Women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Monday urged Muslims to reject the violence and intolerance of radical Islam in a talk for more than 300 attendees at Yale University, the Yale Daily News reports.
Hirsi Ali’s speech was not without controversy. The Muslim Students Association (MSA) at Yale sent a letter to students last week questioning her lack of academic credentials and allegedly anti-Islamic beliefs. Hirsi Ali, born in Somalia, was raised in a society that practiced female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
She spoke about the process of Muslim "indoctrination" during her youth:
When she was 15, Hirsi Ali said she encountered a different kind of religious teacher—whom she referred to as a "Preacher Teacher"—who encouraged youths to enforce the religious duty of Islam and wage jihad against those who did not obey. Witnessing this process of "indoctrination," she said, makes her statements relevant to Islam today.
Hirsi Ali added that this "indoctrination" is at the source of radical Islam and leads to intolerance and violence. Therefore, she said, in order to fight the symptoms of radical Islam, the "core creed" of Islam—the Qur’an and hadith—must be reformed. Hirsi Ali called on Muslims to listen to their consciences and stand up to Allah, rather than bending to his will. […]
The MSA’s campus-wide letter last week announced the group’s worries over Hirsi Ali’s talk and brought attention to her history of anti-Islamic statements.
Hirsi Ali directly addressed the MSA during her speech, asking why the organization took the time and resources to "silence the reformers and dissidents of Islam," including herself, rather than fighting against the violence, intolerance and indoctrination Hirsi Ali associates with Islam.
"MSA students of Yale, you live at a time when Muslims are at a crossroads," she said. "The Muslim world is on fire…With every atrocity [they underscore] your commitment to Allah…Will you submit passively or actively, or will you finally stand up to Allah?"
Defenders of Hirsi Ali criticized Brandeis University in April for rescinding its invitation for her to speak at the school’s commencement ceremony. More than 80 Brandeis faculty members demanded her withdrawal in a letter to the school’s president. They called her a "divisive individual" who had made "virulently anti-Muslim public statements."
The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program sponsored Hirsi Ali’s speech at Yale. Program President Rich Lizardo said she was "insightful, eloquent, and elegant" and called the talk a victory for free speech and intellectual diversity at Yale.