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Freedom to Offend Everyone
by Nesrine Malik
The defense of free speech often hides a multitude of sins. Since Brandeis University withdrew an honor it had intended to bestow on the author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, many have flocked to her defense in the name of free expression — no matter how offensive. But implicitly they are suggesting that Islam and Muslims are worthy targets of Ms. Hirsi Ali's scorn. And their preciousness about the right to offend won't be credible until they advocate extending it beyond Islamophobes — to racists, anti-Semites and homophobes, too.
Ms. Hirsi Ali is no casual critic of Islam; she has built a career and brand railing against what she calls "a destructive, nihilistic cult of death." She has even come perilously close to justifying the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, whose killing spree, according to her, was a last recourse because he felt he had been "censored" by "advocates of silence" — a nebulous group that she insists promotes a dangerous mix of multiculturalism and tolerance of Islam.
Brandeis stated that her planned address didn't share the "university's core values" and rescinded an honorary degree; the university's volte face may have been clumsy, but it wasn't censorship. In the eyes of Ms. Hirsi Ali's supporters, however, Brandeis was "kowtowing to the Muslim hordes" and giving in to the pressure of Arab money.
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