The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Chaos from a shackled mind

Nathaniel Matthews weighs in on Dr. Jonny Rape-Rape with an essay unwieldily titled "Slavery, Abolition and the Moral Horizon of Prophet Muhammad". Thus ensues what I can only describe as a twentyfive page filibuster.

Matthews is here developing Hans George Gadamer on "horizons". (We on the Right, and policy-wonks generally, know this better as the Overton Window.) Matthews argues - asserts would be a better word - that although Muhammad was himself a slaver, he set up conditions that must lead to manumission (fourteen centuries later).

Matthews trolls selectively through the Qur'an, alongside hadiths that lean toward manumission, whilst glossing over hadiths that don't, not once considering modern skeptical scholarship, and generally ignoring entirely the conduct of the first Muslims we have a record for - that is, of the conquerors and the proto-caliphal amirs-of-the-believers. Having done that, Matthews may now pronounce his verdict: from this it is clear that the Prophet accepted slavery as a part of Arabian society, but did not actively encourage the taking of slaves, and did much to ameliorate the condition of the enslaved.

And then Matthews goes on to describe how, on slavery, Islamicate society followed the same path as post-mediaeval Christendom. Islam and 16th-century Portugal both lacked an explicit theory of race, and behaved the same along the African coasts. The slavers used religious justifications to enslave foreigners, and to bind them into a caste system that oops just happened to look kinda racial. Matthews could easily have cited David Goldenberg on the Curse of Ham / Race of Canaan, but somehow missed that one. Matthews also muses that the Qur'anic condition of man - also similar to the Biblical condition - with respect to God is as the slave to his master.

Overall I don't see where Matthews has even made his case. Manumission of slaves is meritorious in Islam, but even Matthews admits that the Qur'an has made slaves "currency", to be spent to offset one's sins. That renders unmanumitted slaves, among other things, capital for purchasing indulgences. Money in the bank, as it were.

And a scholar can't be writing CUTTING-EDGE MODERN SCHOLARSHIP without a lot of name-calling and abuse directed at FAUX NEWS, AMIRITE: we live in a US media environment characterized both by the phenomenon of faux outrage, and by high levels of Islamophobia; so, became the subject of a right-wing media witch hunt; unwarranted attacks of the far right, Orientalist charges that Muslims are somehow uniquely compelled to own slaves etc, etc, etc.

In between I note that Dr Matthews' footnote to "Orientalist charges" points, in fact, to Sayyid Qutb and the qadi of Kenya. I had to smile at that.

So I have to wonder if Matthews had read Goldenberg, but couldn't cite him because that would force him to wonder about the east-to-west direction of racist theory; if Matthews does know of the Overton Window, but cannot mention it because Overton was on the Right. I don't know to what degree Matthews even believes the rot he'd spouted about Muhammad Liberator Soter Euergetes.

But maybe it's just... forget it, Jake; it's Gown Town. Dr Matthews, as an academic, knows that if he doesn't toe the line he'll be sent to the hospital, and that his own university will not stand up for him. He's the POW in the Hanoi Hilton denouncing Lyndon Johnson's war on camera whilst his eyes dot-and-dash out the letters T-O-R-T-U-R-E.

posted by Zimri on 19:48 | link | 0 comments

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