The Wisconsin Union Directorate gave permission Wednesday night for the Distinguished Lecture Series to bring controversial anti-Islamic and feminist speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali to campus.
In her memoir, “Infidel,” Hirsi Ali spoke out against the Muslim religion and outlined some of the horrors she faced during her childhood in her devout Muslim family, including genital mutilation, DLS Director Reid Tice said.
Hirsi Ali escaped an arranged marriage and fled to the Netherlands, where she became a Dutch politician, Reid said.
Her short film titled “Submission,” a 10-minute movie about the treatment of women in traditional Muslim society, resulted in the murder of the movie’s director and death threats to Hirsi Ali by a Muslim extremist, according to Tice.
While the lecture should revolve around feminism rather than religion, Tice said the controversy surrounding Hirsi Ali would call for slightly heightened security measures.
“The lecture should not be controversial in itself,” Tice said.
There would be several police officers around Hirsi Ali at all times while she is on campus, said Tice.
Tice said the University of Wisconsin Police Department is investigating the situation and determining a security proposal for the event. Hirsi Ali has spoken at six other universities around the country without security issues.
Hoping to foster an open dialogue on campus, Tice said at the WUD meeting he had met with the leaders of the UW branch of the Muslim Student Association, who spoke for an hour on Hirsi Ali’s potential lecture.
At the presentation, MSA President Rashid Dar showed the DLS committee a 15-minute video highlighting some of the issues that came along with giving Hirsi Ali a prominent stage, Tice said.
“If she would have her way, everyone will leave the theater thinking Islam is evil,” Dar said.
Hirsi Ali’s argument that Islam provides the means for Muslims to oppress women promotes hatred, Dar said.
While he acknowledged his past involvement on the DLS committee, Dar felt DLS did not think the consequences of her arrival through.
In the wake of the attempted Christmas bombing of a Northwestern Airlines flight, Dar said people are more suspicious of Muslims in general. He said an example of this is the calls he receives a few times a week from Muslim students to be escorted on campus because they feel uncomfortable walking with a headscarf.
“We’re trying to be as open about this as possible. We don’t want to promote an agenda,” Tice said.
According to Tice, everything for Hirsi Ali to come to UW is ready to go, and she was waiting to have the confirmation to come to speak.
WUD approved Hirsi Ali to speak at Memorial Union Feb. 2.
“First and foremost, I trust the integrity of the DLS committee,” Said Patrick Tilley, vice president for project management at the union and a WUD voting member. “I liked how he opened up a discussion with the MSA. I think that was very pivotal in how I was persuaded. I think it’s just a different perspective.”