Islamic slavery defender is still at it — and he’s got allies

Jonathan A. C. Brown

He’s at it again. In March, we met Jonathan A. C. Brown, a Muslim convert and current head of Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – which is, in effect, a fully paid-for propaganda arm of the Saudi royal family. Our story focused on a February 7 lecture by Brown entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery.” It was a masterpiece of evasion, euphemism, exculpation, and prevarication. Brown pulled out all the stops in his effort to defend and normalize slavery under Islam.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

For example, Muslim masters treat their slaves well – often better than their own sons! A slave in a rich Arab household is better off than a member of an Arizona chain gang! Some slaves in the Ottoman Empire actually lived well, wielded power, and enjoyed respect! He claimed (providing no evidence) that Muslim slavery has never been “racialized” and that it’s “kinder and gentler” than antebellum slavery in the U.S. South. Besides, calling a slave a slave is really incorrect, because slaves do get paid in the form of food, clothing, and shelter! Anyway, what does “slave” really mean? What do we mean when we speak of one person “owning” another? Isn’t it all relative? Aren’t we all part of a complex network in which each of us has power over others and others have power over us?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

It was a breathtaking display, a stunning defense of the indefensible. And it stunned some members of his audience. During the Q & A, Brown out did himself, stating explicitly: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.” He compared slavery to regular employment and to marriage. (He had a point: under Islam, marriage is ownership.) Brown even said it was O.K. for slave owners to rape their slaves. “Consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex,” he maintained, explaining that “consent is a modern Western concept.”

Looking into Brown’s background, we uncovered other, equally interesting statements by him. In one lecture, for example, he defended Muhammed’s marriage to a six-year-old girl, dismissing concerns about it as ridiculous – back in those days, he insisted, “everyone” married children. Asked in 2015 by Variety, the showbiz publication, to provide an Islamic perspective on same-sex marriage, Brown served up a masterwork of doubletalk, doing his best to avoid stating the plain and simple fact that his religion isn’t just opposed to same-sex marriage – it calls for the coldblooded murder of gay people.

Andrew Harrod

When challenged by critics, Brown lashed out, accusing them of Islamophobia. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Foreign Policy magazine even rushed to his defense.

Now he’s in the headlines again. On April 14, journalist Andrew Harrod, who had already been expelled (on Brown’s orders) from Brown’s February 7 defense of Islamic slavery, reported that on March 16 he had been thrown out of another Georgetown event, the so-called Peace Requires Encounter Summit. Harrod explained the premise of the event: it “ostensibly sought to ‘build relationships’ – apparently only with those approved by Islamic supremacists” The co-sponsors of the summit “included the Muslim Brotherhood-derived Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Franciscan Action Network (FAN), and Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), a producer of pro-Islam films.” Harrod had been legitimately invited to the summit by a UPF representative, Daniel Tutt of Marymount University, but when Brown glimpsed him at the event, he “demanded that I leave.” Brown them summoned Tutt, who “obsequiously acknowledged his mistake in having invited a ‘noted Islamophobe’ who had ‘slandered’ Brown.”

The net widens. We know who Jonathan Brown is. But who is Daniel Tutt? Answers tomorrow.

Trump evil, CAIR good: the world of Bethany Allen

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

This week we’ve been exploring the world of Foreign Policy assistant editor Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who appears to have begun making a successful career for herself as a slick apologist for even the most extreme aspects of Islam. She did this recently by painting Georgetown University’s Jonathan A.C. Brown, who defended sharia law’s acceptance of slavery, as a victim of Islamophobia. Christmas before last, she performed a similar service for her Muslim husband, celebrating her parents’ Thanksgiving-dinner capitulation to his religion’s strict dietary laws as a triumph over cruel anti-Islamic bigotry.

She’s still at it. On a February 9 of this year, Allen-Ebrahimian wrote an article for the Washington Post in which she worried about the prospects for Muslim life in America under Trump – who, she charged, hates Muslims, and is surrounded by people who share that hatred. She noted that after 9/11 American Muslims “didn’t know where to turn for help….They had almost no political, social or cultural capital.” They were helpless, she lamented, when “Muslims and Muslim charities were targeted in terrorism investigations.” She omitted to mention, however, that these investigations found many Muslims, including supposedly peaceful imams and activists, to have intimate links to terrorists, and discovered that many Muslim “charities” were, in fact, fronts for terrorist groups. Mosques, too.

Ghassan Elashi, a CAIR leader convicted of funneling money to Hamas

But American Muslims, she reported, are no longer powerless. “American Muslims have learned to arm themselves, not with weapons but with the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution….Muslim society in the United States has undergone a stunning transformation.” There are two Muslims in Congress, and plenty of groups such as “the Muslim Legal Fund of America, the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020, WORDE, the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Michigan, Ta’leef Collective in California, the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation and many others.”

She highlighted “the nation’s premier Muslim civil rights advocacy organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR),” which in recent years has “vastly expanded its footprint and now operates 30 offices nationwide.” Again, she omitted to point out that CAIR has been shown to be closely tied to Hamas; that it has given aid to, and expressed support for, terrorist atrocities; and that it is, essentially, a front for a coalition of radical Islamic groups.

Ahmad Saleem (left, with lawyer), arrested last year on child-trafficking charges

But Trump, Allen-Ebrahimian freeted, may undo all of this. She quoted a speaker at CAIR’s annual banquet last December: “A nightmare that we have been fighting in this country for the past 15 years is now in the White House.” Many Americans – indeed, many people throughout the West – would say that the nightmare we have been fighting for the past 15 years is something called Islamic terrorism, which has taken thousands of lives in barbaric acts in New York, Paris, London, Madrid, San Bernardino, Orlando, Boston, Brussels, Mumbai, Bali, and numerous other places. In her Post article, and throughout all the work of hers that we’ve looked at, Allen-Ebrahimian only mentions these horrible actions in the context of complaining about reasonable actions intended to prevent more of them.

Bethany Allen: defending a slavery defender

Jonathan A.C. Brown

We saw yesterday how Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, with the surprising (and dismaying) support of Foreign Policy magazine, served up a disingenous apologia in mid March for Jonathan A.C. Brown. Brown, an Islamic convert who is head of the Islamic propaganda factory at Georgetown University known as the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (it’s named for the Saudi royal who bankrolled it), had given a lecture in February in which he made the mistake of telling a little bit too much truth about his adopted religion. Islam, he made clear, thinks slavery is O.K. And so does he. Allen-Ebrahimian’s attempt to rehabilitate Brown consisted of two parts: a wholesale misrepresentation of his lecture (he was actually criticizing slavery, Allen-Ebrahimian insisted, not supporting it) and a thoroughgoing slander of Brown’s critics (who, she explained, are nothing but Islamophobes). She focused especially on Robert Spencer, an informed and articulate critic of Islam and the proprietor of the Jihad Watch website.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and her husband

On March 22, Spencer shot back. “Foreign Policy magazine has published a lurid fantasy,” he wrote, summing up Allen-Ebrahimian’s argument as follows: “a sinister and well-heeled cabal of racist, bigoted ‘Islamophobes’ have smeared a thoughtful, mild-mannered academic, Professor Jonathan Brown of Georgetown University, and opened him up to death threats, as part of a larger endeavor to do nothing less than deprive Muslims of the freedom of speech.” Spencer’s reply: “In reality, just about the opposite is true, and this Foreign Policy article is a sterling example of the victimhood propaganda that the establishment media uses in order to cover for its own and deflect attention away from unpleasant realities of Islam.” Spencer went on:

“Brown’s attempts to explain the faith,” we’re told, “have made him a hate figure for the American right. A flood of articles accuse him of being an apologist for slavery and rape.”

No, his “attempts to explain the faith” didn’t make him into a “hate figure.” His acting quite clearly as an apologist for slavery and rape did that, if he is actually a “hate figure” at all.

Rejecting Allen-Ebrahimian’s absurd claim that Brown had “addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings,” Spencer pointed out that “Brown did not combat the idea that Islam condoned slavery. He said: ‘I don’t think it’s morally evil to own somebody.’ He also condoned rape of the female non-Muslim war captives: ‘Consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex.’” Spencer linked to a video of Brown’s lecture and encouraged readers to watch it and see for themselves. As for Allen-Ebrahimian’s claim that Brown was the target of some far-right Islamophobic cabal, Spencer noted that “it was a fellow Muslim, Umar Lee, who first blew the whistle on Brown’s apologetics for slavery and rape.”

Spencer also expressed doubt about Allen-Ebrahimian’s claim that Brown had received death threats. (“There are so very many fake anti-Muslim hate crimes, and it is the Left today, not the Right, that is thuggish, hateful and violent. Unless Brown publishes specifics of threats he has received, and reports them to law enforcement, as I myself have done many times with death threats I have received from his coreligionists, his claim warrants extreme skepticism.”)

Robert Spencer

What about Allen-Ebrahimian’s assertion that he and others were out “to marginalize any Muslim who speaks out”? Spencer reminded readers that Brown’s critics were hardly in a position to “marginalize” anybody. After all, it is Brown, not most of his critics, who enjoys a plum job at a respected university and can count on powerful publications such as Foreign Policy and the Washington Post to come to his defense. Also, while Brown’s critics were only responding in a civilized way to a set of barbaric pronouncements by Brown – quoting him verbatim, posting the video of his lecture, and calling him out on the things he had actually said – Allen-Ebrahimian was slickly misrepresenting Brown’s statements and his critics’ statements as well as impugning the latter’s motives.

And of Allen-Ebrahimian’s characterization of Brown as a “normal American Muslim”? No way: “His father-in-law, Sami al-Arian, is a convicted jihad terror leader.” Interesting to know. In her conclusion, Allen-Ebrahimian had been pleased to report that Georgetown University “had remained very supportive” of him. Of course it had! As Spencer neatly put it: “Georgetown gets far too much Saudi money” to do otherwise.

Foreign Policy: a despicable whitewash

Jonathan A.C. Brown

Back in March, we spent several days examining Jonathan A. C. Brown, a convert to Islam who runs Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and teaches in Georgetown’s Department of Arab and Islamic Studies. In particular, we paid attention to a February lecture by Brown entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery,” in which he did a masterful job of whitewashing his adopted faith. His lecture professed to address the question: “Is there slavery in Islam?” The answer to this question is clear: Yes. But Brown served up one ridiculous qualifier after another.

What, after all, he wondered aloud, do we mean by slavery? The line between a slave and some paid employees, he suggested, is not a clear one. (Ridiculous.) In many ways, people are “slaves” to their spouses and others whom they love. (Also ridiculous.) Slaves in Muslim households have traditionally been treated much better than prisoners on American chain gangs. (Prove it.) Unlike antebellum slavery in the American South, Muslim slavery has never been “racialized.” (An outright lie.) During the days of the Ottoman Empire, many slaves were well-treated and widely respected. (Again, prove it. And even if true, so what?) Brown waxed philosophical: “What does ownership mean?” “[W]hat does freedom mean?” After his talk, Brown entertained questions from the audience, and in reply to one of them he stated quite clearly: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.”

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Deservedly, Brown’s lecture drew widespread attention and condemnation. But others have rushed to his defense. Enter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who, writing on March 16 under the aegis of the respected journal Foreign Policy (where she is an assistant editor), presented the reaction to Brown as an example of Islamophobia. The title of her piece was “The Making of Islamophobia Inc.,” and under the title was this summary: “A well-funded network is trying to strip the right to speak away from American Muslims and fanning the politics of fear.” Allen-Ebrahimian argued that while Brown’s work is largely “aimed at making Islamic thought more accessible to general audiences,” his “attempts to explain the faith have made him a hate figure for the American right.” In his February lecture, she claimed, Brown had “addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings.”

Robert Spencer

In response, according to Allen-Ebrahimian, right-wingers had come out in force, misrepresenting Brown’s arguments. Brown, she lamented, “is the victim of an increasingly empowered industry of Islamophobia that constricts the space for balanced and open dialogue, sidelining the very Muslims who are doing the most to promote peaceful, orthodox interpretations of Islam.” Allen-Ebrahimian compared these critics of Brown to “the McCarthyites of the 1950s.” Singling out one of those critics, the Islam expert Robert Spencer, Allen-Ebrahimian actually suggested that Spencer’s writings had inspired the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. She also cited such websites as the Daily Caller, Heat Street, and Breitbart, calling them part of “a self-reinforcing online ecosystem that churns out frenzied headlines and constructs alternate online biographies…in which normal American Muslims are painted as Muslim Brotherhood-linked, jihad-loving, rape-defending threats to the American way of life. Brown’s lecture lasted like chum in shark-infested waters.”

Fortunately, Allen-Ebrahimian’s reprehensible, mendacious screed wasn’t allowed to stand. Tune in tomorrow.

Putin’s boys in Budapest

On October 7, Vladimir Putin celebrates his sixty-third birthday. To commemorate this occasion, we’re spending today and the next few days here at Useful Stooges looking at Putin – and at a few of his benighted fans around the world. Today: a couple of Hungary’s top dogs.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his speech during the meeting the Professiors' Bathyany Group in Budapest on September 7, 2010. At home at least, the popularity of Hungary's new Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who secured an historic two-thirds majority in general elections in April, remains unbroken. With the government marking its 100th day in power opinion polls show support for the charismatic leader still at an astonishing 64 percent, making the 47-year-old the country's most popular premier ever. AFP PHOTO / FERENC ISZA
Viktor Orban

It’s not every day that a prime minister publicly declares his determination to turn his country into an “illiberal” state. Granted, more than a few heads of government, as we’ve seen on this site, are working hard toward that very goal, but they usually don’t go out of their way to advertise it. Yet that’s precisely what Hungarian PM Viktor Orban did last year. And the reason he gave for wanting to make Hungary “illiberal” was that, in his view, Vladimir Putin has done such a terrific job of making Russia an “illiberal” success story.

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Orban with his hero

Orban, you see, is a big fan of Putin. In fact, to quote the Telegraph, he’s done such an effective job of “harassing civil liberty groups, clamping down on the press and entrenching his grip on power” that critics have called him a “little Putin.” In February, the Russian president visited Orban in – as the Telegraph put it – “an attempt to show the world he still has a friend in the EU despite East-West tension over Ukraine.” The visit was marked by a sizable protest one of whose organizers warned that Hungary, which in the years after the fall of the Iron Curtain seemed like a solid democracy and U.S. ally in the making, is “getting ever closer to the Russian model and farther from the European one.” In short, Orban’s plans are working.

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At a joint press conference

Orban announced his country’s new direction in a speech given on July 26 of last year. “The new state that we are building in Hungary today,” he declared, “is not a liberal state. It doesn’t deny liberalism’s basic values such as freedom but doesn’t make it a core element. It uses a particular, nationalist approach.” As Tim McNamara explained in Policy Review not long after the speech, Orban’s “populist nationalism” peddles the concept of Hungarian exceptionalism, depicts the EU and US as enemies, demonizes opponents of his ruling Fidesz Party, works to close down foreign-funded civil-society groups, and uses a combination of methods (described by McNamara as “remarkably similar…to what has happened in Russia”) to intimidate, bankrupt, buy off, seduce, or just plain crush opposition media. Yet leaders of the European Union (which Hungary joined in 2004) have been pretty much silent about this systematic violation of purported EU values. 

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Gábor Vona

And what about NATO, of which Hungary has been a member since 1999? In a time when other countries in Russia’s neighborhood are uneasy about Putin’s saber-rattling and are begging for a stronger NATO presence within their borders, how can Orban’s government possibly be seen as a reliable partner in the defense pact and not as the likely ally of a potential aggressor? As Keith Johnson wrote about Hungary in Foreign Policy last November, “While Europe and the United States are trying to build a common front to push back against Russian aggression…one member of the team seems to be switching jerseys.”

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Vona with Aleksandr Dugin

This April, the Economist brought what might have seemed like hopeful tidings: “a row with America over corruption, Mr Orban’s cosying up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the flashy lifestyles of some Fidesz leaders” were eroding the ruling party’s support among the Hungarian electorate. But in fact it looks more as if Hungary is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire: for as Fidesz falters, more and more Hungarian voters are turning to another party, Jobbik, which has its own “paramilitary wing” and a platform that makes Fidesz look like Amnesty International. Jobbik doesn’t try to hide its savage contempt for (among much else) gays, Jews, and Israel. And let’s not forget the U.S., which, according to party leader Gábor Vona, is engaged in the vile business of “spread[ing] a subhuman culture” around the world.

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Vona and a colleague at the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament

Meanwhile, guess whom Vona is cozying up to? In the last couple of years, he’s lectured in Moscow on invitation from Putin intimate Aleksandr Dugin – who calls for “the restoration of the Russian Empire through the unification of Russian-speaking territories” and seeks to “hasten the ‘end of times’ with all out war” – and praised Putin’s Russia as a “Eurasian power that could spearhead a real political, economic and cultural resistance against the Euro-Atlantic block.” (It’s no coincidence that Vona was head of the Hungarian-Russian friendship group in the Hungarian Parliament.) Writing last year in Foreign Affairs, Mitchell A. Orenstein stated flatly that “Putin has taken the Jobbik party under his wing.”

What more do we need to know? The facts are clear: barring some thoroughly unforeseen development, Hungary will in all likelihood either continue to be governed by Fidesz during the next few years or pass into the hands of Jobbik. Which means that this strategically located member of the EU and NATO seems destined to become more and more of a satellite (and Xerox copy) of Putin’s Russia.

It’s a sad prospect for the Hungarian people – and a dangerous one for Europe and the West. In other words, just what Putin wants. 

Venezuela: a new assault on freedom

leopoldo
Leopoldo López

He studied sociology at Kenyon College and public policy at Harvard; after returning home to Venezuela, he was elected mayor of Chacao, one of the five political subdivisions of the city of Caracas. Twice during his eight-year tenure (2000-2008), Transparency International gave him awards for presiding over an honest and efficient municipal administration in a country otherwise rife with corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency. The City Mayors Foundation awarded him third place in its international World Mayors Commendation, calling him “a hands-on mayor as well as a national politician fighting for democratic openness and fairness in Venezuela.” When he completed his two terms as mayor, he had a 92% approval rating.

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The late Hugo Chávez

What stopped Leopoldo López from going on to a third term? Hugo Chávez. In 2008, citing manifestly trumped-up corruption charges, the government denied López and a number of other opposition politicians the right to run for office. Human Rights Watch, the Organization of American States, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) all took López’s side, calling his treatment undemocratic, but the chavistas held firm: they knew a serious threat to their rotten-to-the-core regime when they saw one.

López – young, handsome, passionate, eloquent, charismatic, and sharp as a tack – went on to become not just a leader but a symbol of his country’s democratic opposition. On February 18 of last year, after organizing and participating in a mass protest against the Chávez government, he was arrested on charges of “terrorism, murder, grievous bodily harm, public incitement, arson, damage to property, and conspiracy to commit crimes.” The charges were as patently illegitimate as the charge of corruption that kept him from running for elective office, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights demanded his immediate release – to no avail.

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Nicolás Maduro

He has been in prison ever since. During his incarceration, he has been showered with honors. Harvard gave him an award. So did the National Endowment for Democracy. In Spain, he won the Cádiz Cortes Ibero-American Freedom Prize. This June, Foreign Policy – which had already named him one of its “Leading Global Thinkers of 2014” – ran an article hailing him as “Venezuela’s Last Hope” and said he embodied “the change his country needs.” Polls show that in an electoral face-off for the presidency between López and the incumbent, Chávez protégé Nicolás Maduro, the vote would be 72% to 28%.

(Meanwhile The Nation, the flagship weekly of America’s far left and home base for the nation’s most egregious useful stooges, exhibited its usual contempt for freedom by deferentially interviewing a longtime chavista who was allowed to smear López in its pages as an “extreme right-winger,” “fanatical fascist,” and “ultra-super-reactionary.”)

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Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Nation

The latest outrage came two days ago, on September 10. After a closed-door trial, López was sentenced to thirteen years and nine months in prison. Erika Guevara-Ross, Americas Director at Amnesty International, made her organization’s position clear: López, she said, is being punished for leading “an opposition party….He should have never been arbitrarily arrested or tried in the first place. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally.” José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, called the case “a complete travesty of justice.” The Washington Post noted that in recent months U.S. diplomat Thomas A. Shannon Jr. had met with Maduro and other officials “to convey U.S. concern about the outcome of the López trial,” but obviously to no avail.

Innumerable Americans and Europeans root reflexively for Venezuelan socialism, having been beguiled into thinking that it embodies “liberal” or “progressive” values. If they had any decency, this latest cruel and cynical move against the ruling party’s #1 opponent would awaken them to the truth about Maduro’s monstrous regime. But don’t count on it. As history shows, useful stooges have a remarkable gift for preserving their own self-delusion.