A Georgetown University Islamic civilization professor’s lecture on slavery, asserting that it isn’t “morally evil to own somebody” and minimizing the need for sexual content from a spouse is bringing the school renewed criticism and scrutiny.
Jonathan Brown’s remarks came last week during a lecture at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), an organization Brown works closely with, and one that law enforcement has long suspected of being a Muslim Brotherhood front.
People obsess too much over the word “slavery,” Brown said, when what matters are the conditions, whether people were treated well or harshly.
In fact, “I don’t think you can talk about slavery in Islam until you realize that there is no such thing as slavery,” he said. “As a category, as a conceptual category that exists throughout state and time trans-historically, there’s no such thing as slavery.”
Brown is a Georgetown associate professor and the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service.
“Slavery cannot just be treated as a moral evil in and of itself,” he said, adding that “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. And this obsession of thinking of slavery as property – it’s treated as this inconceivable sin. I think that’s actually a really odd and unhelpful way to think about slavery and kind of gets you locked in this way of thinking where, if you talk about ownership and people, that you’ve already transgressed some moral boundary that you can’t come back from. But I don’t think that’s true at all.”
During a question and answer period, audience member Umar Lee pushed back at what he saw as Brown’s outrageous rationalization. Brown tried to shut him up by pointing out that Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, owned slaves.
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