A convert to Islam, Georgetown University
Islamic studies professor Jonathan AC Brown has come in for criticism following a talk he gave last week in which is sought to describe Islam’s views on concubinage, non-consensual sex, and slavery. He is that director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, and spoke on February 7 at the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Based in Virginia, Daily Caller says it has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
During his remarks, Brown said that Western society is “obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent.” He seemed to indicate that because Muhammad -- the founder of Islam -- was a slave owner, modern Muslims are justified in the practice. In answering a man, Brown said, “The Prophet of God had slaves. He had slaves. There’s no denying that.” He added, “Was he — are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not. I’ll answer your question for you.”
In a transcription offered by The Daily Banter, Brown said, “Slavery cannot just be treated as a moral evil in and of itself because slavery doesn’t mean anything. The moral evil is extreme forms of deprivation of rights and extreme forms of control and extreme forms of exploitation. I don’t think it’s morally evil to own somebody because we own lots of people all around us, and we’re owned by people.
“In general, you don’t find the brutality that you see in American slavery. As far as I can tell, generally it is simply not very common. Slaves in Islamic civilization were mostly investments,” he added.
White European slave woman branded by Muslim slavers, 1700s
Brown also went on to defend the practice of concubinage or polygamy as practiced in Islam. He appeared to say that a woman who is captured in a raid and sold into slavery is as free as a woman born into and married in poverty. “What’s the difference between someone who is captured in a raid in the steppes of Central Asia brought to Istanbul’s slave market, sold to an owner, who, by the way, might treat her badly, might treat her incredibly well. She’s going to bear him children. She’s going to be a free woman. She’s going to be the mother of his children.
“If he’s high status, she’s going to be high status. If he dies she might be a very desirable wife. That person’s situation? What’s the difference between that and some woman who’s a poor baker’s daughter who gets married to some baker’s son without any choice because no one expects her to have any choice? And that baker’s son might treat her well. He might treat her horribly.
Jonathan AC Brown
“The difference between these two people is not that big. We see it as enormous because we’re obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent, would be my first response,” Brown added.
Brown also offered a Muslim’s view as to consent to sex. “If you take away the consent element, then everyone starts flipping out,” Brown said, He added, “We fetishize the idea of autonomy to the extent that we forget, again who’s really free? Are we really autonomous people?”
Freelance writer Andrew Harrod, who has published at various websites, including Jihad Watch, has reported that Brown is married the daughter of Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida who was found guilty of providing material support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terror group.