The hegemonic modern human rights discourse

Harvard has an ‘Islamic chaplain’. Lucky Harvard.

Harvard Islamic chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser ’96 has recently come under fire for controversial statements in which he allegedly endorsed death as a punishment for Islamic apostates. In a private e-mail to a student last week, Abdul-Basser wrote that there was “great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment [for apostates]) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.”

Oooooookay, isn’t that interesting. One shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the idea that apostates from Islam should be executed, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse. So Harvard has a chaplain who not only quasi-approves (or perhaps fully approves, who knows) death for apostasy, it has one who is disdainful (in a Theoretical kind of way) of human rights. Harvard has a chaplain who not only thinks that perhaps it is ‘wisdom’ to kill people for leaving a religion, but also thinks killing people for leaving a religion is better than human rights. He doesn’t think, then, that people have or should have a human right to leave a religion without being killed for doing so. Harvard has a chaplain of this description. Isn’t that fascinating.

It’s good, under the circumstances, to see that students have no fear about speaking up.

“I believe he doesn’t belong as the official chaplain,” said one Islamic student, who asked that he not be named to avoid conflicts with Muslim religious authorities…“[His remarks] are the first step towards inciting intolerance and inciting people towards violence,” said a Muslim Harvard student, who requested that he not be named for fear of harming his relationship with the Islamic community…A Muslim student at MIT, who also asked to remain anonymous to preserve his relationship with the Islamic community, said the chaplain’s remarks wrongly suggested that only Westerners and Westernized Muslims who did not fully understand Islam would find the killing of apostates objectionable.

Spot on, Muslim student at MIT; that’s exactly what the chaplain’s remarks suggest, insultingly enough. But how sad it is that these students want to preserve their relationship with a ‘community’ that they think might disagree with them about this. How sad that their ‘community’ might agree with Abdul-Basser, and might shun the students for not agreeing with him. How depressing it all is.

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