A Slap in Which Face?

ayaan hirsi aliHave you followed the controversy at Bandeis University over its invitation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the former Dutch parliamentarian and outspoken critic of, for example, what she sees as the mistreatment of women in Islam or Islam’s role in Europe) to receive an honorary degree this year?

Well, the university has rescinded its offer. Read its statement here.

Given that some posts on the Edge are about the (always ironic and usually undisclosed) manner in which a sense of inclusion can only be reached by excluding the views of some others (a point I made in the closing to a post just yesterday), this story stood out for me.

For example, consider the following two quotes (read the whole news article here), by a Brandeis student and faculty member, that each aim to champion the very same thing (i.e., social justice and inclusion) yet which are each opposed to the other’s sense of what counts as inclusion and social justice:

an article about Muslim students being disrespectedAnd this ambiguous “agreement on the general yet profound disagreement on particulars” is what is often missed by those involved in such disputes. For it’s not an issue of social justice or no social justice (for, as Craig Martin recently noted, all societies are pluralistic…, but not in the same way), but, instead, it’s all about the interests and scale of values of those who are in a position to define what gets to count as justice and which situations attract our attention as being in need of addressing.

All of which makes the Brandeis episode interesting to study — a moment where competing senses of justice and inclusion butted heads…, and one blinked.

2 Replies to “A Slap in Which Face?”

  1. There’s that word again: “islamophobe.” It’s sort of like “terrorist”: an amorphous, poorly-theorized word used to great (frightening?) effect by one side to demonize their critics and obstruct civil discourse.

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