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One of the most fascinating, if problematic, recent incidents relating to the extent of allowable free speech in the United States took place this week when Brandeis University withdrew an invitation to the Somali-Dutch-American anti-Islamic firebrand Ayaan Hirsi Ali to give a speech and receive an honorary degree.I applaud the decision to withdraw the invitation, because Hirsi Ali's wild and mostly false criticisms of the Islamic faith should not be honored with a degree from a quality university such as Brandeis.The problem with this kind of hate talk, especially in societies such as American society where anger against Islam and Muslims is high due to the Sept. 11, 2011 and other attacks, is that it creates an environment in which all Muslims become permissible targets of violent racists and hatemongers; then it becomes acceptable to talk about other groups – such as the Chinese, Jews, Italians or Hispanics – in the same manner.The problem in Brandeis' case was that the university extended the invitation before knowing enough about Hirsi Ali's vocation of anti-Islamic hate-mongering and intellectual hooliganism. Hirsi Ali drew attention initially because she was an entertainer whose product is hate and venom, in a wounded American society that will accept almost any criticism of Islam or Muslims in its elusive quest to understand why it was attacked by a handful of Muslim terrorists among a world of 1.4 billion nonviolent Muslims.
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