In a latest attack on Muslim scholarship in the Mainstream, Dr Jonathan Brown is the Georgetown Professor smeared in a vicious attack by the right wing anti Muslims. He is the son-in-law of Sam Al Arian, former Florida professor of civil engineering. Until his arrest, Al-Arian was one of the most prominent Palestinian academics and activists in the United States.
The Alt-right and Far-right news outlets have consistently repeated the lie that Dr. Jonathan Brown condones slavery and rape, even as he bluntly condemned them. In a tweet sent after the barrage of online attacks he stated, “Islam as a faith and I as a person condemn slavery, rape and concubinage”. He and his family received death and, ironically, rape threats.
Dr. Brown is the current Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and the Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding.
Dr. Brown gave a lecture where he read his paper regarding the history of the concept of slavery and Islam. The paper he read clearly states that the document's purpose was a historical analysis, and was the first part of a three-piece series on slavery in Islam. "The second essay will lay out the understanding of slavery in the Shariah and Islamic civilization. The final part will examine the abolition of slavery in Islam,” says Dr. Brown.
A Muslim blogger started the fire when he wrote a blog based on his understanding of a talk that Dr Brown gave at International Institute of Thought (IIT). Right wing blogs, which are often bots republishing articles by paid Islamophobes, falsely framed his lecture as advocacy. “How are academics supposed to teach history if any discussion is assumed to be advocacy?” writes Dr Brown.
The same outlets scoured Dr Brown’s Facebook feed, and found a comment he made in 2015. The thread was over 200 comments long, and in it, he was in fact condemning ISIS' restarting of slavery. By taking it out of context (only taking a screenshot of one comment out of the thread), they claimed that he was calling for slavery. Many believe that the aim is to stop Muslims, especially experts, from presenting arguments that portray Islam in a positive light, but prefer the ISIS version of Islam. In this specific situation, they repeatedly detracted from Dr. Brown's clear statements, and took great pains to take his statements out of context.
Brown, who attends the McLean Islamic Center, says the calls he received, the messages, the support offered to his family from academics around the world and from the Muslim community “literally brought tears” to his eyes.