Beijing good, Trump bad: lessons from James A. Millward

Before the fall: a 1988 Soviet stamp commemorating Marx

On Tuesday we pondered the fact that Karl Marx, who would have turned 200 on May 5, has been getting awfully positive press lately in the Western media. We cited a recent New York Times op-ed whose author, a philosopher named Jason Barker, looked forward breathlessly to a golden future time when some government actually puts Marx’s ideas into practice – as if most of the large-scale human tragedies of the last century weren’t a result of precisely such efforts.

Barker’s piece, as it happens, was nothing new for the Times, which during the last year or so has been using the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution as an excuse to regularly run op-eds that put a pretty face on Soviet Communism.  It has been difficult, indeed, not to conclude that the Gray Lady, in her dotage, seems to be going through a period of nostalgia for the grand old days of that master apologist and Pulitzer winner Walter Duranty

James A. Millward

Although it didn’t mention Marx, another recent Times op-ed took as blinkered a look at Marxism as Barker’s. On the very day before Marx’s birthday, China scholar James A. Millward (who teaches in the school of Foreign Service at Georgetown University) celebrated China’s current “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which involves the development of “highways and a string of new ports, from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean to Africa and the Mediterranean,” on a scale that surpasses “even the imagination of a sci-fi writer.” Breathlessly, Millward cheered “China’s economic progress over the past century,” noting that it had lifted “hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty.” One might have expected Millward to acknowledge that the same government that lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty also murdered a similar number of its people. But presumably Millward didn’t consider this little detail revelant to his topic.

Mao Zedong

Yes, Millward did admit in passing that China is flexing its muscles and challenging U.S. global dominance. “To the cynical,” he stated, the cultural elements of the One Belt, One Road program are “just so much propagandistic treacle.” But he wasn’t about to be cynical. China, he argued, “is stepping up to be a global good citizen concerned about the economic well-being of its neighbors.” One Belt, One Road “invests China’s prestige in a globalist message that sounds all the right notes – peace, multicultural tolerance, mutual prosperity – and that rhetoric sets standards by which to hold China accountable.” Millward contrasted this sweetness and light with – what else? – “the protectionism and xenophobia displayed by President Trump and emerging nationalistic ideologies in Europe, India and elsewhere.” Yes, that’s right: Millward favorably compared a Communist regime to the democratic governments of the U.S., India, and various European countries that are too “nationalistic” for his tastes. Yet even as Millward provided Xi and his henchmen in Beijing with this terrific piece of free P.R., he omitted to so much as mention the word “Communism.”

Meet Daniel Tutt, acolyte of both Marxism and Islam

Jonathan A. C. Brown

Yesterday we featured a follow-up on Jonathan A.C. Brown, the Muslim convert, Georgetown University professor, and full-time Islamic apologist who is wont to defend slavery and child bribes and who keeps throwing critics out of his lectures. Or, at least, one critic, Andrew Harrod, who recently recounted his expulsion by Brown from yet another Georgetown event. This latest episode introduced a new character into our story: one Daniel Tutt, whom Harrod identified as being associated both with Marymount University and with Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), “a producer of pro-Islam films.” It was Tutt who had invited Harrod to the event – obviously by mistake – and Tutt who, in Harrod’s presence, “obsequiously” apologized to Brown for having done so.

Daniel Tutt

Who is Daniel Tutt? In addition to having been involved since 2007 with the UPF, where he’s “Director of Programs and Producer,” and since December 2015 with Marymount, where he’s an adjunct professor of philosophy, he’s an “expert” at the Institute for Social Progress and Understanding (ISPU), whose website describes him as an “interfaith activist with a focus on anti-Muslim bigotry and interfaith dialogue.” But that’s not all: he’s alsothe project director for 20,000 Dialogues, a national interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue project sponsored by the Unity Productions Foundation.”

At UPF, according to its website, Tutt “has overseen and helped to develop lesson plans, curricula and websites including American Muslims: Facts vs. Fiction20,000 Dialogues, My Fellow American and Understanding Muslim Diversity.” Previously, he was “co-director of the 9/11 Unity Walk, a multi-city interfaith peace walk that brings faith communities together for dialogue and reconciliation.” He’s also been associated with the Points of Light Foundation and has been an “adviser” for “the Washington Region for Justice and Inclusion, the Muslim Advisory Arts Council of Americans for Informed Democracy, and the United Religions Initiative of Washington, DC.” You get the picture.

Alain Badiou

Tutt attended Southern Oregon University and American University before getting his Ph.D. in 2014 from the European Graduate School, where he wrote a dissertation about four postmodern philosophers – Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Ernesto Laclau, and Jean-Luc Nancy. On top of everything else, he’s also directed a film, Insurrections, about “the role of philosophy and thinking since the period of intensified rioting and protests beginning in August of 2010 in London and then continuing to Arab regions, before igniting in the Occupy Wall Street movements globally.”

Jean-Luc Nancy

The combination on Tutt’s curriculum vitae of postmodern academic pursuits and his involvement in Islamic propaganda projects – not to mention his making of a film which somehow, apparently, manages to fit into both categories – strongly suggests both that he’s a member of what’s sometimes called the red-green coalition, which brings together Communists and Muslims as strategic allies, and that he somehow manages the intellectual feat of having one foot in each camp. This fact becomes clearer the more closely one at Tutt’s work: this, one discovers, is a man who’s written with equal enthusiasm about Marx and Muhammed.

Want more details? Tune in tomorrow.

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.

Foreign Policy‘s apologist for Communist China and sharia law

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

This week we’ve been discussing Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian’s breathtakingly shameless attempt to rehabilitate Georgetown University sharia apologist Jonathan A.C. Brown and to smear his critics. This episode led us to ask: who is this Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian? We found a couple of items that may help answer that question.

Exhibit A: on December 23, 2015, the Washington Post published a piece by Allen-Ebrahimian that was plainly meant to be a heartwarming holiday story. She began by explaining that the 2015 holiday season was “unlike any other” she had ever experienced because this time Donald Trump had left “a lump of coal in my stocking, reminding me just how unwelcome my multi-faith family would be in his version of America.”

Allen-Ebrahimian and her husband

She explained that her husband is an Iranian Muslim who “tends to be particularly self-conscious when he’s invited to a meal where there are no halal, or at least vegetarian, options.” You see, even though he’d lived in the U.S. for 12 years, meals were “still an unwanted reminder that even something as universal as breaking bread can set him apart from everyone else.” A curious way to put it: the only thing setting her husband apart at dinners with non-Muslims are his own religion’s dietary rules.

Allen-Ebrahimian gave a brief account of her own background: born in Abilene to liberal Christian parents, she was taken by her parents on trips around the world, raised largely in Vienna, Austria, and after college moved to China, having learned from her travels “that neither Christians nor Americans had a monopoly on kindness, happiness or morality.” In China, she kept mum about her Christian and Texan roots, apparently ashamed of her background in that officially atheist totalitarian country.

Trump: coal in her stocking

Then she married a Muslim. At their first family Christmas dinner together, in 2014, her mother “included halal and vegetarian options for my new husband, and we were both thankful.” But, she added, “[t]hat was before Paris, before San Bernardino, before notions of religious tests and registries burst upon our national dialogue like a plague.” One would think she might refer to the terrorist atrocities as being “like a plague,” but no – it’s the idea of heavy vetting (misrepresented by her, as by many others, as “religious tests and registries”) that is “like a plague.”

So it was that as Christmas 2015 approached, Allen-Ebrahimian felt “a bit like we’re under siege.” Her anxiety caused her to break into tears. But then, at Thanksgiving, her mother “went to even greater lengths to see that almost everything was halal: Three whole zabihah chickens, with broth she carefully siphoned off into plastic containers for use in gravy and casseroles. Halal ground beef for taco night. Halal hamburger patties cooked in a clean pan on a stove rather than on the grill outside, which was covered in non-halal meat drippings. Even turkey bacon sprinkled liberally over salads and wrapped in spirals around asparagus clusters.” The effect on Allen-Ebrahimian’s husband “was immediate. Normally reserved, he talked more, cracked jokes and spent more time with everyone in the family room.”

Beautiful story, right? Or is it? Think about it and we’ll get back together tomorrow.

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.

Smearing critics: Jonathan Brown

He occupies an influential position at Georgetown University, from which – as we’ve seen this week – he defends Muslims who own slaves, champions old Muslim men who marry little girls, and spews double-talk in an effort to cover up Islam’s unequivocal view of homosexuality as a capital crime. For years he’s routinely expressed opinions that would have gotten a non-Muslim fired from almost any major university in the United States. And nobody has stood up to him.

robertspencer
Robert Spencer

Well, almost nobody. In fact, Robert Spencer, the author of several books about Islam, has repeatedly challenged Jonathan A.C. Brown‘s systematic lies. On January 30, Brown responded to Spencer’s critiques in a lecture at Gonzaga University, offering to debate Spencer anytime and claiming that he would “mop the floor with” Spencer. Spencer promptly accepted the offer via Twitter. Instead of trying to arrange a time and place, Brown replied with a personal insult: “my God you’re ugly.” At this writing, Brown has yet to issue a serious response to Spencer.

laila_al_arian
Laila Al-Arian

Andrew Harrod, a writer for the Campus Watch website, attended the lecture with which we began this week – the one in which Brown whitewashed Islamic slavery. Or, in fact, he had tried to attend the lecture. In the article he wrote afterwards, Harrod reported that Brown had first observed him, Harrod, in the audience while preparing for the lecture with a fellow professor and “two veiled…assistants.” “Brown,” wrote Harrod, “became visibly irritated” on seeing him. Harrod had covered previous talks by Brown, and Brown has responded to Harrod’s criticism by calling his articles “stupid.” Brown slammed Harrod’s pieces and asked him if he intended to avail himself of the refreshments offered at the event. Brown’s colleague then asked Harrod to leave – a perfect illustration, argued Harrod, “of how he and his fellow Islamism apologists handle opposing views.”

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Sami Al-Arian

One last thing about Brown. He’s married to Laila Al-Arian, a producer for Al Jazeera television and the daughter of Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida who was held in house arrest and then deported to Turkey in 2015 for aiding members of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian is definitely a figure worthy of attention by this website; but we’ll have to get around to him on another day.

Whitewashing gay murder: Jonathan Brown

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

We’ve heard Jonathan A.C. Brown, a convert to Islam and professor at Georgetown University, defend Islamic slavery and Islamic child marriage. What does he have to say about homosexuality? This is a tough one: for an American academic in the twenty-first century, openly opposing homosexuality is simply not tenable. But for a Muslim, it is the only view that is acceptable by God.

In one talk, he approached the subject this way: unlike their Christian counterparts, he insisted, Muslim scholars don’t see same-sex attraction as “unnatural.” In fact, they don’t judge attractions at all. No, they just judge actions – they rule on what people do, not what they feel. And, yes, under Islam “a specific act is wrong.” Which act? Why, the “act of Lut.” (Christians know him as Lot.) In other words, sexual intercourse between males. Under Islam, he acknowledged, that’s a “sin.” But he was quick to add that Muslim judges, out of the goodness of their hearts, strive to “err in mercy” rather than to “err in severity.” Which is to say that they strive to let offenders off in cases of insufficient evidence – strive to grasp onto whatever “ambiguities” they can find. “It’s almost like don’t ask, don’t tell,” he said. If you can keep it behind closed doors, you’ll probably get away with it. Of course, this claim is sheer nonsense, and by making it Brown is dropping down the memory hole countless amply documented cases of young men being hanged or stoned or thrown from the roofs of buildings for the crime of homosexuality.

Brown actually was invited to write about homosexuality for Variety, the Hollywood trade paper. After same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015, Variety published a special issue on the subject, containing dozens of articles and interviews. Brown was their Muslim authority. His contribution was a masterpiece of evasion, which danced around the topic at length before concluding with the following paragraph:

gay-hanging
Islamic tolerance for homosexuality

The issue of gay marriage in America is a tough one for Muslims. On one hand, it’s nigh impossible to construct an argument by which sexual contact between men, let alone anal sex, is considered permissible in God’s eyes. On the other hand, attempts to ban the Shariah in the U.S. threaten Muslims’ ability to have their own marriage contracts. Like gays, they want to be able to define marriage free from majoritarian cultural biases. So many Muslims are willing to support the rights of other Americans to shape marriage according to their particular beliefs. Muslims expect their beliefs and relationships to be respected in return.

As one reader commented: “That last paragraph made little sense. Are Muslims against homosexuality or are they not?” Another knew the answer: “Nice snow job.” A third asked: “Why is Variety running muslim [sic] propaganda?” And a fourth spelled out the facts: “The intellectual dishonesty of this article is just staggering. Why is this Muslim cleric [sic] not openly explaining that homosexuality is punishable by death according to the respective scholars of all sects in Islam?”

Why, you might ask, hasn’t anybody who knows the truth about Islam publicly taken on Jonathan Brown’s claptrap? Actually, somebody has. Or has tried to. We’ll wind up with that story tomorrow.

Championing child rape: Jonathan Brown

Jonathan A.C. Brown is a Muslim convert, a professor at Georgetown University, and a man who has made it his business to “explain” Islam – and, in particular, to justify some of its least justifiable aspects – not just to his students but to audiences around the world. During the last couple of days, for instance, we’ve looked at a 90-minute lecture he gave recently on Islamic slavery, an institution that he defended in a breathtakingly mendacious manner.

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

Brown has praised Muhammed ardently. “He was the best person in every situation,” Brown has said. “Jesus is always kind and forgiving. But sometimes you can’t be forgiving. You shouldn’t be; sometimes you have to be soft and sweet and sometimes you have to be direct and harsh; sometimes you have to be patient and at other times you have to act quickly. There isn’t always one rule that you can apply to your life that will tell you how to act. You have to be able to read the situation and act in the best way. The Prophet knew how to do that; that is inspirational.”

Brown opened one lecture about Muhammed by saying how much he hated having to expose Muslim audiences to negative Western characterizations of him – some attitude for a man who professes to be an educator. Brown reported, as if it were an objective historical fact, that a tree stump on which Muhammed supposedly sat while teaching his followers later made whimpering noises because it longed for Muhammed’s presence.

A quick search on You Tube takes us to other, briefer presentations about Muhammed. In one of them, he is asked by an audience member about Muhammed’s “marriage” to a six-year-old girl named Aisha – a marriage that was “consummated” when Muhammed was 53 and Aisha was nine.

Brown’s response to the questioner began in a curious way. “You seem agitated by this,” he said. “What makes you uncomfortable about it?” Brown made it clear that nothing about the matter made him uneasy. And until just a century or so ago, he argued, nobody else was bothered by it either. During Muhammed’s lifetime and for generations thereafter, a lot of non-Muslims criticized Islam and its founder on a great variety of grounds, sometimes making things up, sometimes focusing on actual details of his life. “His sex life was target numero uno,” Brown said. Infidels pointed to Muhammed’s polygamy and his marriage to his own daughter-in-law. But, according to Brown, nobody attacked him for marrying a little girl. Not until 1905 did one critic mention it, rather mildly and tentatively. Why? Because in pre-modern peasant societies, explained Brown, “everyone” married underage girls. People had sex drives and they acted on them.

koran“If you’re just living in a desert and you’re tending goats all day” and you have a normal sex drive,” asked Brown rhetorically, “why in God’s name would you not get married?” To suggest that an aging medieval goatherd should not marry a girl young enough to be his granddaughter, charged Brown, is “anachronistic” – we’re judging Muhammed by the standards of our own day. The problem here, of course, is that Brown wasn’t just trying to contextualize behavior that to us, in the year 2017, seems deeply immoral; he was exalting the actions of a man whom his own religion holds up as an example of human perfection, and suggesting that the problem lies not in that man’s conduct but in the so-called moral standards of our time. When viewed through the eyes of Allah, in short, Muhammed’s intercourse with Aisha is no crime but an act of great virtue – and if we can’t see it that way, the flaw lies in us, not in the Prophet.

And this, folks, is what they’re teaching at Georgetown University – which, don’t forget, is a Roman Catholic institution.

More of this tomorrow.

Freedom is slavery: Jonathan Brown

Yesterday we met Jonathan A.C. Brown, the head of Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. A 1977 convert to Islam, he’s been fiercely defending it ever since. Never before, however, has he made headlines like the ones he made recently after giving a lecture about Muslim slavery. His main point was to contrast that institution, which he painted as benign, to slavery in the pre-Civil War American South, which he fully recognized as malignant.

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

In his lecture, Brown served up a flurry of statements – supposedly statements of historical fact – that were plainly designed to muddy the waters about the subject at hand. At certain times and in certain places during the history of Islam, he argued, certain people were “technically slaves” but lived very well. Indeed, he insisted that in the Ottoman Empire, some people who were categorized as slaves wielded considerable power and enjoyed great respect. A slave in Mecca around the year 1400 “received no pay from his master, but the master paid for his food, clothes and shelter,” and “in this regard the slave was no different from the master’s own son.” (This could, of course, be said about most slaves in most places at most times in history.) Moreover, factory owners under Ottoman rule “preferred using slave labor because slaves would not leave for seasonal work elsewhere,” and those slaves were thus “more like wage laborers working for a set term in a master/servant relationship than slaves.”

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Georgetown University

All of which, Brown claimed, raises such questions as these: “Is it the label slave that matters or the reality…behind it?” “What does ownership mean?” “[W]hat does freedom mean?… Almost no human being is free of dependence on others and on society as a whole.” Everything, you see, is relative: “ownership, freedom and exploitation come in shades of gray. They exist on spectrums.” Any academic who dared to say such a thing about slavery in the antebellum American South would, we suspect, not keep his job for long.

Brown brought up the Muslim sex-grooming ring in Rotherham, England, whose members held hundreds of infidel girls as sex slaves. His claim: “the majority of offenders were actually white men.” This is sheer fiction – a bald-faced lie. He also maintained that “the legal right to own other human beings was abolished globally” decades ago. This, too, is a lie: slavery persists in many countries today, predominantly Muslim ones.

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Umar Lee

It’s no wonder Brown’s lecture made headlines – and caused outrage. One student who attended it, Umar Lee, wrote the next day that he had been shocked to hear Brown describing Muslim slavery “in glowing terms.” Commented Lee: “I thought the Muslim community was done with this dishonest North Korean style of propaganda.” While focusing on “the injustices of prison labor in America and a myriad of other social-ills,” Lee noted, Brown had avoided mention “of the rampant abuse of workers in the Gulf, the thousands of workers in the Gulf dying on construction sites, the South Asian child camel-jockeys imported into the United Arab Emirates to race camels under harsh conditions, or the horrific conditions of prisoners in the Muslim World (the latest news being 13,000 prisoners executed in Syria).”

slavechildren
Slave children: an image from the Muslim world

Lee disputed one after another of Brown’s assertions: the idea that Muslim slavery “wasn’t racialized” is absurd; so is the claim that it was “kinder and gentler” than American slavery. Nowhere in Brown’s lecture did he mention “kidnappings, harems, armies of eunuchs, and other atrocities.” Lee and other members of the audience asked Brown questions after the lecture, in reply to which Brown offered even more sensational claims than he had during the prepared talk: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human,” Brown remarked, explaining that “being an employee is basically the same as being a slave” and comparing slavery to marriage “because his wife held rights over him.” As for the widespread phenomenon of slave owners raping slaves, Brown told Lee that “[c]onsent isn’t necessary for lawful sex,” his reasoning being that “consent is a modern Western concept.” And when one member of audience apparently challenged him just a bit too much, Brown shot back with the indisputable fact that Muhammed himself had owned slaves. “Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God?” Brown asked. “No, you’re not.” Well, that settled that.

Pretty outrageous. But, as we noted, this slavery lecture was far from the first time Brown had made public statements deserving of outrage. We’ll look at some of those tomorrow.