Islamic Georgetown Prof Offers Tortured Defense Of Slavery And Non-Consensual Sex Under Islam


A Georgetown University Islamic studies professor has come under fire for a talk he gave earlier this week in which he offered an Islam-based defense of slavery, concubinage and non-consensual sex.

Jonathan AC Brown, who serves as director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, gave his admittedly controversial speech on Tuesday at the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Virginia-based group that has foundational ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The websites Heat Street and The Daily Banter covered the talk, which was entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery.”

In the speech, and a subsequent question-and-answer session, Brown, a white convert to Islam, essentially downplayed the harshness of slavery in Islam. He also stated that American and Western society is “obsessed with the idea of autonomy and consent.”

And at one point in the talk, Brown appeared to suggest that modern Muslims have little room to question the morality of slavery since Muhammad was a slave owner.

“The Prophet of God had slaves. He had slaves. There’s no denying that,” he told a man during the Q&A session. “Was he — are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not. I’ll answer your question for you.”

He also said, according to a transcription provided by The Daily Banter:

Slavery cannot just be treated as a moral evil in and of itself because slavery doesn’t mean anything. 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.

“In general, you don’t find the brutality that you see in American slavery. As far as I can tell, generally it is simply not very common. Slaves in Islamic civilization were mostly investments,” he added.

Brown’s thesis on a moral relativism for slavery pales in comparison to his apparent defense of concubinage, which is condoned in the Quran.

He conjured up a scenario in which a woman taken captive during a raid and sold as a slave to a wealthy man is just as free in an existential sense as a woman who was born into and married into poverty. He said:

What’s the difference between someone who is captured in a raid in the steppes of Central Asia brought to Istanbul’s slave market, sold to an owner, who, by the way, might treat her badly, might treat her incredibly well. She’s going to bear him children. She’s going to be a free woman. She’s going to be the mother of his children. If he’s high status, she’s going to be high status. If he dies she might be a very desirable wife. That person’s situation? What’s the difference between that and some woman who’s 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? And 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,” **Brown added.

He also questioned what it meant to give “consent” to sex and to be autonomous, all in an attempt to defend Islam.

**“It’s very hard to have this discussion because we think of, let’s say in the modern United States, the sine qua non of morally correct sex is consent. We think of people as autonomous agents. Everybody’s an autonomous agent and it’s the consent of that autonomous agent that makes a sexual action acceptable,” **he said.

“If you take away the consent element, then everyone starts flipping out,” Brown continued, adding: “We fetishize the idea of autonomy to the extent that we forget, again who’s really free? Are we really autonomous people?”

Brown, who frequently appears at events hosted by Muslim Brotherhood-connected groups like the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North American, acknowledged prior to his talk that he would be discussing “a controversial topic.”

He also said that he planned to record his speech because he predicted that his “hyperbolic statement[s] could easily be taken out of context.”

“I’m going to get accused of calling for slavery or something like that, so I wasn’t going to take that risk,” he said.

Brown then went on a diatribe against a member of the audience who he said has written negatively about him and IIIT. He also attempted to embarrass the man, a freelance writer named Andrew Harrod, for eating too much at the events he has attended.

Harrod, who has published at various websites that are critical of radical Islam, wrote a recap at the website Jihad Watch of Brown’s talk.

In the piece, he noted that Brown converted to Islam as a student at Georgetown in 2010. He later married the daughter of Sami Al-Arian, the former professor at the University of South Florida who was found guilty of providing material support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terror group.


To think this is a Catholic (Jesuit) institution how bad things have gotten.


There’s a petition to ask Cardinal Wuehrl to revoke Georgetown’s Catholic status. I hope it succeeds (and I’m an alum.)


The Dailey Caller is a right-wing rag.


The article offers the video of the lecture:


Do you have a link to the petition or is it not online?


I expect we’ll start hearing about how Professor Brown doesn’t understand true Islam, which is a religion of peace.


While free speech is a value to be upheld, we can contrast this professor’s approach with the many Muslim scholars who have allowed their religion to evolve.

It is charitable to give voice to followers of Islam who believe in religious freedom, are against slavery and concubinage, do not believe in forced or coerced conversion or penalty for leaving their faith, and proclaim that God loves everyone without limit.

A modern approach to Islam can be found here:


"We affirm and uphold the sanctity of all human life, the taking of which is among the gravest of all sins.
We affirm the right to freedom of thought, religion, conscience, and expression.
We affirm the right to security in one’s livelihood, profession, and residence.
We believe that God created us with all the diversity of race, religion, language, and belief to get to know one another, respect one another, and uphold our collective human dignity.
We believe that Islam is above all a religion of peace and mercy and that as Muslims we are obligated to model those traits in our lives and characters and to work for the good of our homeland and society, wherever that might be."

As Christians, we are to give more voice to Muslim people who work for reconciliation, mercy, and compassion, as we would like Muslim people to give more voice to Christians who uphold the same values.

As you can see, giving voice to those from all faiths who uphold these values is an application of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.


I was wrong. The cardinal has already approved it. It’s currently with Rome for further action


Thank you so very much for posting this information. I hope many eyes are opened.


Shoot that messenger!


The way modern people chose to interpret Muhammad and practice his religion has no affect on what he actually wrote, and what the practitioners of his faith have historically done in the name of their “prophet.”

Don’t get me wrong, I support these people interpreting Islam this way, and encourage them to preach peace and religious tolerance; but that doesn’t mean that’s what Islam as a belief structure actually professes. This is similar to how many modern Christian groups somehow see acceptance of homosexual acts and tolerance for all kinds of sexual perversions in the Bible, despite the plainly evident teachings against such things, and the historic interpretation of all of Christendom prior to the last hundred years or so.

Modern people misrepresenting the author’s intent doesn’t change the author’s intent or the underlying implications it has for the “proper” practice for a system of beliefs.

You do realize that having a certain political ideology doesn’t negate the video evidence or somehow make it not something to bring to people’s attention.


How do you reconcile this line of thinking with how The Catholic Church had historically condoned and even practiced slavery and the “modern” interpretation of slavery being evil? Even God in the OT as well as the prophets and apostles in the NT didn’t condemn the practice and didn’t seem to have a problem with it.

I think there is an inconsistency there with The Catholic Church changing it’s teaching on slavery that seems to go against it never changing it’s teachings over time.


How is this supposed to demonize Islam in general? There are Catholics who dictators such as Pinochet and Videla who tortured and murdered thousands. Should they be emblematic of Catholics.

Yes, Catholicism has a horrible illiberal aspect to it that does not respect the most basic human rights.


The difference is that Christians who torture and murders thousands act in opposition to Jesus, whereas Muslims who do so merely follow in Muhammad’s footsteps.

I should hope so, since liberalism’s raison d’être is the elevation of human rights above the rights of God.


The Catholic Church also used to condone slavery. In his Enarrationes in Psalmos, Saint Augustine wrote:

“If you see your slave living badly, what other punishment will you curb him with, if not the lash? Use it: do. God allows it. In fact he is angered if you don’t. But do it in a loving rather than a vindictive spirit.”

In Latin:

Servumque ipsum tuum, si male viventem videris, non poena aliqua, non verberibus refrenabis? fiat hoc, fiat : admittit deus, imo reprehendit, si no fiat ; sed animo dilectionis fac : non animo ultionis.

Kyle Harper, Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 230, from Corpus christianoruam, series Latina (Turnhout, 1953-), 40: 1464-6

So why condemn Islam for also once supporting slavery?


Islam didn’t just used to condone slavery, it still does. It also still supports the death penalty for homosexuals, which I would think you’d find particularly troubling.


And the Youtube video of him saying the exact same thing? Alternative facts?

Should we simply dismiss as nonsense anything published by a source we don’t like?


Oh vey…here we go again! Pinochet didn’t do what he did in the name of Catholicism. That’s the difference between Islam and the “horrible illiberal aspect” of Catholicism.


There are several issues with the interpretation of the word “slavery” in the OT and Bible in general. The term employee was not necessarily in circulation at the time of the writings. Slave covered any number of people including actual slaves, day laborers, people who worked for a wage, etc.

I think there is an inconsistency there with The Catholic Church changing it’s teaching on slavery that seems to go against it never changing it’s teachings over time.

There are several articles on CA that explain the term slavery as used in the Bible clearly.



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