Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Hillel Caves to Muslim Sensitivity

An Egyptian-born woman named Nonie Darwish was scheduled to speak at Brown University last week, at the invitation of Jewish group Hillel, about the appalling treatment of women in Islamic societies. Sadly, that event was cancelled because of pressure by the Muslim Student Association:

Muslim students had complained that Darwish was “too controversial.” They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.

Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel “Palestinian Solidarity Week.” But Hillel said her “offensive” statements about Islam “alarmed” the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn’t want to upset its “beautiful relationship” with the Muslim community.

The paper also notes that the Brown Women’s Center back out of co-sponsoring the debate as well. I think that was a very big mistake, and I think that Darwish’s message needs to be heard far and wide. As the daughter of an Egyptian commando who was assassinated by the Israeli Defense Forces, but who nonetheless founded a group called Arabs for Israel, she brings more than the usual share of historical and moral credibility to the table.

I find it inexplicably absurd that a women’s center would not want to sponsor an address about the treatment of women in Islamic nations. If radical Islam is not a major issue for women’s groups, what on earth could be? There is no more malevolent force for the oppression of women in the world than this twisted ideology. Millions of women are denied the most basic human rights all over the world as a result. If they cannot speak out against that, they have lost their voice and it’s their own fault.

I’ve written about this many times before, but I firmly believe that we must make the voices of women heard around the world on this issue. Many brave women have spoken out on this issue and it is our duty to listen to them and spread the word. Irshad Manji, Azar Nafisi, Asma Jehangir, Aayan Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani and Taslima Nasrin are just a few of the women who have led the way in demanding humanistic reform in Islam. In the long run, their efforts will do more than all the wars we can fight to bring Islam into the modern world.


  1. #1 Russell
    November 26, 2006

    Yep. It’s a shame that the west can’t unite on the notion that a push for women’s rights, from equal marriage and labor law to access to contraception and abortion, is the biggest wedge we have in liberating traditional, Muslim societies. Unfortunately, we are hampered in that by the traditional Christians in our own societies.

  2. #2 writerdd
    November 26, 2006


  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    November 26, 2006

    I don’t get why, if the universities don’t like the stereotype that they possess an anti-Israel bias, they seem so determined to perpetuate through actions like this. As someone who has been pretty critical of Israel, I’d have to say that actions like this are two edges sword. Not only do they run the risk of legitimizing the treatment of women in Muslim societies, they are also poised to further discredit those who criticize the tactics of Israel.

  4. #4 plunge
    November 26, 2006

    I’m getting really, really pissed off at all supposedly liberal arts universities where it seems harder and harder to invite speakers with viewpoints that any random group of the student body doesn’t like… and so therefore DON’T WANT TO BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK ON CAMPUS. Whether it be the nuts who rushed the minutemen, this, or countless other speakers who get protested and lobbied to stay away, no matter the political spectrum, it’s all the same BS.

    And worse, it points to the complete failure of the entire PURPOSE of the liberal arts educational philosophy! The whole POINT is that people can express views you don’t like, and what you do is you argue back (in the appropriate venues), and everyone is there voluntarily. Why aren’t these kids having that drilled into their heads as their educational ethic right from the start?

  5. #5 Alan B.
    November 26, 2006

    She has evidently been “re-invited.” See here and here.

  6. #6 kehrsam
    November 26, 2006

    Apparently the educational message is that no one should ever have to even think of the possibility that someone, somewhere, might hurt their feelings.

    This is of a piece with the guy who was insulted by Michael Richards threatening to sue. Rudeness is now a tort. But can it be inflicted negligently?

  7. #7 Raging Bee
    November 27, 2006

    From Alan B’s second citation:

    It was a difficult decision for the Hillel executive board, but one which, from their perspective, reflected a concern that being the sole sponsor of her visit would not be a prudent method of Israel advocacy.

    So letting someone criticize the treatment of women in Islamic societies is “Israel advocacy?” Can’t these academics get their issues straight?

    Of course, from Alan’s first citation, Brown is still apologizing for the fact that one of their founders owned slaves; so I don’t hold out much hope for that college.

  8. #8 Mobius
    December 3, 2006

    I’m friends with the immediate past president of Brown Hillel. He studied Arabic and volunteered with an anti-occupation NGO while living in Israel last summer. He’s a very sweet guy, and one of the brightest young Jewish leaders I find myself acquainted with.

    From what I would assume from my familiarity with his philo-Islamic perspective (one which I generally share), and in turn, what I would presume of his successor, is that they wanted to bring Nonie Darwish because they are feminists and progressives who adore people like Darwish for standing up against injustice — not because they want to slander Islam. However, having a Jewish org bring her to campus could, of course, give the wrong impression, whereas Jewish groups are, in some cases, leading the charge against Islam. They probably “caved” as you put it, because they would not want to give the impression that they support the anti-Islamic witchhunt currently taking place in the Jewish community.

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