After growing criticism, Brandeis University in Massachusetts canceled its plan to present an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fierce critic of Islam.
Hirsi Ali, also a women’s rights activist, has called the religion “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”
“We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement.
The decision came eight days after the university had announced that Hirsi Ali would be honored at its commencement ceremony on May 18.
Criticism of the plan to honor Hirsi Ali grew among a handful of bloggers, and was then picked up by a Brandeis student who started an online petition on Change.org. The petition garnered thousands of signatures, The New York Times reported.
The Council on American- Islamic Relations then encouraged its members to complain to the school, and sent a letter to the university president Frederick Lawrence, calling Hirsi Ali a “notorious Islamophobe.”
In its statement, Brandeis apologized for any offense caused, saying it was “not aware of” her statements on Islam.
Hirsi Ali is a is a Somali- born American woman who has spoken out against the practice of female genital mutilation – a procedure she underwent as a child – and about an arranged marriage she was almost forced into by her family. She later received political asylum in the Netherlands and was elected to the Dutch parliament. She is currently a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
She has visited Israel, made pro-Israel statements and criticized corruption in the Palestinian Authority.