- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - A student group at Brandeis University hosted a screening of a film produced by a women’s rights advocate the university 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 and the activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Senior Daniel Mael, who helped to organize Wednesday’s screening, said the event drew about 100 people from around Greater Boston including the president of the university, Frederick Lawrence.

“The film sparked an open and informative dialogue,” Mael said, adding that showing this documentary helped restore Brandeis‘ commitment to human rights.

Mael said he wanted to bring the film to the Waltham-based campus to show why Ali, who was born in Somalia, was scheduled to receive an honorary degree in the first place.

“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 after surviving civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage.

Security was added for the screening, which 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.

Brandeis did not receive any pushback on the event, university spokeswoman Ellen de Graffenreid said.

“The university hosts dozens and dozens of events like this on campus, and this screening is no different,” she said.

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 but has watched excerpts, said the group did not campaign against the screening.