I’m impressed. Usually, a blunt statement of religious belief can be remarkably offensive, but in this case a Harvard chaplain used weasel words to magnify the appalling nature of his remarks.
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.”
One could argue with the interpretation that he “endorsed death as a punishment” since he didn’t actually say that outright. Instead, we got implications.
He says death for apostasy is an “established and preserved position”. This is probably the least ghastly of his claims, since it is at least true in some places.
There is “wisdom” in murdering people who reject your beliefs? Where? So, if I said Abdul-Basser was betraying an important academic tradition of open thought, would I be wise to suggest he deserves execution? I think not, and I add, I definitely would not under any circumstances endorse such an evil proposition.
He thinks killing people who leave Islam might make “some uncomfortable.” Uncomfortable? Uncomfortable? If my neighbor suggested that they were thinking of painting their house in green and pink stripes, then I might reply that that made me “uncomfortable”. If he seriously suggested that it might be a good idea to execute registered Democrats who didn’t vote for Obama in the last election, I think I’d be calling the police and the hospital…and freaking out just a little bit.
If pushing human rights for all people is hegemonic, who is being oppressively dominant? Do we really need to respect the right of a priestly class to dictate what others are allowed to believe?
I have a suggestion: dismiss Abdul-Basser out of hand. To be fair, fire every single one of the university chaplains, and send them packing. Universities should not be in the business of pandering to student superstitions; it’s not as if there is a dearth of churches and chapels and religious organizations already surrounding and intruding upon the campus — remove the official endorsement of the administration and banish them all from the secular business of running a university.