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Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks out on Brandeis decision to withdraw degree

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a staunch critic of Islam and its treatment of women who was supposed to receive an honorary degree from Brandeis University only to have it withdrawn amid criticism of her political positions, told Megyn Kelly Wednesday that she wasn't surpised by the school's decision.

"Everytime I say, 'hey, it's important that we talk about this' ... you have people like (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) who deny this," Ali said on "The Kelly File." "This should be addressed."

Ali said she wasn't surprised that the degree was rescinded, though she said she was surprised it was offered in the first place.

"I'm used to it," Ali said. "What surprised me is the decision by Brandeis, first to say we want to give you this honor, we know what you do. In the age of Google, all of this is out there, it's all public."

She went on to speculate that the decision was motivated in part by a fear of offending Muslims.

"There's always this fear that if you insult Muslims, there's going to be some kind of violent reprecussion," she said. "They're not doing their students any favors, and they're not doing their Muslim students any favors."

However, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, told Kelly on Wednesday that the organization believed Ali showed bias against Muslims in general, not just radical Islam.

"When a prestigious university like Brandeis is about to honor her and endorse her views, that's when we speak out," he said.

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion, "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 was raised in a strict Muslim family, but after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage, she renounced the faith in her 30s. She has not commented publicly on the issue of the honorary degree.

In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls. This includes control of their own bodies, access to an education and the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, the website says.

More than 85 of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter asking for Ali to be removed from the list of honorary degree recipients. And an online petition created Monday by students at the school of 5,800 had gathered thousands of signatures from inside and outside the university as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.