Islamic Studies Professor Under Fire for Comments on Slavery, Rape

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Georgetown professor of Islamic Studies Jonathan Brown is under fire following a lecture he gave entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery” on February 7 at the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Brown defended slavery and rape under Islamic law, arguing that slavery should not be treated as an absolute “moral evil.”

In his remarks, Brown said, “The Prophet of God had slaves … There’s no denying that. Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not.”

Brown, the director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, attempted to distinguish slavery in the Muslim world from slavery in the United States.

“You don’t find the brutality that you see in American slavery in Muslim Empires,” he said. “Generally, it is simply not very common. Slaves in Islamic civilization were mostly investments.”


“The Prophet of God had slaves … There’s no denying that. Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not.”


Brown also discussed the role of women who became enslaved after conquests. He argued that there is little difference between a woman “who is captured in a raid in the steppes of Central Asia brought to Istanbul’s slave market” and a woman who is “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.” Both women were likely treated equally, regardless of one’s status as a slave.

“The difference between these two people is not that big,” he said. “We see it as enormous because we’re obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent.”

Brown was also criticized for his response to question about sexual relations with slaves. He argued that consent is not legally necessary under Islamic law, suggesting that marital rape is not prohibited in Islam.

Following his controversial remarks, Brown wrote on Twitter that he condemns slavery and rape: “Islam as a faith and I as a person condemn slavery, rape and concubinage.”

Professor Brown did not respond to The Georgetown Review‘s request for comment by press time.

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Emily was born and raised in Arizona and is majoring in History and Psychology with a minor in Classical Studies. She has interned on Capitol Hill in both the House and Senate, where she has heard firsthand what matters to many conservative voters. Emily is particularly interested in fiscal policy and job creation. When not working on the Hill, she is running along the National Mall and training for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon.

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  1. Even if you don’t have time for the entire lecture, just listen to the first 2 minutes. You will hear Professor Brown refer to “this guy” who “eats so much” when he comes to campus presentations. He is referring to Andrew Harrod (PhD, JD). Dr. Harrod was asked to leave by the IIIT staff before this particular lecture began, because he had “insulted” Brown via critical coverage of some aspects of Islam, and how it has been presented by staff at ACMCU — John Esposito, Nathan Lean, Engy Abdelkader, and guest speakers.

    For those curious about the backstory, Google Andrew Harrod’s name, and a blog written by Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch. There were several posts late last week on Mr. Spencer’s website, including one regarding a juvenile insult Professor Brown tossed at him when Brown had to back out of a boast. All in all, an amazing display by someone who is, presumably, capable of better conduct.

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