categories. Hirsi Ali is a complex character. My own take on her is that her diagnosis of the problem is accurate but her proposed solutions are often wacky and sometimes dangerous. But I still learn something from her every time I read or work or watch one of her speeches.

  10. says

    Steve Rendall at FAIR:

    Buckley’s career began in 1951 with the publication of God and Man at Yale,* an attack on his alma mater that urged the firing of professors whom he felt were insufficiently hostile to socialism and atheism. Despite this early assault on academic freedom, Buckley in later years routinely took offense at what he saw as liberal “political correctness”…

    During the Civil Rights Era, Buckley made a name for himself as a promoter of white supremacy. National Review, which he founded in 1955, championed violent racist regimes in the American South and South Africa.

    A 1957 editorial written by Buckley, “Why the South Must Prevail” (National Review, 8/24/57), cited the “cultural superiority of white over Negro” in explaining why whites were “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where [they do] not predominate numerically.” Appearing on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1989 (rebroadcast 2/28/08), he stood by the passage. “Well, I think that’s absolutely correct,” Buckley told host Terry Gross when she read it back to him.

    A 1960 National Review editorial supported South Africa’s white minority rule (4/23/60): “The whites are entitled, we believe, to preeminence in South Africa.” In a 1961 National Review column about colonialism—which the magazine once called “that brilliantly conceived structure” (William F. Buckley, John Judis)–Buckley explained that “black Africans” left alone “tend to revert to savagery.” The same year, in a speech to the group Young Americans for Freedom, Buckley called citizens of the Congo “semi-savages” (National Review, 9/9/61).

    National Review editors condemned the 1963 bombing of a black Birmingham Church that killed four children, but because it “set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically,” the editors wondered “whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur—of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro” (Chicago Reader, 8/26/05)…

    (There’s a lot more.)

    Another service provided by the program is that it tries to teach the Future Far-right of America how to translate statements like this (from a comment at The Friendly Atheist)

    If she is calling for violence against Islam she is correct in doing so. They are a virus turning into a pandemic, and we need to eradicate that virus using any means necessary for the sake of the future of our species. If you cannot see that, it’s like they say about the weather, wait, and you will.

    into language befitting a Yale graduate.

    *The Program recently had a symposium about it. The book’s subtitle was “The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom’.”

  11. says

    This site has the text of “Why the South Must Prevail.” The FAIR quote in context:

    The central question that emerges–and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal–is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced [r]ace. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes’, and intends to assert its own.

    National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.

  12. says

    I can’t resist. A quote from God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”:

    [Professor Greene’s] reaction to GAMAY, as published in the Yale Daily News, fairly took one’s breath away. He fondled the word “fascist” as though he had come up with a Dead Sea Scroll vouchsafing the key word to the understanding of God and Man at Yale….

    What survives, from such stuff as this, is ne-plus-ultra relativism, idiot nihlism. “What is required,” Professor Greene spoke, “is more, not less tolerance–not the tolerance of indifference, but the tolerance of honest respect for divergent convictions and the determination of all that such divergent opinions be heard without administrative censorship. I try my best in the classroom to expound and defend my faith, when it is relevant, as honestly and persuasively as I can. But I can do so only because many of my colleagues are expounding and defending their contrasting faiths, or skepticisms, as openly and honestly as I am mine.”

    A professor of philosophy! Question: What is the 1) ethical, 2) philosophical, or 3) epistemological argument for requiring continued tolerance of ideas whose discrediting it is the purpose of education to effect? What ethical code (in the Bible? in Plato? Kant? Hume?) requires “honest respect” for any divergent conviction?

  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    Omar Puhleez @ # 9: Ali has practically been driven into the arms of the American Right, because the left would not support her at the risk of ‘offending’ the holy-sacred-lily-pure Muslims.”

    I think that johnthedrunk is right there.

    I have some doubts. I don’t know Hirsi Ali’s story that well (I have, but have not read, her autobiography), but it seems to me her politics gelled during her Netherlands stay. That “let extremist Muslims be extremist Muslims” mindset doesn’t show up much in my experience of the US left (but then I hang with, and read, a decidedly feminist subset). However the doors to the AEI/Niall Ferguson/Henry Kissinger clique opened for her, failure to harmonize with “the left” (meaning Jill Stein? Ramsey Clark? Ralph Nader? Hillary Clinton?!?) wouldn’t do much to facilitate that.

    The “pro-totalitarian left” was invented, sfaik, by V.I. Lenin & his European predecessors, who handled “enemy of my enemy” situations with more fluidity and finesse than anyone of any faction I can think of in the US (or, apparently, the modern EuroLeft). Lenin did not, however well he may have used the concept, invent the term useful idiots.

    Genghis Khan did famously invite representatives of all the major western (including Islam, as seen from central Asia) creeds to visit his court and make their best cases. He then went out for a nice ride, and reaffirmed his ancestral commitment to The Eternal Blue Sky (yes, that is how GK’s biographers translate the focus of traditional Mongol religion).

    Hirsi Ali, meanwhile, has heartily endorsed, e.g., Netanyahu’s recent flagrant atrocities against Gaza. I for one would feel quite disappointed if such nastiness failed to elicit a strong vocal backlash against her public appearances in high-level academic venues.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    Apologies for html fail in my # 16 – the first two ‘grafs came from Omar P, blame me for the rest.

  15. Decker says

    We can’t have uppity black women negating the ‘progressive’ ideology of liberal whites, can we?

    Our universities are becoming closed shops where only one product can be churned out.

    Regarding Hirsi Ali’s alleged “right wing” views. So what? Why do people expect uniformity of thought on all issues?

    Yes exactly. Universities should be challenging people, they should be making students feel somewhat uncomfortable about just about every assumption they make.

    That said, is AHA really that ‘right wing’?

    Isn’t it the role of The Left/Progressives to denounce right wing misogyny, homophobia, anti-semitism etc no matter where it is found?

    And if the sources of those evils are to be increasingly found within Islam, then what’s wrong with criticizing it?

    We fear associating criticism of Islam with racism because the majority of Muslims are non-white.

    Yet more than 80 % of Christianity’s adherents are non-white and no one has ever associated criticism of Christianity with racism.

    Hirsi Ali, meanwhile, has heartily endorsed, e.g., Netanyahu’s recent flagrant atrocities against Gaza.

    I’ve encountered a number of apostate Muslims who’ve endorsed Israel’s recent action in Gaza. I asked them very pointed question on the subject

    Now what do they know that we don’t know?

    http://english.alarabiya.net/en/webtv/reports/2014/09/14/Horrific-video-shows-teacher-caning-beating-pupil-at-Jeddah-mosque.html

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Decker @ # 18: … apostate Muslims who’ve endorsed Israel’s recent action in Gaza. … Now what do they know that we don’t know?

    As W.H. Auden wrote before WWII – Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.

    We would do better to break the cycle than to take sides in it.

  17. Omar Puhleez says

    Pierce:
    As far as I am aware, Hitchens brought forward the dichotomy Pro-Totalitarian Left/Anti-Totalitarian Left. I find it very useful when talking about the western Left’s softness on criticism of Islam as a political doctrine. Again, the identity of whoever coined the term ‘useful idiot’: it may have been Lenin, but in any case is of academic interest only. The concept is more important.
    .
    The following, from a review of Karima Bennoune’s ‘Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here’ frames it well IMHO:
    .
    “It would be premature to imagine the Western right and the Arab left coming together the way that the Western left and the Islamists have. And yet it’s not inconceivable. The liberal split over Communism transformed the landscape of American politics. A split over Islam on the left could have equally serious political consequences.

    “The Western left has ostracized liberal critics of Islam as thoroughly as it once suppressed liberal critics of the USSR. The treatment meted out to Richard Dawkins shows that even for its notables, criticism of Islam is a red line that may not be crossed. Those politically correct fatwas from the ayatollahs of Georgetown and the London School of Economics carry far more force than most Muslim fatwas.

    “Karima Bennoune’s Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here not only challenges the fatwas of Islam, but also the politically correct fatwas of the Western left”.
    .
    .
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/western-leftists-fatwa-against-muslim-liberals/

  18. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    the Yale Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics…Chris Stedman is its chaplain.

    Isn’t there something absurd in an organisation of atheists, humanists and agnostics calling one of their officials a chaplain at all?

  19. Leon says


    Hirsi Ali’s position is horribly complicated by the red-diaper left’s relentless hatred of Israel, and their willingness to ally themselves with ANYONE who wants to destroy the Israeli state, or just kill Jews recreationally.


    O.K. Thanks for making it so clear what I should think of you.

    That being said, I’d still like to address some recurring sentiments.


    Ali has practically been driven into the arms of the American Right, because the left would not support her at the risk of ‘offending’ the holy-sacred-lily-pure Muslims.”


    That is 100 percent unadulterated bullshit.

    One. You might care to consider where Hirsi Ali came from — she swapped the left for the right in the Netherlands, and was a fellow traveler of Geert Wilders. Not a noted left-wing icon. Hirsi Ali wasn’t driven anywhere by anyone. She went where she wanted to go.

    Two. How is it fashionable to tell people that if they’re not a fellow traveler with the xenophobic right, they’re somehow an enabler of terrorism? It seems to me that those are very different things.

  20. Omar Puhleez says

    Leon:
    “That is 100 percent unadulterated bullshit.
    “One. You might care to consider where Hirsi Ali came from — she swapped the left for the right in the Netherlands, and was a fellow traveler of Geert Wilders. Not a noted left-wing icon. Hirsi “Ali wasn’t driven anywhere by anyone. She went where she wanted to go.”

    That strikes me as ~90% (adulterated; purity unrreliable) bullshit in its own right.
    ..
    As I recall it, the pro-to left were repelled by her ‘Islamophobia’ and would have nothing to do with her. Only the political right offered Ali protection against the Islamists making death threats against her, after the latter made their point by murdering the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh and pinning a note threatening to kill Ali to his body with a knife.
    IMHO ‘Islamophobia’ is a qualification to be worn with pride.
    .
    .
    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304512504579493410287663906
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_van_Gogh_(film_director)

  21. Leon says

    Omar Puhleez wrote:

    As I recall it, the pro-to left were repelled by her ‘Islamophobia’ and would have nothing to do with her. Only the political right offered Ali protection against the Islamists making death threats against her, after the latter made their point by murdering the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh and pinning a note threatening to kill Ali to his body with a knife.


    Your recollection is mistaken. She started her career in politics with the think tank associated with Dutch version of social democratic party. They saw a bright future for her, and her thoughts about and criticisms of islam were very much part of that. She surprised everyone when she became an mp for a right wing party. This was a few years before Theo van Gogh’s murder, and Hirsi Ali was never short of friends on the left before or after that for as long as she was in the Netherlands. While Geert Wilders received rather a lot of harsh criticism for the way he spoke about muslems and islam, Hirsi Ali did not. Her protection was provided by the Dutch government (even after she moved to the US) and was utterly uncontroversial (both for her and for Geert Wilders).

    BTW, being dutch, I am very familiar with Hirsi Ali’s history, and with Theo van Gogh. That wikipedia article is both terrible and terribly incomplete.

  22. Omar Puhleez says

    Leon:
    “She surprised everyone when she became an mp for a right wing party. This was a few years before Theo van Gogh’s murder, and Hirsi Ali was never short of friends on the left before or after that for as long as she was in the Netherlands.”
    .
    Wilders as I understand it was reacting to what he regarded as excessive Muslim immigration into the Netherlands, and particularly their push for Sharia Law.
    .
    Specifically, what sins has Ali committed in your view? Also Wilders? If the Wp article is so bad (I hold no brief for it either way) then perhaps you could enlighten me on this. Also what is wrong with what I quoted @#20:

    ““The Western left has ostracized liberal critics of Islam as thoroughly as it once suppressed liberal critics of the USSR. The treatment meted out to Richard Dawkins shows that even for its notables, criticism of Islam is a red line that may not be crossed. Those politically correct fatwas from the ayatollahs of Georgetown and the London School of Economics carry far more force than most Muslim fatwas.”

  23. Pierce R. Butler says

    Omar Puhleez @ # 20: As far as I am aware, Hitchens brought forward the dichotomy Pro-Totalitarian Left/Anti-Totalitarian Left.

    Dunno what you mean by “brought forward”, but such questions have provided debate fodder on the left for generations. See history of the Communist Party USA, Stalin era, for a sample.

    … the western Left’s softness on criticism of Islam …

    The Euro-left seems to have some problems there, but I haven’t seen much of this in USAstan.

    And, speaking personally, citations from Front Page do as much for your credibility as if you started spouting Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter. The distortions implicit in your quotation’s misrepresentation of criticism of Richard Dawkins from the left illustrate my point quite clearly, at least for anyone at all familiar with the actual complaints about Dawkins (as seen at FtB, for example).

  24. Omar Puhleez says

    Pierce:
    “Dunno what you mean by “brought forward”, but such questions have provided debate fodder on the left for generations. See history of the Communist Party USA, Stalin era, for a sample.”
    .
    I have served a political apprenticeship in what I regard to this day as a most honourable and sophisticated left organisation: the Fourth International (Australian Section). On such matters I am not exactly green. But ‘totalitarianism’ was in my experience a term (of abuse) used by the Catholic right [ha ha] against the communist left, particularly re the communist regimes in the Cold War context.
    .
    Hitchens I think revived it in a novel way, distinguishing between the pro-totalitarian left, which had looked for an alliance with Islamic fascism, and the anti-totalitarian left, which had not. This sort of thinking led the protote left to support Saddam Hussein against the CoW and the smaller antitote left in Gulf War 2. Hitchens supplied a distinct voice of principle and reason in that context.

  25. Leon says

    Omar Puhleez wrote:

    Wilders as I understand it was reacting to what he regarded as excessive Muslim immigration into the Netherlands, and particularly their push for Sharia Law.


    As far as Wilders is concerned, one muslem immigrant is too many. There is no push for shariah law in the Netherlands. None.

    Part of the right wing likes to invoke shariah law every chance they get, but it’s just meaningless scare tactics.

    Specifically, what sins has Ali committed in your view?

    I did not accuse her of committing any sins, metaphorically or otherwise. I did say she’s with the right wing because its where she wants to be, not because the left forced her.

    Also Wilders?

    I didn’t accuse him of anything either — I just referenced him as someone who has more controversial views on islam. That said, here are some details about him. He’s a xenophobe (submitted questions for the secretary of the interior: Do you share in the opinion that it is utterly undesirable that Amsterdam counts 177 nationalities, even more than the melting pot of New York (150)? If yes, will you take action? if no, why not?, for example) and climate science denier. He’s also ideologically flexible enough to form an alliance with the Front National. Just to be clear, a man who says defending Israel should be the number one priority of our foreign policy is allied with anti-semites.

  26. Leon says

    I said:

    submitted questions for the secretary of the interior

    That should be secretary of security and justice.

  27. Leon says

    Pierce R. Butler wrote:

    The Euro-left seems to have some problems there, but I haven’t seen much of this in USAstan.


    I think the difference mainly stems from the fact that there is a much larger (as well as different) population of muslems in Europe, requiring a more nuanced response to both extremist muslems and far right xenophobia. It also leads to very different discussions, e.g. about headscarves, education, etc. that don’t much apply to the US. There is no question that some organisations sometimes go too far in accommodating conservative muslems, but as a whole I don’t think the situation is really worse than it is in the US.

    The problems that exist with immigrant youth primarily should really be seen as separate from that, although there is still some overlap, e.g. extremists recruiting people to fight for ISIL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *