Wrestling with Pluralism
Channel: Jonathan Brown
File Size: 51.02MB
Princeton Muslim Life Program
Episode Transcript ©
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greetings of peace and blessings, everyone. My name is Imani sohaib. So fun. I served here as a full time Muslim chaplain and the director of Life program here in the office of religious life, which is housed out in very dodge this building that we're sitting in here today. And this is a multi functional group, we have our Friday prayers here, we have lectures here, and it's always switching between different faith traditions. So if this is your first time in Murray, Dodge, and welcome, and I hope it's certainly going to be many times that you come and visit us.
When I came here, nine years ago, we established a series called Islamic conversation. And the idea of the series is to bring together different academics, artists, activists to this campus from the United States, and from abroad, to engage in a wide variety of questions around Islam and Muslim societies and cultures, and our contemporary world. And so today, we have Dr. Jonathan Brown, and He is a professor at Georgetown University. And he is someone who is
a really thoughtful writer, and speaker about Islam, and especially about heavy the prophetic legacy of the Prophet Muhammad, in particular. And among his books is misquoting Mohammed, which is a really interesting book about the different ways that the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad has been interpreted, he has probably the most comprehensive premiere on introduction to heavy studies and sciences, it's an accessible text, in fact, so I encourage you all to read it has also been a very, very short introduction as part of that very short introduction series. So he's written a lot of really interesting books.
Dr. Brown is actually our most often repeated guest. This is his third time.
In my nine years at Princeton, we're always very happy to see you back. And part of what I really love about Dr. Brown is not only his thoughtfulness, but how much he's willing to engage with the audience, and with the students in particular. And they say that because I want all of you to feel and experience this, like your living room this evening. And that this is going to be a fun, intimate conversation. And that we want you to bring your whole self, your thoughts, your ideas, your questions to the table. And we are going to start off in a very conversational format, by putting forward a series of questions for Dr. Brown to articulate.
And the one who will be asking the questions and engaging with follow up is our very own Xena mobarak, who is a senior here at Princeton University, and she is majoring in Near Eastern Studies. And Xena is somebody who's been very active in the Muslim community and in the Muslim Life program, she used to be the vice president of the Muslim Student Association.
And Mashallah, she is coming to be her own in terms of thinking about critical issues.
And she's from Washington, DC, area. And so you know, that's another reason we thought this parent would be great.
So without any further ado, I want to give it over to Xena to start asking questions. And even though this is an intimate setting, we are using the mic in order for the audio to come up here in the inner recording. So other people who are not able to make it here today can listen in. So I want to thank you all so much for coming. And I hope that we have a really interesting and engaging conversation.
Thank you. So just to start off so that everyone's on the same page, can you give us a basic definition of kouros and then talk a little bit about how we understand the point of view compensation
I got straight to the
eye. Okay. So pluralism.
Service is a sort of rich history, I think it was first did it pluralist societies or plural societies. The first term was first used in the early 20th century by British colonial officer in the form of all the furnivall in, in British in Burma within Burma. And he talked about it to sort of describe his
It's kind of cities of Burma, Rangoon and places like that, where you talk about how humans are Chinese and Burmese and Muslim and Malaysian Indonesian Indian people, and they're all sort of these are communities in the city that they only make sort of in the marketplace, and they, their own customs, their own traditions, their own dress, and they're always just moving side by side, but not really interacting, except in buying and selling. And for him, that was the criticism, this was something that was sort of, he's always
sort of a society that wasn't really real.
Now, since that term is invented, it then comes on to you can see it
branching in two different directions. One is the kind of idea of board celebrating diversity,
which is a statement that's always used in the assumption that that diversity is always part of a unified whole, and not just a whole in the sense that people will live together and under the same law and buy and sell on the same marketplace, but hold the sense of there's actually a greater conjoining or unifying identity, national identity and belief in some common flag or or, or ideology. So it's
any other kind of direction is to say, No, no, no pluralism really, is means that people have completely different identities, and maybe nothing in common with each other except the fact they happen to live side by side with one another. So
pluralism is it's a loaded term, because it can be used to celebrate diversity within a unified whole. And of course, then you have this question implicit there, which is, how much diversity Can you really tolerate if you're talking about a unified whole? And the second is this idea of really just total diversity, with a very limited,
unifying social political framework?
That answer the question, why not? Sounds good.
So I guess the second question we are going to talk about is, do we understand pluralism as a virtue? And I guess, there might be different answers for the two different paths you described? And if we do understand pluralism as a virtue, what's the role of non pluralistic traditions in that framework?
So let's think about that. I'm used to giving lectures
to answering questions difficult.
I guess I would start kind of base beginning with my previous answer, which is that it depends on what you think is good. What is your idea of the good, what are you pursuing the end?
The nation states, and we all live in nation states is premise and really built around the idea of a common identity, common ethnicity in the case of countries like France, or Germany, or the Netherlands or Italy, some idea of this imagine thing of being French, or German or Italian. And that comes with a certain idea about language and literature and values and history.
In the case of the United States, it's
rooted, at least ideally, in certain values and certain belief about democracy and freedom and rights. Of course, that's not actually a reality for many, many, many,
decades and centuries,
still remains a highly contested. But my point being the nation state actually has a very hard time dealing with difference internal has a very hard time dealing with difference. And there's a number of reasons why that is. And this goes back to this two definitions or two conceptions of pluralism.
If you think about that kind of
Burmese society that this foreign of all British colonial operative describes,
you know, in some ways, it sounds wonderful, right? So everybody's, it's like, you know, most is a spaceport in Star Wars except no people getting your arms chopped off and stuff like that. People still know star wars are my
so I mean, you know, we have this idea it's a romantic that you know, this complete diversity, everyone's dressing different and mixing and all these languages and different foods in the street and stuff like that. And, you know, it is, it is wonderful to think about, but then you think about the idea of how do you let's say that state then how
To fight a war, how do you get a bunch of people to be willing to sacrifice for a polity that doesn't seem to actually have any shared identity or ideology. And it's it's no coincidence that the nation state really emerges in Europe at the same time as standing armies, at the same time as a large scale colonial activity. And the idea of, let's say, being French, comes into being at the same time as
there being a massive French standing army, that it's going to fall in a pulley into Russia or to, to Belgium or to wherever.
So the, the idea of a standing army and the nation state are really things.
Think about this.
Or we would have met What a mess what will Americans fight for?
There's this, there's a reason why, you know, when you go to, I can always imagine this image of a sports game where you go to a football stadium, and then there's, you know, singing the Star Spangled Banner. And then, you know, these Blue Angels jets flying over, sometimes they do.
National celebration and the military are strongly linked. And there's this is not a coincidence is something that emerges in the late 1700s, and hundreds and hundreds in Europe. And if you think about if you want to have an army that is going to go and fight a massive army, where you're raising, you know, you're conscripting huge swaths of the young population, and then the society is devoting itself to Total War, which is really something that begins with the Napoleonic Wars ended the whole society, or is not something that elites do with a whole society is going to be involved in war, not suffer and sacrifice, you have to have a bit, it's going to motivate people to do that.
And that doesn't really work. If you have this pluralist society, where the only thing people have in common is they happen to live under the law and order the local ruler, but otherwise, they have no emotional connection to one another. So if you believe that, that a nation state has to possess some shared ideology that can move people that can, you know, when you're at the football game, and you hear the Star Spangled Banner, no matter who you are, you feel moved, I'm gonna play just whatever you feel moved. And when you watch Hacksaw Ridge, if you have moved in, you know, things like that. And if that's if that's part of it, the good of the nation state, that is not going to be
facilitated by that might, we might call really strong oralism of that. Ernie city.
It's, you know, it is possible. And this is actually something you see in in American movies in the 1950s, which always these movies being made about World War Two, and in each unit. Because World War Two, as you see from the movies was fought by units. Each unit, there's like, Indian guy, American Indian guy, there's the Polish guy, and there's the Yiddish guy. And then there's the Sarge. And the idea is that
these guys are all different, different places. But they all two things, they all love baseball. And they all love America. So there is a little bit of pluralism there. But that's really neat. Because what's different, maybe the Yiddish guy eats like us, or whatever, and Polish guy eats whatever polish it will be. And, you know, the Italian guy eats spaghetti and talks about his mom's VA stuff, but otherwise, they're exactly the same. So that's very weak. And that that really can co inspect that that can coexist with a militaristic nation state. So it depends on my answer, B, it depends what you think the good is, if you think the good has to be tied to a national identity that can be
mobilized for purposes of war, and national defense, and pluralism, and strong clothes. And if you think that, that sort of stuff is bad, and that people should kind of have a maximum ability to pursue their own or to indulge their own identities and traditions,
than totals was good. And by the way, just to remind you, there's a reason why the two great, very pluralistic multinational empires, the pre modern period, namely the austro, Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, there's a reason these these states fell apart in the late 1800s, early 20th century, and then could mean, at least in the case of awesome and Gary Empire couldn't really fight effectively in World War One. The Ottoman Empire did fight effectively, because it's very hard to engage in total war, when you your population has really limited notions of identification with the polity.
Just a follow up question to that. Do you think that the kind of strong pluralism you're describing in the second part of your career requires communities to live stuff
Because in the previous example you were giving you mentioned, they only interacted in the marketplace.
And then obviously, in a nation state, those shared aspects that you're talking about are what you get when you start mixing, you know, going to the same schools.
I mean, I think it depends on what, you know, what we require for living together.
You know, you can imagine that.
I mean, there's like a, you know, this is a really interesting case, in the 1300s in Cairo and Damascus, so they would, we actually have scholars write down registers, and they have a deep dictation sessions, that, you know, the scholar would read a deep collection, and, you know, a bunch of people would come in off the street and
peasants, whatever merchants did not just scholars in this huge audience, they would write down the names before in the audience, because that would then you could, they would then be the chain transmission. Every once in a while, there's actually like a Christian and a Jew in the audience to so and so. You know, cembalo been North Isla, may God guide him, though, they'll say. So, the point is really interesting is this is a case where
here hear the even though these communities are living separately, they they're interacting, even on a religious thing. I remember in the in the 10, hundreds in Baghdad, one scholars, Muslim scholars complaining, because the Muslims are closing their shops on the Sabbath on the Jewish Sabbath. So there are, you know, people can can interact in the sense of their cultures can mingle, they can affect each other. You can imagine them sharing holidays, sharing sweet sometimes with each other, or celebrations. But I think when we talk about living together, in the sense that we mean today, I'm not sure if that's so possible in a kind of strong Polish society. And by that I mean
Really strong kind of common friendships between people in different communities. I mean, this happened for sure. But I think it was an exception, I think these
the for a community within this pluralistic society to retain its its integrity, and it has to be very
Do you think that kind of hilarity is possible in a modern, modern context?
By the way, I should add that it also depends, if you're so in, let's say, Muslim state, which is take example, the Ottoman Empire or the mameluke, state of Egypt and Syria and Egypt from the late 1200, mid 1200s, to the 1800s. It depends who's in charge. So if you're the Muslims, then you you're going to have perhaps more interaction with non animal souls, then
if you were not in control, in the sense that Muslim courts have non Muslims coming in notarizing documents at the core and they have, you know, Muslims would employ non Muslims for various tasks. It was much rare for Muslims to be employed by non Muslim, like a Jew or a Christian or so it also depends on where you are in the kind of hierarchy of the society.
And then forgot the question.
it's possible today,
I guess you're Amish there's always the Amish example. Which is really interesting, because one wonders to what extent it's really an option, or if it's just a sort of one off case in American society, it's something that you can really replicate. But then, and I don't know a lot about this, but throughout the
Orthodox Jews, especially in New York area, who seem to have their own world, as far as I know, but but live quite accepted in areas they haven't. So
I think if that's sort of how you stake your identity, it's possible. But I think it's very difficult. And it's very difficult unless you really cut yourself off from almost all the technologies and media that are so pervasive in the society. I mean, if you, if you start watching TV, then it's very hard to separate yourself from the society.
If you end up being able to know if your best way to relate to other people by Game of Thrones references, and that that means a lot for how you conceptualize your society.
Can you talk a little bit more about the historical role of pluralism in Western societies you've touched on in a couple of different places and more specifically,
Whether we have sources about the perspectives of minorities living in those societies and what those sources might tell us.
Yeah, we have a lot of sources about minorities living in Muslim states thoughts.
And you know, not surprisingly, sometimes they were unhappy and sometimes they were happy with being generally left alone.
I'd say that, in my from my reading, the
group that is most consistently registering complaints if that's the right way to put it. It's actually not a minority but a massive majority, which is the Hindu Hindu family of religion to the city indigenous religious groups that inhabit India under Muslim rule from the late 1100s until the fall of the Roman Empire and officially 1857.
There's a lot I mean, a lot of discontent expressed by
indigenous communities in India various times. The irony is that, that the local expression or the local Empire, for those who don't know the Mughal Empire is the Indian descendants of Tamerlane, ie Mongols, who take over in India, usually the data think about 1526 real effective controls lost in the mid 1700s. Officially they will until the British officially announced them after the Indian mutiny slash first independence. Now, they they set their they rule in northern India, especially they from Delhi and also ogra. And they, by the early 1700s, expand all the way into almost the entirety of the subcontinent, okay.
At most, at the most according to British census and the 18 7075 census, the largest percentage of Indian population of South Asia was about 25% of the population.
And so Muslims are minority their ruling minority. And
so the irony is, despite the Vikings a lot of discontents, various times by certain elements of the Hindu population, ironically, it is also the Empire State that relied the most on non Muslims. So local army relied totally on mobile on Indian soldiers on Raqqa, especially for the Rajput caste warrior, sort of warrior princes and kings, they relied tremendously on them. They relied on Hindus for administration, they relied on them for almost everything because they Muslims were not numerous enough to actually maintain even the basic defense of the state. So that's the case of ageism, maybe you find the most rancor in my, in my experience,
I think, you know, with Christians and Jews in the sort of Central lands of the Mediterranean and Iraq and Iran area. Occasionally they were, you know, riots against Christians in Egypt, like in the 1320s. Occasionally, they were riots against Jews, like in Granada and 1066 of the Common Era. But these these groups flourished under Muslim rule. I mean, this is just a fact. And in fact, I think David was and David Wasserstein at Vanderbilt University, wrote, he wrote an essay called how Islam saved the Jews. I think it's an essay somebody looked at.
I know some of you have electronic devices.
And I think he also wrote a book on us how Islam suited us. But what he demonstrates is that, you know, the, what we think about as medieval Jewish culture and the intellectual tradition, theological and philosophical, philosophical and legal tradition in Judaism,
the majority of it comes from Jews living under Islamic rule, and they were able to flourish and then they were actually they were constructively influenced by their Muslim surrounding so when you read my mind at ease, he died 23 somebody looked that up for me
that look up to my wannabes.
You know, when you read his his mission to Torah, his writing and his guidance complex, this is like, it's as if he's a Muslim scholar writing when he writes about theology, philosophy, even law, he brings in ideas of consensus or knowledge. The theory is that he's really strongly influenced in law by Muslim scholars. So
I think these groups flourish under Muslim.
Can you talk a little bit more about the specific nature of the indigenous Indian complaints or, if you like, that's pretty good.
No, I mean, I could it's just stuff.
I mean, it's all it's all. I mean, there's there's some very specific.
So I think when I don't know if this is getting like too into the weeds on South Asia, but I think when
South Asian history in the context of Muslim, the Hindus, it's oftentimes phrased as this battle between most of the Hindus and the participants in these conflicts that characterize them as such. But
I think it's much more. And this is not just my theory, I think this is the kind of general opinion of scholars that kind of stayed in the field of scholarship is that it's really just South Asian politics. And, you know, if you, if someone rises up against you, and then you defeat them, you go, and you destroy their temple, and you take their Bibles back to your temple. And if they have, if you're a Muslim, then you destroy their temple, and you build a mosque, and you take the risks of their temple, and you go and build a mosque. And this, the Hindus are doing exactly the same thing to each other. And if someone is your vassal, and they're nice to you, and they support you, then
you patronize their temple. And if you're Muslim, or Hindu, it doesn't matter. This is British traveler in the 1600s, who goes to
puni, where they have the temple of juggernaut. And he actually does, he sees the mobile official like sitting there eating a doughnut or whatever. He's eating like a big potbelly. And he's there to, you know, because they patronize the temple. And they, every year, they give money. And so the very
local rulers were seen sometimes as being these intolerance, kind of Orthodox Muslim oppressors like Orings,
your guide 1707. He's also the one who raised who elevated the most Rajput generals, the high positions in the army, he's also sponsoring Hindu temples at the same time as he's destroying other Hindu temples. So I think it's we have to watch out that,
you know, there's this one battle during the reign of Akbar, the Greek, died in 65. range in the mid 1950s, to 1605. And he's having this battle and there's actually
so big part of his army is Hindus. And so one of the scholars guys scholar who's writing this history, he actually goes and he decides he wants to go and do jihad.
He wants to feel like he's done this once it goes and gets arrows, the shooting, and he asked, the guy next to me says, How do I know I'm shooting at these veterans, if it's Hindu, if the Hindus that I'm shooting at her, and I started on the other side, and he says, The guy said, it doesn't matter if it kills one on their army, that's good. And if it kills on apartment, it's not that bad. So, but then the same battle, there's this one of the Rajput warriors, goes and fights this bravely and battlelands killing lies, he won't meeting these folders, and there's just this Muslim poet writes this verse of poetry. He says, today, you know, a Hindu bore the sword of Islam. So in one battle,
you can see how complicated psychologically says, you know, both, they're both very appreciative of this Hindus fighting bravely on their side. But they're all also
doesn't really matter. They're all Hindus.
I think in this case, you see, the religious lines blurred, and what really matters is Whose side are you on the side of it, you happen to be on our side on the other side religion?
Sorry, my former student shouldn't be
So to bring us back to a more general question, how can we avoid engaging in moral relativism while trying to respect the views of others? While living in?
Question? So I think that
well, first of all,
it's ask yourself this question, what's wrong with moral relativism?
I mean, the more wealth is only wrong if you believe that there's something there's some moral absolutes out there.
I mean, and that's, by the way, not that that's not an assumption human beings don't drop out of the womb and know that their moral absolutes.
In fact, for most of human history, probably that would not be the assumption.
The assumption is that you would have your community your religion, your philosophy, would have some understanding of morality was true and other people are just completely out to lunch.
Did you find my monitors that day?
So of course, I said total three. I was one year off.
the, I think,
we have to say is,
the question is, is how do we the question isn't how do we not laugh anymore relativism question is, how do we justify moral absolutes?
And if you were to go and let's say ask a random, let's say an intelligent American, on the street, how would they justify moral absolutes, they might say something was something is common sense.
Or something is,
let's say human rights, that something, both of these traditions are not
clearly justified. So common sense, just means whatever one society thinks has been established as fixed points of inquiry and are no longer subject to debate, or perhaps are actually subject to debate. But you don't have enough evidence to come up with at that moment, because it's common sense.
Things like human rights, this is a very new discourse really only emerges in the informant in the 1940s. And then, is debated a lot in the Cold War. This is very interesting. I mean, it during the Cold War, US said, human rights or like freedom of speech, freedom of political involvement, freedom of association, and the Soviet said, No, no freedom of rights, our freedom of health, you know, right to health care, right to housing, right to childcare. us. So no, no, those aren't. Those are human rights. So what you see is, it's it's actually not at all a neutral, absolute thing that all human beings agree on, it's actually very clearly a product of Cold War disagreements. And then if
any of you are old enough to remember this, when did human rights really become an effective tool of international coercion is really after the Cold War ends, because then the debates over So my point is that even those things that we would point to, let's say, America on the street points here, as ways of saying this is a moral absolute. These are not actually absolute, these are also culturally
So I think the question from how is a Muslim Do I need
to talk about moral absolutes? Well, in Islam is a very interesting element of Islamic law, which people don't talk about a lot. It gets mentioned a lot by Muslim scholars, but they don't very often theorize it, it's sort of always understood, which is the idea of what's called a hook on the back of a God means the rights of the slaves of God, it basically means human rights and these rights that people have, because they're human beings. And they have this regardless of their Christian or Jew, or Hindu or Zoroastrian, or any whatever. These I mean, you would say right to life, and physical integrity.
So someone can't just be killed for no reason someone can't come in, you know, punch you in the face for no reason, without facing consequences. You have the right to property, you can't be deprived of property without reason. If the right to dignity,
you have the right to dignity, you can do the medium human without reason.
And so these are the, you know, sexual integrity, you have the right to your sexual integrity,
and the sense that your sexual being shouldn't be violated or accessed without reason. So this, these are actually core to Islamic law. And it comes up a lot in Islamic legal discussions, when people talk about why certain ruling has to be taken, the wider Muslim scholars have to take a ruling, this ruling of the post of that ruling or pick from this rule of law, as opposed to that school of law? Or why is why is a judge ruling in a case in this way, because otherwise, the guy that will be lost, the rights of God's slaves will be lost. So for Muslims, I think, for me, as a Muslim, I can tell you where my moral absolutes, they come from, what Muslims derived from their
revealed tradition, from the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet from what they saw as first principles of reason.
Now, it's just happens to be that these overlap a lot with human rights, but if someone comes along and says, well, it's also a human right, that someone should be able to get free refills at restaurants. I mean, in theory, someone could come up with that as a human right? Because now people say, you know, human rights, you have a human rights to your own gender identity.
That was not a human right, if you're not a human right 20 years ago, so the list of human rights in the western discourse of human rights is something that can be added to and
in my opinion, as far as I understand Islam,
we can add to things that we think are good, we can say it's good to get free refills in restaurants, or it's good to have certain understandings of the way you interact with people in our society. But to say that we're gonna say these are absolute rights that human beings enjoy because of human beings. I think that would be impossible to say. And I mean, that's why, by the way, you know, you see disagreement between Muslims.
Like, you know, the UN has this Declaration of Human Rights. In the 1990s. There's the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, there's like Muslim version of that human rights work. And if you look at where it differs from the UN Declaration, human rights is on things like issues of sexuality and stuff like that. Not that we don't think these are human rights.
So if these human rights and Islamic concepts are absolutes, how do we understand the way they changed over time?
For example, with issues of like slavery? Now, a lot of Muslims would argue that, you know, was trying to encourage abolition from the start, and all humans have the right to their freedom and
control over their own body. But that was not how listens, or even majority of Muslim scholars viewed it, you know, in the previous century, or before?
Oh, I guess there you weren't kidding about no softball.
I think I've answered this effectively.
Thank you. It's not as nice as your drink.
There was an issue earlier, why Express discontent about how many tasty smoothie like drinks were being drunk by youtubers without?
When slavery they're very interesting issue. I was actually talking to people about this at lunch today.
Because today, if you're going to make
if you're going to kind of use an argument to show how
the kind of the rock solid, fixed point of inquiry, no one can question is that slavery is bad. So when you're in a debate, and you say, well, that's what Hitler said, or well is with with slavery, okay, then those are the two points where you can kind of when no one's gonna say Hitler was right, I know, I'm gonna say slavery should be allowed.
What I think is, it's sort of a, it's an irony is that
the more one thinks about slavery,
the more one reads about the more you realize that it's actually
very difficult to come up with a definition of slavery that exists across the street. So, in fact, I would go so far as to say that there's not really anything that is slavery, that applies to every place every time. So if you were to try if you were to go and look at
this, look at all, every society in human history, and try and find where there's slavery,
or if they have something called slavery that we would translate as slavery to try and define it would be very hard to come up with a definition of slavery that applies to everybody. The definitions that are attempted are so vague as to one group exploiting another group, one group being totally socially debased.
Or when you come up with more specific definitions, they actually don't apply to all the things that you want to call slavery.
slavery is a very difficult topic to talk about, because in American context,
you know, we, you know, you see 12 years of slave or you see, roots are you see, even in this movie, I remember this period drama called Mansfield Park, which for some reason I saw where this Jane Austen novel so there's a scene where the female characters, she finds this, this sketchbook of one of her brothers was better than the British West Indies, and she sees all these images of slavery and the brutality and the music kind of it had been has the sound effect of people being whipped and tormented and, and the
effect on the viewer and the fact on the character a tremendous and so that's, that's the kind of emotional,
emotional experience we have when we think about slavery in the United States today. It's the cardinal sin of American history. And so it's really hard to talk about that.
In a kind of a detached way, and when we talk about, let's say, slavery in China or slavery in the Ottoman Empire,
we think that this is sort of what we've seen in these images. We know from our history united states that this applies other places, but it just doesn't apply. It just does not apply. Our experience of slavery is very specific. And what happens when we go and we kind of apply that to other people and ask other people to answer for that is we're in effect, putting our sins on them. I think that's what we're putting artwork. We're offloading our sins onto those people, they might have slavery in China. But it what, until we actually look at it and decide whether it was, you know, what are his good aspects or the bad aspects, we we really are the whites and make this
Second, you know, when you just think about things, like, let's say ownership, and, and this is where I think it's really important to, to,
to think about, you know, what are your moral absolutes, right? So we talk about slavery in the Western tradition, we think about someone owning another person, we think about somebody being property, we think about somebody losing their choice, we think about somebody being exploited. But what is what does ownership mean?
mean what is, you know, in the United States,
husbands and wives have ownership rights over each other's person and each other's property, as you discover if you ever get divorced, a bit.
We have ownership rights over our children in the sense that we control what they do.
They don't have rights to make decisions, we have rights over disciplining them physically, even today,
for you know, let alone 50 years ago.
And the fact that we don't talk about ownership in the context of marriage, or in the context of children, is really just a matter of conventions, no matter what we think is polite, Chinese, and up until in ching, ching, China, in Imperial China, from the 1600s, in 1911.
Husbands would regularly
in their will, they would say, and my wife goes to so and so their wife was part of their party, she wasn't actually a slave, but she was considered part of their property. So I think that it's really important. Ask yourself the question, what do we mean by property? What do we mean by freedom? What is freedom? I mean,
am I free? I have to work Otherwise, I'll stop. Am I a free person?
My, you know, if you're in a family and your parents make you feel really guilty if you don't make the choices they want, and they'll ostracize you and make you miserable, and you'll feel guilty and horrible. And no one your siblings won't talk to you and everybody who loves won't talk to you. If you disobey your parents, are you really free to disobey your parents, even if you live in a political free society? So I think, you know, are your children free, My children are free people, they're not home. But their decisions are totally determined by me.
So I think that freedom, exploitation, ownership freedom, these things exist on a spectrum.
And it's very hard to tell where on the spectrums what we want to call slavery actually exists for a lot of slavery in Islamic, even even Islamic history. Slavery is extremely diverse. Ottoman Empire was run by slaves. He admitted that the chief administered ministers of the Ottoman Empire were all slaves of the Salton, they were fabulously rich, they were extremely powerful. They married they had children, they married the daughters of the Sultan's they had children who had passed his privileges onto, and they were all slaves.
Whereas the wife of a British slave owner in the 1800s,
that wife had no rights to property. She could be physically disciplined by her husband, and the husband could not even be legally liable for severely injuring or even killing her under English law, in English law until the 1870s, even someone who worked for someone else, if you didn't show up for work, or if you decide you want to leave and, you know, break your contract, that was a criminal act, you would go to prison.
Is that a free worker? So these people are free, the wife and the worker are free, but the Ottoman minister, the chief of the Ottoman Empire, the wealthiest man, the outer part is a slave. How does this work? You know, I think these these, we need to be very careful. We can't just say, wherever slavery wherever the word slavery appears, wherever we choose to put that word, suddenly this tremendous moral outrage has to follow. If we want to be outraged by the way people are treated or the way
or regimes of exploitation, and by all means, let's be outraged at those regimes of exploitation. But let's not
Let's look at the reality not just the names that are attached.
I don't know if that answers the question.
So just ask a follow up. While it is true, obviously, that slavery is different in different contexts. I think that's an important nuance point that gets lost. I think it's also important to note that Muslim scholars also justified domestic and agricultural slavery, it wasn't just like this old tense and the students were living like their best life and their policies. And it was like, yeah, boys were mutilated by the castrated It was like, mutilated by being captured by non Muslims and off by Muslims. It was for Muslim market, or like, the slave caravans across this across the Sahara, and like, how difficult that was kidnapping primarily children, because it was easier to
transport them like, I do think there are so many atrocities tied to this thing.
slavery in Muslim societies, which are obviously not justified by some theology, but which did exist in Muslim societies, and which were justified by Muslim scholars at the time. So then, how we understand moral absolutes, when we know that people can turn to the same text and justify what we see now clearly as atrocities of removing people from their families, and for the purpose of having them engage in domestic labor in hustles, primarily, or in military labor. I mean, I would just say, you know, if you have a regime of law, where somebody who has zero economic opportunities, and has ready availability of drugs, is then going to get arrested for possession of a small amount of
drugs, and sent to prison, or removed from their family, politically disenfranchised, made unemployable
used as slave labor while in prison,
by the way, I'm talking about the United States and Saudi, okay, you know, I just, I mean, I don't have a problem criticizing certain policies. But let's criticize them across the board. I refuse to have Muslims bear the burdens of other society since I just this is a highly objectionable to me, you know, how many, how many, even people who talk about modern slavery? Do they include the prison industrial complex in in this country as part of that? Almost never.
So if you want to have discussions, I'm fine having discussions about realities, but I want to have them across the board.
people exploit other people,
and by the way, a lot of that is morally acceptable.
Someone who's intelligent has the capacity to tell it to exploit someone who's not intelligent, someone who's strong has the capacity to exploit somebody who's weak. You know, our laws in society are designed to limit this so that extreme exploitation doesn't occur, that people have certain rights, that if their brand,
they're enhanced, then
they have some redress. Okay.
So I think that, you know, exploitation is not while we might be uncomfortable on toolbar, I think it's a reality of human life. And as long as it's not extreme, it's part of the social reality.
in the case of examples of slavery and sama civilization, which were egregious examples of exploitation. Peter, you pointed out agricultural, first of all, agricultural slavery was fairly rare in Islamic civilization.
But even then,
you know, you have to ask yourself,
what, what's wrong with having a cultural studies? Is it wrong because we're calling them slave? What if we took away that title slave? What if you said they are people who are tied to land have limited right to freedom of movement, they can buy their freedom if they want. If they're mastered reuse, which was a modern Islamic law, they have to be clothed, properly fed properly, treated properly, and if not, they can go to a court and say, my my owner is mistreating. Is there all realities of Islamic civilization? So, you know, we call them slaves, suddenly, we're having this really morally kind of compromised discussion. But if we just call the peasants or serfs, then it's
not a big deal. I mean, I think that the use of the word slavery in this context is very, very manipulative. I'm not saying your opinions, but I think we I think we're all being in this discussion.
Now if if people are being
You mentioned kind of the slave trade and bringing, you know, Sub Saharan Africans from the western Western Sahara Africa or Western sunsail, or the Suez today, Sudan, and bringing that into the slum areas and selling them
and being, let's say castrated as Unix and then being brought into sama glands. Yeah, I think this was, you know, this is highly problematic. And,
but I think it's also important to keep in mind and this I think, pretty true across the board and Islamic intellectual history. I believe that Muslim scholars will often many of them are often wrong.
Sometimes they're always right. But all of them are never wrong.
At any time, there is an issue where you think, you know, my something in my heart tells me there's something wrong here.
There's a Muslim scholar making that point 200 years ago, three years ago, 1000 years ago, 14 years at that point. So this is famous scholar Atman, Baba of Timbuktu died in the early 60s in 1615. He writes this treatise on
identity on on fatwas on slavery. And he says, you cannot simply go into areas and capture if you will, because they're quote unquote, black and think that they're not Muslim, that you can enslave them. And I'm going to tell you, where the tribes are Muslim and you have to leave them alone, and where the tribes who are not Muslim
and he himself was enslaved at one point in his life, so he was unhappy with someone, the Moroccans invaded, took up to a took away Goodbye, he was a slave. And so he was extremely, extremely annoyed by this obviously.
So you know, he's saying you can't just go into areas rethink a bunch of nominal stuff and raid and take actually take Muslims. Similarly, in the in the mid 11, mid 10, hundreds upon hundreds of acres of Father of mental health manager at the famous Jackie's got her died 25 year old Holland, your baby, as a factory says, taking concubines in this day and age, Randy's writing in northern Northeastern Northeastern Iran in the 10 hundreds to this age. He says this is unacceptable. It's not crew, or prohibited. It's either disliked or prohibited, because we don't know where these people are coming from, there's too strong a chance that they're Muslim.
These these slave women.
you point out these abuses, or these Prop, you know, practices that we could righteously rightfully condemn as Muslims. But my point is that there's always muslims for pointing these out too at the same time. And I think if you go back and you take those voices, and you resurrect those voices as our mortal voices today, then we don't have a problem speaking from within our tradition.
Okay, so just to follow up questions. Firstly, how do we know that which voices that we should be picking and building off of like, what criteria do we use to pick that?
And then secondly, you mentioned that exploitation is morally justifiable unless it becomes extreme, but where do we draw the line and decide as become extreme?
Well, so obviously, they don't admit stupid people from
someone some some should
be fair. Okay.
You're these are good questions. Two very good questions. The first question is, they were so good that I forgot the first one was the first one.
Oh, yeah, that's a great question. So this is a big question. Because you don't want to get what I call the Franken Fatboy
is my turn anyone ever hear? I think I came up with this. I love this term, the Franken factor like Frankenstein. So you say, Okay, well, I'm gonna want to get married. So in the Hanafi school, you know, the main opinions you don't need the permission of the hut, the father of the of the woman, and then in the Maliki school, his opinion you don't need the witnesses. His other school you know, you don't have to give a gallery. So now you have a marriage with no witnesses, no permission, no dowry. That's Frank ineffectual, nobody would accept that.
So there are different approaches that Muslim scholars have come up with for when you can pick and choose from the grab bag, I use what's called the Mr. Potato Head bucket of parts in Islamic tradition. What, how what are the rules for making them Mr. Potato?
There's three general papers one is, this is a very minority position, which is basically it depends on your intentions. If you if you intend to do
what pleases God and you pick a certain ruling or you combine different links. That's it, what matters is your intention.
I think that's nice, but it's very nice. That far it's to other extreme is, look, you follow one school of law and you take the main opinion of that school of law.
Unless there's some necessity unless you're deficient in assessing then you can take an alternative opinion
that's very characteristic of a North African Malik ism and South Asian and even Ottoman Hanif ism. And late, late early modern monetary. The middle approach, just very characteristic of the Shafi humbly School of Law School of Law is that you can pick and choose different opinion, you can, you know, pick from different sources provided one that either you have some necessity, or you think that one you have evidence from the grandmas. So not that one opinion is better than the other.
But you can't have the Franken factor. So you can't come up with a result, a compound result that nobody would accept.
I think that's a good approach. And you know, you so you don't, you know, you don't want to have these situations where,
you know, we all get in these in these situations where you say, Okay, I'm going, I'm going down to dem going downtown, do some shopping, and then I'm trying to pray. Well, there's a minority opinion of Maliki School, which says that I can join my true prayers, without any rain or danger. I'm just busy, right? And then, you know, you go when you say,
crap place in the store, I get a crap and then you put alcohol in the crap and say, It's okay, well, there's this minority opinion in the Hanafi School, which says, If you stick alcohol,
and then you go and you go to the, you know, you,
you go to the bank, and you have, you know, you want to do interest bearing transaction, well, there's a minority thing, he says you can do interest rates. So basically, at a certain point, you have to ask yourself,
what different, what distinguishes you from anybody around you.
And I think that's very tempting for the west to kind of take these licenses so often, that they basically watered down their religious point of non recognizability.
I think when we look into the past,
on issues that are really morally
troubling for us, for example, women, women leadership, you know, when you go when you have people saying, you know, Muslim woman can't she can't be on the MOS board, she shouldn't even be in the on the shouldn't really even be in the main room of the MOS. We shouldn't have met men and women together in this room, you know, that's wrong.
Don't don't, you know, etc, etc. And then you go back, and you look at the time of the profit, but it's also nice to see women getting up in the hookah and correcting the on the top as in the money, and I thought of the hallway, which is considered to be reliable report. Or you have I show the wife of the Prophet who's full of political opinions full of legal opinions. I mean, you don't you see a world in which women are very much involved in political life and looked to as political things as, as authorities and law. So in that case, you you have this moral unease about the exclusion of women from leadership. And you go back into this tradition, you see, actually, no, this is we've we've
And my moral unease might be caused by the fact that we live in the west where women and men are, you know, they're seen as people are who supposedly, you know, but I'm actually it's not the West, it's making me like, it's, it's, it's reminding me of something in my own tradition that I'm going back. You know, if I say, I'm uneasy with the fact that, you know, some Muslim scholar is telling me that Muslims can just go and take slaves, I'm uneasy with that. And then I go back, and I look in the in the past, I see that there are Muslim scholars like Bob or Jimmy, Mohammed, or they were saying, You can't go and just randomly take slaves, you have this, this, in fact, should perhaps
even be prohibited, because it's so difficult to maintain these conditions that we're supposed to follow that we shouldn't even engagement. Like, that's that, you know, you could say, well, you're just trying to justify condemned economists condemnation of slavery, or are you going back and finding a voice that's making authentic argument that happens to carry with the moral and
so I think it's a question of really being honest with us.
about what's motivating. Are you seeking to ape others? Or are you using the influence of others? The positive influence of others to make yourself see the best and most correct argue on tradition?
The second question I had was just how do you know?
How do you know when exploitation has gotten?
Because he had mentioned that exploitation to a certain extent is inevitable?
I mean, in the in the, you know, in, Okay, first of all,
yeah. Okay. So we know this from,
from, from Islamic legal from solid jurisprudence, or you have to, as you know, hygiene from Sahih Bukhari that your split it, let's just take the examples of slavery.
They have to be had to be fed from your food, they have to dress from your clothing, and even housing, from your housing, you can't give them more work than they can bear.
And in a Muslim cemetery, that the clothing, the housing and the treatment of the slave is done by my roof was known to be right at that time in place. So we have here in the Sunnah of the Prophet, clear idea that you can't, you should not physically abuse slaves.
You can't burden them with more work than they can bear. You have to take care of their feeding clothing and housing, but you do so based on what's my roof in your own time place.
So, you know,
think about the same issue with children, what is acceptable disciplining for children?
Anybody know what it is in American Family Law in general?
In most states, as far as I know, you're allowed to reasonably use reasonable force to reasonable. So what does that mean? reasonable is whatever people think is reasonable.
Yeah, this actually came up as a debate, I guess it was a year ago or so there was some guy in the, in the NFL, and he, he even kid his kid or something, I don't ever pay attention to sports, but it's something happened. Yeah, so I mean, this was actually a really good example of a clash of books. These were two American motifs that were clashing. One was what, as far as I understand, kind of a Southern African American understanding of discipline, and one was this sort of upper middle class, urban, liberal white understanding discipline,
which happens to have a great deal of power. So even in one country, in one year, you have tremendous disagreement about what appropriate use of force is for disciplining a child. So the same thing could be used for let's say, disciplining a laborer, or disciplining a slate, you know, what's the appropriate way to treat your children in terms of how they're fed how they're housed? That's very different at different times in places.
So I mean, in this day and age, where do you draw the lines? In the Islamic tradition, you know, that a worker or slave has to be fed, they have to be
clothed, they have to be housed in ways that are
similar to the way that a free person is fed slave is fed, housed.
And they can be disciplined, but they can't be disciplined in a way that's going to one drunk blood, that specific commodity to the profit. They can't be disciplined in a way that's going to cause any kind of permanent damage and they can't be kept.
Which is actually very similar to the way that you're allowed to discipline your children. I mean, the rules are almost identical. So in the Islamic tradition, I think they're pretty clear answers. In the Western tradition, I'm not sure what the answers are about when exploitation is justified. I think, by the way, that's one of the tensions in modern, modern economy over global economy over things like sweatshops over things like modern slavery, like bonded labor, and things like that, where
people point out that American companies engage in labor practices that would not be tolerated in our own country abroad. My wife actually made a documentary about this called made in Bangladesh, and how to zero I recommended who won and Peabody and it got nominated for an Emmy.
me, I'd say that
I would pose your same question to everybody in United States, I would say, what do you think the way that the lines are for acceptable exploitation, because there seems to be a lot
disagreement on that amongst us companies, amongst people who buy products. Why do you guys buy gap and Old Navy clothes that are made by sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, Bangladesh, because my wife's documentary demonstrates?
So moving into the modern world?
What are the implications of assigning moral values to political positions? Because I've heard from a lot of people lately that that's something we shouldn't be doing. But I feel like when you choose a position you, you choose it because you think it's correct. So it seems kind of inevitable to me. But then it does seem to be causing a divide between people that's a little bit difficult to bridge.
So this question, I'm sure it's referring to disagreements in the Muslim community.
So I mean, if you if you think about it, it's very easy to,
to kind of consider any disagreement to be enrolled as
well, why don't you know, with the exception of things like you know, which, in which I sit on the right side of the chair, or the left side of the chair, or should I drink?
Earl Grey tea lapsang, souchong. Tea, you know, that disagreement is not very hard to disagree. But
all sorts of other things, you know, should you vote yes, on a certain initiative, or no on certain issues that should you? You think it's right to support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or
The second, you get into that kind of disagreement want to get more over it quickly.
So I think the problem isn't necessarily trying to make sure that are trying to avoid
seeing a moral dimension to this agreement. I think the the question is, what is the range of moral disagreement that we can tolerate, and still interact with each other.
And again, here, it's very, I think it's useful to keep in mind the, the Asana tradition, where you have incredible diversity within
between Sunnis and Shiites. Within Sunni Islam, you have four schools of law, three different schools of theology. And the position in general, especially on two schools of law was,
I think my school was correct for the possibility that it's wrong. I think my other schools of law are wrong with the possibility that they're correct. But they are all Sundays. And beyond that, we're all Muslims. So, you know, I think the Islamic tradition is actually a paragon of unity and diversity, or diversity within unity.
And I think that Muslims, were able to do that, because they understood that
first of all, the companions of the Prophet disagreed with each other. And therefore,
they were all the best generation therefore,
even the best people are gonna disagree with each other. In fact, even the best, you might even get into physical fights with each other. In fact, they might even make war on each other. And yet, they still, every year, they would come to Mecca and do lunch together. I mean, that's very interesting. Every year, every single year.
There's a great head, Ethan. So he will carry
the talks about these two companions who are on opposing sides of this sort of first Civil War, the Sunni Shia or Sunni Shia divide sermons. And they're they're getting this heated debate and then the prayer time comes and they both get up and they go and practice.
The fact that you in Sonia law assignment.
You can despise a ruler, that ruler can be a bloodthirsty wine swilling, fornicating innocent person killing
But if that he if he gets up and leaves the prayer, then in Sunni Islam, the principle is we pray behind everybody, before our
righteous or unrighteous. And, for example, I hate the Egyptian Government. I hate the Egyptian government with extreme passion. I think it's a disasterous Kitchen horrendous, aesthetically revolting.
Now, but if and I it's hard, because if Advil, cc came in here, and was going to lead to prayer, I would pray behind him.
And I don't like that idea, but that's what I have to do as a Sunday Muslim.
Sunni Islam is this I think, I mean, I have no problem talking about the virtues and
And positive attributes of other Sonic schools of insects as well as hearing just like when someone's that, it's it is a perspective on the world and recognizes that disagreement is part and parcel of life. And that disagreement might be intense, that disagreement might be violent, but it cannot be allowed to Trump
the the shared communal boundary, the shared communal identity, to break those bonds. So, you know, when it comes to kind of political issues that favor American Muslims, I mean, I have a, I wrote something about those a couple, maybe a week or two ago,
from Medina Institute, where
we have to have as we have to have the most patience with each other as possible, we have to have the biggest tense as possibly the largest 10 possible
way to make as many people as possible. So for example, if if I say, you know,
Xena, Xena, I want you to sign this petition for this really important cause.
And you say,
I don't really feel like
my policy is Okay, you know what, that's fine. Because people don't have endless emotional energy, and they can't be involved in everything, they can't stand up for everything. You know, they have a finite amount of energy of outrage, anger or emotion. And also, sometimes people just don't want to get involved with it and have a luxury to get involved. Okay, so my principle is, as long as you're not harming my cause, I'm not going to hold this against you, I'm not going to consider it a moral fault.
As my principal, now, if
if we're having a boycott, if it's, say, a very successful boycott of a certain country, which happens to have apartheid policies, and,
you know, engage in 19th century federal court settler colonialism in the 21st century, under the full protection of United States government and American taxpayers. For some reason, let's say there was a country like that, let's say it was a very successful international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against that country, which has gotten as long my last count five or six standalone articles in the economist devoted to it in the past five years, and which has
gotten the full support of the civil society instead of depressed economy, have said oppressed people. And they've asked the international peer support that this boy God didn't sanction movement. And if American Muslims have for generations supported this idea, and not even considered the idea of, let's say, going to visit a certain country on the tab of an institution from a certain country, which happens to be an extremist, apartheid supporting institution, right?
I can't remember I was going by point is in a situation, and then an American Muslim decides to go on that trip, even though
all sorts of Christians and Jews and Buddhists and atheists and rock stars and non rock stars and scientists like Stephen Hawking's and non scientists are supporting this boycott. At that point of a Muslim chooses to break that boycott. I consider that to be a fault on their part because they are harming one cause.
I don't know if that makes any sense. But my point is, you know,
just another example, if, you know, we can sit around and we can criticize, you can criticize, let's say President Trump.
President Trump was President Trump was President Trump's president. I have to get used to saying President Trump's presidency. But if President Trump says I want some Muslim scholars invitation
is like almost like Bernie Sanders personation. I don't even know how to work on a Trump impersonation. So he says I want Muslim scholars to come meet with me. Tell me about this American Muslim community. I want them to tell me about Islam.
I don't know if a bunch of Muslim scholars go and meet with President Trump. I'm fine with that.
Provided that they believe and it's we all believe that there's the benefit that can come from that is not is better than the harm are greater than the harm. If so, I think it's fair. By the way, I want to be clear, I think it's wrong to engage in a sort of knee jerk. Contact,
contact contagion politics, where you say, oh, how dare How dare Xena beyond the stage of Jonathan brown because Jonathan Brown said this, therefore Zenit shouldn't be bouncing. Oh, how dare john brown meet with amounts of hate because amounts of hate said this one. No, that's impossible. Human Relations become impossible.
People have to be able to interact with other human beings, even if the ones they disagree with. So I think actually, we should be very reserved about kind of heaping, moral criticism on fellow Muslims in the United States, we should make excuses for them. But I think we also have to have certain red lines when people are harming causes that are agreed upon, or at least enjoy tremendous support within the Muslim community, then that is possible.
Okay, I have one more question. And we'll open it up to audience q&a. So my final question is about social justice and activism, especially staying involved with message which is Muslims, Muslim advocates for social justice. Very clever acronym. We did come up with that.
But so yeah, when engaging with social justice and activism, where do we draw the line between preserving our own values and engaging in coalition building, both in terms of like, the character methodology of the way people want to act in these Coalition's and in terms of the actual morals that we're standing?
So you have a lot more courage than I did when I was in college? I don't think I did a single thing in college except study. I never had to.
I don't know if I had the time, I think I was always afraid, I'll be honest. Like, I was always afraid to do this sort of stuff. So I really applaud people who do it. And it makes me think that the generation of Muslims in college they better than the ones when I was in college, at least better than I was.
It's it's sort of, and Muslims have had this question for the past 1520 years, do we kind of become republicans and join the republicans because we all kind of socially conservative and things like that.
And then 911 happened, and then Patriot Act got passed. And then we found out that apparently, a lot of conservative Christians in this country think we are a cancer that has to be excised from the country. And so that didn't really work, you know, conservatives in this country, they, with the exception of very intelligent and wise people like Robert George, I wish there are more people like him.
But sadly, he's a minority in the conservative movement in this country.
What seems to be the majority don't see the value in something as long I think that's a tremendous loss.
So they concern us and want us to give up both our political views, and in fact, our religious views because although we are socially conservative and believe in God, we also have a notion of family that is completely reprehensible to conservative Christian.
It's important to keep in mind, just the possibility of polygamy may Muslim marriages, invalid in English law until the early 20th century.
unless those Muslim marriages were carried out in a Muslim country, then the person came to it if it was done in England, or outside of a Muslim country, that the potential of polygamy made it invalid.
Now, what about
this sort of sense that then Muslims after this Muslims realized, okay, we're gonna work with us on democratic Democratic Party.
Unfortunately, the kind of centrist democrats
want you to give up your political views and your social views.
Because, let's say being opposed to same sex marriage or being opposed to
kind of a lot of elements on the LGBTQ agenda. This would make you kind of persona non grata
centrist Democratic Party, and your political views, let's say, on Palestine, or on US foreign policy, right are also acceptable.
So then, the only other place that's on the spectrum is the progressive left.
They will accept your political views. My wife always there's a show called transparent or something called transparent. Jeffrey tambores in it and, and then, you know, she says there's a scene where he's had some, I guess, it's a transgender guy, and he goes, he's into some protests and someone's like, free Palestine. And in the scene, she says she remembers that
when she was advocating for family members who were accused of different things, she remembers that the only she would go to these socialist meetings and they were only first place would be to a Palestinian flag.
the the progressive left will accept our political agenda because they see apartheid. settler colonialism only sounds cool.
They see American militarism is unacceptable. They see foreign intervention, which leads to massive civilian death for the profit of American corporations as unacceptable.
But the question is, what do they say about our social?
I think that's the big question I see behind what you're asking.
And here's there's the rub.
And here you have the kind of the current manifestation, this question is to Muslim support black lives matter? because, one, we think it's absolutely unacceptable that
black males are being shot for absolutely no reason by the police constantly. And no one seems to be paying a price for that.
But also, because they're willing to support us, they see also that Muslims that multiple Lives Matter, and that our legal rights need to be protected as well. But do we support them because at the same time, they let's say people in the Black Lives Matter movement will call for transgender rights or LGBT rights or
gay rights. And a lot of Muslims don't agree with that.
So here's the question. If,
an activist organization
accepts that I personally don't agree with a certain, let's say, lifestyle, I could throw this lifestyle and my religion to the impermissible but I am completely willing to support them in their work. And they're completely willing to support me in my work. And I will go and advocate for their rights to have a marriage that is free of Western Christian biases. And they will advocate from my right to have a marriage, which is free of Western Christian biases, my Sharia marriage and my wife. I don't see any problem working together with them.
If I think I don't approve their lifestyle, but you know what, they don't approve my religion.
I mean, this is I think we tend to forget this.
Like, my my family are all non Muslims, okay? They they're, they're not only they're atheists, they think if you believe in God, you're kind of an idiot.
And if you believe in Islam, that you're a bigot.
And I'm around them all, then why do I get upset and say, You need to affirm my beliefs? No, that would be ridiculous. No one would even conceive of asking.
Similarly, we shouldn't be asked to morally approve everything everyone else does,
in order to work with them. If you think about if you kind of generalize that into society, society would become unmanageable.
Because we're always constantly around people, part of whose lives are part of whose identities are some of whose values we disagree with deeply. But we still function with them professionally, and even on a personal level. So I'd say I have no problem. And I encourage coalition building with progressive groups or left progressive groups, even if they have views that you really disagree with.
And it may come, they may come a time when they'll say someone will say to you, I'm, I want you to affirm morally what I do my lifestyle. And if they're not okay with you saying no, I don't know that from then that that partnership shouldn't continue. But my, my, my hunch is they're not going to ask that. I mean, people like I mean, I don't know, I always want to ask Glenn Greenwald this question, because I have a lot of respect for him. But my sense is someone like Glenn Greenwald, who understands that part of the the beauty of the American constitutional system is that people don't have to morally agree with each other in order to protect each other's rights. My sense is someone
like him would not have a problem working with people who actually didn't approve of each other's lives.
Thank you so much for answering my questions. So at this time, we're just gonna open it up to whoever else would like to ask a question.
And we have about 15 minutes or so.
Maybe we can take two questions at a time and can we begin with students if students have questions for
not even specifically the coalition's of others but this has always been a topic that has confused me as
behavior that is unacceptable and
conducted by those around you.
What What is the SEC have finally just said it, it's almost kind of still unbelievable to me to sort of, say okay, like my American friends drinks, and I don't like encouraged them to kind of see what I'm getting out like the quote unquote bad behavior.
Are you okay with it and being okay with it problematic?
Or the question?
My question is the relationship between ignorance and pluralism? And that, to what extent should we be attempting to
get rid of ignorance? And to what extent should we be adopting like the look of the nicomachean?
Sort of mindset? What do you mean by ignorance? So like, so when we have a pluralistic society, we have a lot of people who, like have differing opinions on things. So for example, within the Muslim community, there are people who staunchly supported Hillary Clinton from like her primary run. And then I, for example, have former reservations about her foreign policy, or other things about her campaign, or her as a politician. And so to what extent is it like that in a in a pluralistic society, we should also be attempting to, like educate others. And that's something that's been on the minds of a lot of people following the election results is like, should we be bridging the gap
between like different mindsets? And to what extent should it be that like, okay, that's their own opinion, they were in a pluralistic society, they can have their opinion, they occupy a specific group with a specific mindset about something. And I don't have to necessarily always
be there's two questions that are very closely related. I'll try and answer that. So
first of all, is the two things your ignorance and education are not mutually exclusive. So
I think the answer is clearly that Muslims have a duty to do I'm
But we're supposed to do
why I do it.
So we call to the patio by wisdom and goodly preaching and pushback are with what is better. Now, that's a kind of a, that's a tactical junction, in the sense that so and also, we you know, the idea of your friends, drinking, for example, now, I think Muslims have an obligation to say, to tell your friend, at some point, and in some way, I think drinking alcohol, or to tell your friend, you know, Hillary Clinton never saw a warship blink.
And she likes seniors, he doesn't mind killing Muslims, etc, etc. But it's all about how you do it. If every time your friends drinking, you say, you should not drink, this is wrong, you know, then they're going to get annoyed at you.
If you harp constantly about issue, it's not going to achieve, probably not achieve the intended result and it's gonna drive the person away. So I think it's a question of how you do it.
You know, you wait for the time when you're really having a discussion about this issue to call your friend but you think about drinking alcohol, you know, you don't tell them right before they're having dinner go on. Good time they think.
So, I think you know, here it's not a question of principle. The principle is clear. It's about choice of when and how and means and method that clarify
the issue you asked about how muscles ability to put up with things I actually wrote this.
I want to say article, I think the article is pretty well researched, I spent a lot of time it was
called, what is it called? Like? How much can muscle stomach? I like the title. It's about it should talk about immediate family incest, and Hindu widow and Malaysian.
So Muslim scholars.
It seems to be Muslim scholars and Muslim rulers in South Asia, allowed Hindu widows to throw themselves on the pyre of their dead husbands Sufi
provided that they got permission from the governor, the Muslim governor, and that they were they did they were not forced to do it. So they wanted to do this.
Okay. Oh, and Muslim was also and governors also tried to convince the logical table will give you a stipend, even though your widow will give your children's
but if the person really want to do it, they're okay. Go ahead.
The British bands up to 8020 and the American I think it's the Reynolds or Davis decision in 1879 or 89. Which Supreme Court decision but the judge writing the decision actually uses Hindu wife and Malaysian widow in relation as an example of why governments have to interfere and interfere and religion for this reason this is so unacceptable to American to American law that this was an instance of the kind of the textbook example of when a government say you can't allow people to follow their religion in both to the Muslim Islamic Why is more tolerant than both
British and American law that's I think this is big art and Muslims are always shown to be intolerant. In fact, that song was supremely tolerant
and immediate family incest. In Zoroastrian law until the 14th century,
there was it was permitted to have immediate family incest marriages between father daughter mother sign brother sister, it was extremely rare, extremely rare,
which is very interesting in the majority position in Muslim scholars was that it was Muslims work permit. There were Austrians living under Muslim rule to engage in the family.
That was the majority position. Why? Because this is part of their religion. That's part of their religion.
We here's that this is this was the ultimate argument Gelfand argues the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet have shown without a doubt that Muslims are commanded to allow non Muslims to continue practicing their religion under Muslim protection.
There we are commanded to acknowledge their practice of their religion, even though they believe things that are completely unacceptable. Even though they deny our belief in our religion, they deny the prophecy of Muhammad, they've been denied all sorts of things that are
fundamental to Islam. I should be arguing Muslim scars, boys.
There's nothing worse than profit.
There's nothing worse than unbelief. And if you're gonna allow unbelief, and it's the worst thing, then what justification do you have for banning
immediate family interest? incest is disgusting. In fact, it's one of the few universal almost universal human taboos that basically every society
but they said, this is not as bad as now. And someone would say, Okay, well then you allow people to commit murder or do human sacrifice? No, because of Pokhara bad
people have, every human being has certain rights. And just so you think I'm not trying to shoehorn human rights into Islamia, Hawk means rights. But coke means rights. A bad means slaves of God like people. So it means literally the rights of the slaves of God.
You do not a human being does not have a right to kill another human being without reason.
So that's why with somebody with Hindu widow with Malaysian Muslims only allowed a good woman demonstrated she wanted to do it and may prohibited forced assimilation.
that's, that's why we Muslims can allow immediate family, ancestor marriage.
But they wouldn't allow, let's say human sacrifice in our religion,
even if it's part of someone's religion. That's why, for example, although later in Islamic civilization, Muslims allowed Riba, the prophet in one of the treaties we have, which is actually even non Muslim scholars think it's probably authentic for earliest treaty, the treaty that the Prophet had of the people the Christians have drawn, that john is right now on the Saudi Yemeni border, Southern Arabia, he allowed them to continue practicing Christianity said, we won't mess with you at all, you pay certain tax to us, and you also cannot have ribault, you can't do interest, because that was seen as violating the rights of others, to not be exploited.
We'll take two more questions.
Okay, so common scenario that Muslims would face in the West is one of those blocks in case opposition, and maybe Christian or
church or synagogue, Muslim.
My question was, sort of going back to your last point before you ended with
in terms of coalition building, and my question is on like,
I guess, complete reciprocity of what, like they will give you and whether you should be, or whether if
we should hold ourselves to being like, entirely reciprocal. So you know, for example, like when it comes to
LGBTQ people, right, like we can coalition build on things that are, like, common goals to all of us, like, for example, you know, coalition build against, like, you know, Trump's rhetoric because that affects both of us. But then, for example, when it comes to Islamophobia, a lot of times the LGBTQIA community will come very directly to our support, and, you know, in like, our rallies and stuff, you know, for example, or we really have rallies but you know, anything
but then is it out
To also reciprocate in the same manner, for example, and I'm sort of asking from, you know, a, I guess, you know, classical Islamic framework, I know that there's different opinions. But is it our duty to reciprocate in the same way? And also, you know, what do we have to support and What don't we have this?
Okay, so two very good questions. They, the answer to this is easy. So that the effect in Islamic history on houses of worship of non Muslims under Muslim rule is, is extremely broad. You find out a lot of different opinions. So the kind of Shafi opinion is,
let's just say like, you know,
churches and mosques or churches and synagogues or places where Cofer happens, shooter captains can't encourage that. Whereas the happy position is, no Krantz says these are based on what salami will massage, who was allowed to
use go to a small law, right?
I didn't get the verse Exactly. But those are the places that are mentioned, synagogues, churches, temples, and mosques. These are places where the God's name is mentioned, not only with tradition, they say, look, these are people might have disagreements about, you know, important details, but God's name is being honored in these places, so they have to protect it.
So there's just even at the basic interpretive interpretive level of the Qur'an, there's disagreement about which direction you go. And then if you look at the the, even the companion opinion, successor opinion, the opinion, bass, which becomes the kind of enemy in an organized disease, which becomes the main opinion in Sunni Islam is that
church mosques and our churches and synagogues can't be new ones can't be built in Muslim cities, but existing ones are fine. And if you if you have non Muslims living in their own area, they can build their own loss and build their own church and stuff like that. That's fine. And this, I think, this really became the practical opinion, which was adopted was
if Christians and Jews were living in an area, which was inhabited by most of them, they're all mixed up together, then Christians and Jews were generally not allowed to build new churches and synagogues, they were not allowed to have public processions with the crosses, they were not allowed to have. They didn't have church bells with these wooden clackers, they would use the church bells.
But if they were in like another area, they could have church bells, they could donate the church or synagogue, they again, pig markets, they get a booze market, whatever, because this was a narrow area.
even the rule that in a noose, Muslim city, you couldn't have a cigar that wasn't actually followed because Baghdad was a city built by Muslims in a totally new city. And in that there were all these churches and synagogues. In fact, at one point, Muslims were squatting in this monastery and the monks went to the Caleb, I think it was at the time, and complained and he kicked them out. He said, If you guys gotta get out, Muslims have got to get out. This is their monster.
So another important point is that it depends on the negotiations of how was an area conquered. So when Muslims moved into an area, if they signed a peace treaty, or came to an agreement, which is the majority, in most cases with the Jewish, Hindu, whatever, local population, if they said, you guys can do this, you know, agreement, that was what carried the day, not some rule about nutrition last, that's why we went to India and 711 was called the Brahma compact. They treated the Hindus like people to book. In fact, even the upper class of the Hindus with Brahmins were exempt from jizya. That was part of the agreement. So
when someone says that point to me, so when I say yeah, sure, why not? I have no problem. If I were, I can easily go back and give you all sorts of authoritative precedents from Islamic law and history. It shows that Muslims allowed non Muslims to build places of worship in under Muslim rule. Now, if there's some country that has extremely prohibitive ruling on that, that's not my problem. Go talk to the people from that country in debate with them. And if you want me to write a letter, criticize them, I'm happy to,
but that's not my fault. I don't answer for the policies in specific countries.
And then someone else or your question about So I think, you know,
I'm not an activist. Well, I don't know. I've definitely not affected optimism. And I'm not a community organizer.
Because I barely leave my house. But what I would say
I would ask myself this question, what am I supporting? So, let's say there's,
I mean, what might prompt a rally for LGBTQ issues?
Something hateful has been written on the spray painted on the wall,
die, go home or die, you know, training.
Or there's an attack on somebody. I mean, what does it mean? These are examples. These are the things that happened, right? Or Donald Trump said something. President Trump said something.
What are you so what are you supporting? Are you saying, I support these people lifestyle and their values? That's why I'm upset?
Or are you saying, I support the right of citizens in this country to go about their daily business without molestation without egregious offense, without physical harm, without physical intimidation, not being threatened by their public officials? Yeah, I have no problem supporting them. Because guess what, that's exactly what I want as a Muslim.
exactly what I was missing. And I know there's lots of people out there who don't approve of the way I dress, they don't approve of what I believe they don't approve of things that I do in my daily life. But if they're willing to come out and protest for my protection, and my right to live peace, that I'm going to do it for them. Because I also agree with these things. So I think it's the question is, how do you phrase this? in your own mind? I'm not trying to how do you justify? My question to you is, how do you understand?
So we'll take one final question. Yes.
I thank you for this very wide ranging discussion. And I'm sure you're exhausted.
And you, have you pointed out the value of history of knowing history of all these times and limitations on how rules are interpreted various time, I'd like to share just one interpretation. That's very interesting, I found very interesting that
once this place, or fire a governor, just because he was asking too much of the people, he was asking for more what the people can say.
So in a way, it's a Sunday in itself.
What are what limitations? Was he pushing? What was he?
What did he see? And what is this becomes a general that that ruler cannot add or push people around for more what they can, and they can take. So that would be a different right concept right there for the right time. So
my, my question is, because
in many ways, one has to learn a lot of history in order to differentiate what is the ethical concepts
and norms? Or what is the religious versus what is, in fact, political and has been common out there so many political, economical, cultural, that was common among many societies for that period of time. That wasn't one as compared to many other
many other societies. But the question is, basically, from your knowledge of the Huggies, where are some of the jobs, injunctions or about self criticism, for instance, in the Middle East, men can criticize women as much as they like, but they don't look at themselves and say, here I should be critical of this is art and some rules of being self critical. Because the slavery can be interpreted in many ways and has been ideologically interpreted many ways. For either to blame the Arabs to blame the Jews to blame somebody with the slave owner versus you know, or merchant or, yeah, so slavery was kind of used in such multiplicity of ways. And so how can we criticize
you know, that very real notion that yes, slavery, what a certain period of time and freedom is still a long way to go for all societies concerned. But, but this kind of, I know for instance, a lot
In Christianity Know thyself, you know?
about what's the point? Yeah, I mean, I think that
Susan pm I think there's this notion of
self approaches through approach self approaching soul, I think, versus the solver approach. And so, yeah, this is a core job of a Muslim, do and have a thoughtful content this person has to constantly being targeted themselves. What? What is it that I really want? What am I?
You know, I think it's funny when we talk about someone says, or it's a book about, let's say some guy in the gym 1200 they say, why did this guy do this and that they base it on, you know, one snippet here and one snippet there. And for God's sake, we don't even know why we do stuff, let alone why other person does stuff so that we can we can talk to them, let alone someone used in 800 years, we have very limited information about. So I think you know, the complexity of human motivation is it's really important to keep in mind. And so for us the reason it's important, we have to constantly ask God to purify our attentions, and ask yourself, what is my intention? Why am
I doing this? Why am I doing this.
But at the same time, you don't want this to become paralyzed.
were telling me earlier, we're talking about anthropologists today and
RAF, reflexive positionality, and stuff becomes incapacitated, and eventually you just end up going, studying a bunch of ants or something because you feel so guilty about looking any other up.
So it can't be calm, paralyzed.
So, you know, you ask God to purify your intentions, you do your best to ask, why am I doing this? Could it be for this reason could be for that reason, don't be afraid to look at the look and explore the dark corners of your soul? Is it very important for me? I mean, I think this is really important from my own views. And when I write books and stuff, for high topic, take positions on something, I've sometimes in my life,
I had a position on something, and then I look deep inside me. And I said, I think this is because you are greedy, you aren't you are afraid of losing something. You're afraid of losing power, you're afraid of losing privilege. And when you have those moments of realization and bigger than reading, because you become free of this, this
manacle. Because inside you wonder your heart. And so it's very important to do that. I agree.
And then once you've asked yourself as certainly as you can, go ahead. I think it was Davy Crockett who said, First, make sure you're right, then go ahead.
I think that's a great place to end.
I want to thank you, Dr. Jackson,
conversation was so engaging.
But we really do want to thank you not only for coming, but for your patience in answering the questions. And, you know, I think that a lot of what you had to offer was food for thought. And I can tell just by everybody sticking around wanting more, that we really appreciate your time here. I want to thank Deena for her green questions or prodding questions. You know, and for representing Princeton,
we want to invite you to our next event, unfortunately, on if you have the list of events that we have, there's a conversation that was supposed to happen on Islamic atheism. And we were really looking forward to that the scholar who is coming actually, all the way from the UK,
if something happened with this visa is unable to make it. So hopefully we'll reschedule that in the spring or some other time. But the next event that we do have is on December 1, and it's actually a muchness for that is going to be emergence of the Shia community. And it's a much of this that everyone's invited to observe or participate in as you feel comfortable. And if you are a Sunni or you're not somebody who Shia, and you have always wondered, what do these Shia gatherings look like where they come in, they commemorate the life in the martyrdom of Hussein, we gotta be pleased with him. This is your opportunity, and we're going to make it a very open and ecumenical space to do
that. It's going to be right here at 7pm on Thursday, December 1. Speaking of clues
I hope we can all make it. And then we have an event with alum rabbit, who is known as the Doogie Howser of the Middle East Doogie Howser was to show that the babies
but it's about this young medical doctor. She's Mashallah in her early 20s, and she's a medical doctor but she's a she's also a human rights advocate and she's a she's somebody who works in the UN in terms of on public health around the world. And she was also voice in Libyan revolution. Very, very awesome individual. And so she'll be coming in December. And so please look out for that conversation as well.
Sign up for the email list. He's read the email list and if you don't already have the Muslim Life program up, please take a month so you can remember us as you sip your tea. And please keep us in your prayers and look forward to seeing you soon.