Yale University’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) along with other groups on campus signed a letter to the Buckley Foundation asking to dis-invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali born American political women’s right activist who speaks out against radical Islam, from speaking on campus next week. According to The Yale Daily News, Ali scheduled to give a lecture titled “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West” on September 15 as part of the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program speaker series. Ali, the daughter of a Somali politician and opposition leader, was previously dis-invited from speaking at Brandeis University after campus groups, including Muslim activists, urged the administration to cancel her speech. Hirsi Ali later wrote at the Wall Street Journal what she would have said at Brandeis.
Although The Yale Daily News says the MSA’s letter to the Buckley Foundation did not ask for the organization to dis-invite Hirsi Ali, Buckley Foundation president Rich Lizardo told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the MSA specifically attempted to get the foundation to withdraw its invitation to Hirsi Ali.
“In our meeting the [MSA] student representative, said she would like the Buckley Program to reconsider the invite to [Hirsi Ali]. She said it ‘would be really offensive to many people in my community and we would prefer if she didn’t come on to campus on to our home,'” Lizardo said. “So I immediately said that would be a non-starter for us.”
The Buckley program’s Executive Director Lauren Noble told Breitbart News the MSA provided another alternative, when the foundation made it clear it would not withdraw the invite. “The other alternative they proposed was to not permit her to speak about Islam or inviting another speaker the Muslim Student Association deems more representative and qualified to discuss the subject,” Noble said.
Lizardo says that there will be several members of the administration in the
audience as well as the chief of the Yale Police and the Assistant Chief
of the Yale Police. “We’re not anticipating disruptions but we’re hoping
that if people protest,” he noted, “they do it civilly and respectfully, following
the rules that Yale has, but we are taking extra precautions.”
“We have an ally who has moderated for us to in the past. He’s a professor here at Yale–Harvey Goldblatt. And he will be at the front of the room introducing Miss Hirsi Ali, while making sure that no disruptions occur.” Lizardo added, “I’ve met with members of the administration including the dean and they are fully ready to support us in terms of making sure the event goes smoothly.”
Below is an e-mail about Hirsi Ali’s upcoming speech the Yale MSA sent out on Wednesday. Hirsi Ali, who has publicly spoke and written about her life as a Muslim girl in East Africa, endured genital mutilation and her family’s attempts to force her into an arranged marriage. The email calls Hirsi Ali’s experiences as a child as “unfortunate circumstances.” :
To the Yale community, and to the Buckley program board and staff,
We write to express our concerns about the speaker that is coming to campus this September 15, 2014. The Buckley Foundation is inviting Ayaan Hirsi Ali to discuss the topic “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West.”
The level of radical inaccuracy in representing a faith that is part of our community compels all of us, not just Muslims on campus, to act on Yale’s fundamental values of freedom of speech and diversity of thought to express our sentiments.
We sympathize with the unfortunate circumstances that Ms. Hirsi Ali faced in her Muslim household as a child and we recognize that such experiences do exist in many countries, including Muslim-majority ones. We condemn such actions and contend that Islam does not promote them. It is important to distinguish Islamic teachings from the practices of some Muslims, which can be based on a variety of sociopolitical reasons and which do exist in other non-Muslim communities around the world.
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. In the past, under such authority, she has overlooked the complexity of sociopolitical issues in Muslim-majority countries and has purported that Islam promotes a number of violent and inhumane practices. At her worst, Ms. Hirsi Ali has said that Islam is a “destructive nihilistic cult of death” worshiping a “fire-breathing Allah” that, in all of its forms, needs to be “defeated.”
While the Muslim community and its allies cannot but believe that the students of the Buckley program care to “promote intellectual diversity” in a respectful and purposeful manner, we do want to reiterate that we feel highly disrespected by the invitation of this speaker. Moreover, it would be more beneficial for someone with representative scholarly qualifications to be speaking if the goal is “to foster open political discussion and intellectual engagement on campus.”
The comments Ms. Hirsi Ali has made on Islam have been classified as hate speech and have been considered unprotected libel and slander. She has been condemned for them by national organizations and universities. The Muslim community and its allies are disappointed that our own fellow Yalies would invite such a speaker knowingly and that she would have such a platform in our home.
While we have legitimate concerns from what we know, and while we cannot overlook how marginalizing her presence will be to the Muslim community and how uncomfortable it will be for the community’s allies, we are hopeful that the discussion is constructive and that Ms. Hirsi Ali speaks only to her personal experiences and professional expertise.
In advancing freedom of speech on campus, we are happy to work together, with the Buckley program and with others, to facilitate representative dialogue about Islam. We are also happy to engage anybody curious about why we feel this way. The Muslim community at Yale is vibrant and its doors are always open to those interested in learning more– not about a perceived clash of civilizations, but about Islam as something that represents a meaningful faith experience for a community of Yalies. We encourage you to reach out to the Coordinator of Muslim Life and to the Muslim Students Association to learn more about Muslim beliefs, practices, experiences, and events.
We welcome those interested in honest learning and productive dialogue to visit the musalla in Bingham D or to join us in our next Friday service and lunch at 1:00pm in Dwight Chapel.
The Women’s Center
Asian American Student Alliance (AASA)
Black Church at Yale (BCAY)
The Slifka Center
Council on Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)
Yale Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA)
Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship
Hindu Student Council (HSC)
St. Thomas More Undergraduate Council
Youth Evangelical Fellowship
The Arab Students Association (ASA)
Black Student Alliance (BSA)
Yale African Student Association (YASA)
Jews and Muslims at Yale (JAM)
Korean American Students at Yale (KASY)
South Asian Society (SAS)
Yale Friends of Turkey
Nepali Association of Yale-Undergraduate Affiliates (NAYA)
Yale Friends of Israel (YFI)
Japanese American Student Union (JASU)
Yalies for Pakistan
Students of Nigeria
Chinese American Student Association (CASA)
Albanian Students at Yale College
Dominican Student Association
Taiwanese American Society (TAS)
Women’s Leadership Initative (WLI)
Students for Syrian Relief
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)
Asian American Political Action and Education Committee (PAEC)
J Street U
and the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA)