That would have been the opening sentence to comment on such a lecture if we lived in normal times – which we don’t. The lecture in question actually created very little stir – neither at the university where he is employed nor elsewhere save for some very astute blogs (see here and here) deconstructing the professor’s astonishing breadth of obfuscation.
In a lecture (see below) at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (a Muslim-Brotherhood-linked group) and in subsequent questions and answers following his talk, Georgetown Islamic Studies professor Jonathan Brown, a convert to Islam, declares:
“It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.” He waxes poetic about the great life a slave has under sharia law (versus slavery under white men in the South) without actually defining that life. Perhaps, as Clarion Project has done, he should get his information from a Yazidi girl from Iraq.
Brown says slavery itself is not problematic, since the “the Prophet of God [Mohammed] had slaves … There’s no denying that. Was he—are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not.” Rather, “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.”
Brown mentions examples such as an employer and an employee, taking out a mortgage and even his own marriage, since his wife held certain rights over him. Somehow, the fact that one engages in these activities from his or her own free will and has the ability to terminate such relationships went over the professor’s head, or he chose to ignore them.
Brown tells his audience Islamic slavery was fundamentally better than slavery that was practiced in the U.S., since it was not racially motivated. How that makes it better is beyond my moral compass, but one can simply look at the well documented history of the Arab slave trade of Africans to dispute this.
Although many whites were enslaved by Arab Muslims as well, an estimated 10-20 million black Africans were enslaved between 650 and 1900 by Arab slave traders. Many of these slaves were forcibly castrated to serve as eunuchs that guarded the vast harems of female slaves belonging to the rulers. Black Muslim slaves still exist today, for example, in Mauritania and Sudan. Black people suffer discrimination in Saudi Arabia, where slavery was only abolished in 1962.
The racial slur abeed, meaning slaves in Arabic, is still widely used to describe black people. The professor then trots out academic moral relativism in two twisted points of erudition, saying:
“There is no such thing as slavery, as a category, as a conceptual category that exists throughout space and time trans-historically.”
“Slavery cannot just be treated as a moral evil in and of itself because slavery doesn’t mean anything.”
As for the permissibility of sex with a slave, Brown says, “Consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex” and goes on to dig at the overrated concept of autonomy over one’s own body, saying our society is “obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent.”
When asked if having nonconsensual sex with an enslaved woman – or any woman—is wrong, Brown asks if there is really any difference between a girl sold in a slave market in Istanbul and a poor baker’s daughter who marries a poor baker’s son out of lack of other options:
“[The girl’s owner in Istanbul] by the way, might treat her badly, might treat her incredibly well … that baker’s son might treat her well. He might treat her horribly. 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. It’s not a solution to the problem. I think it does help frame it.”
“Frame it” or not, there is a world of difference between the two situations and a simple answer that consent is not a relativistic concept when we are talking about a raping of women would have sufficed.
The fact that a college professor can get away with such apologetic views on such serious moral issues surrounding Islamic thought – issues that entire populations who have been taken over by Islamic State are facing with horrific consequences — is truly staggering. One can only imagine the response by the university if a professor of Christian thought had expounded such views about Christianity.