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Brandeis students will screen Islam critic’s film

Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Shiho Fukada/Associated Press/file 2007

BOSTON (AP) — A student group at Brandeis University was to host a screening Wednesday night of a film produced by an advocate whom the school decided not to honor with a degree after concerns were raised about her comments on Islam.

The film, ‘‘Honor Diaries,’’ focuses on gender inequality and gender-based violence in majority-Muslim societies through the eyes of nine Muslim women as well as the activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Senior Daniel Mael, one of the students who organized the screening, said he wanted the documentary aired on the Waltham-based campus to show why Ali, a Somali-born women’s rights advocate, was scheduled to receive an honorary degree in the first place. Brandeis revoked the offer after concerns were raised about comments she'd made that were critical of Islam.


‘‘She was chosen as an outspoken defender of women’s rights and the university should be able to honor people on their individual work, which does not represent every thought or word that they uttered,’’ Mael said.

In a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine, Ali said of Islam: ‘‘Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.’’

Ali, who could not attend the screening because of a scheduling conflict, declined to comment.

Ali was raised in a Muslim family but renounced the faith in her 30s after surviving civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage.

For the screening, security was added and the showing was moved to an auditorium that holds 250 more people. The film has been screened at 50 other campuses, but no such security measures have been seen before, producer Alex Traiman said.

According to a spokeswoman for Brandeis, Ellen de Graffenreid, the school has not received any pushback on the event.


‘‘The university hosts dozens and dozens of events like this on campus and this screening is no different,’’ Graffenreid said. The president of the university, Frederick Lawrence, is planning to attend, something Graffenreid said is rare for this type of event.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for Council on American-Islamic Relations called the documentary ‘‘an anti-Islam propaganda film that is pushing a hate agenda.’’ But Hooper, who has not seen the film, said the group will not campaign against the screening.