ISLAM & SLAVERY: MYTH VS. REALITY
In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful
Islam & Slavery: Myth vs. Reality
by El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan (e-mail: SSaala@...)
Last night (2/28/01), over Fox 5 Ten O'clock News, a special report
aired on slavery in America. You heard it right, slavery in America!
According to one organization, which is dedicated to exposing and
eradicating this plague in the land of "liberty and justice for all," an
estimated 50,000 women and girls are trafficked in America each year. The
reasons are as varied as the places from which these women come; from
sexual slavery (prostitution), to slave labor as domestics, in sweatshops
or - in one area that the report missed, on some of America's farmlands
(where they share exploitation with their husbands, fathers, brothers and
sons, through indentured servitude).
The places from which many of these women and young girls come is
indeed varied. They are lured to America from places as diverse as Asia,
Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. They are promised jobs and
opportunities, only to discover after they arrive, an entirely different
reality. Many who come into the country legally have their visas/passports
confiscated, and then the nightmare begins. It may shock some people to
know that even young American preadolescent runaways can often wind up in
bondage - at the mercy of sadistic pimps on the streets (of American
cities), or as "high class call girls" in penthouse suites. What deepens
this tragedy is the hypocrisy that it reveals.
In October of last year, legislation was passed in Congress to stiffen
the penalty for persons trafficking in "human cargo." As a result of this
legislation, anyone successfully prosecuted under this new law faces life
without the possibility of parole. But guess what, no one has yet been
prosecuted under the new law. When testimony was given on Capitol Hill
prior to the vote, the press was censored, ostensibly in order to protect
the identities of those giving testimony - and much of what we did hear
during that time, focussed on alleged religiously motivated bondage; you
guessed it, perpetrated by "Muslim governments."
Myth vs. Reality
The charge of Islam being a promulgator of slavery is nothing new.
Toward the end of the 19th century Christianity was at the height of its
power and influence on the African continent, and the advances made by
Christian missionaries in certain regions of the continent were used as an
argument in favor of its truth. During this period, these missionaries
invented and spread the lie that it was really Arab traders who
established and fostered the slave trade in Africa. This lie persists in
the minds of some uninformed people to this very day. However, what does
the historical record have to say about this?
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) used to say, "History is best
qualified to reward all research." Indeed it is. The record will show that
at the height of the European slave trade, almost every Christian looked
upon the support of the slave trade as a sacred duty. Lady Southern writes
in her book entitled, The Gambia: "On the other side of the reckoning
there is, however, the fact that the advent of the Portuguese was a
calamity for Africa. It was Prince Henry's men who first brought back
slaves from Africa to Europe, in the first instance from Morocco and later
from the West Coast. The first Negroes brought to Europe were presented to
the Pope, who set his seal of approval on the traffic in human beings as a
means of saving souls." (pg. 50)
And then we have the writings of Georgina A. Goollock, of the London
Student Christian Movement, who writes in her book, Sons of Africa , in
1928 (pg. 36): "The English came into the trade in 1562, when Captain
[later Sir John] Hawkins took three cargoes of slaves to the West Indies.
Queen Elizabeth demurred at first; afterwards she lent Hawkins a ship of
her own called Jesus, and granted him as coat-of-arms a Negro laden with
There we have it; indisputable proof that a religious leader of the
highest order, and a secular leader similarly positioned, sanctioned the
bondage of human beings. Islamaphobes would be hardpressed to find
similarly placed Muslim leaders, anywhere in the world, during any period
in history, placing their stamp of approval on slavery (particularly of
the European variety). Instead we find the following:
"The Mohammadan religion also participated in the suppression of the slave
trade (emphasis mine). And further, "About six years before, the Sheriff
of Mecca had sent a letter to the King of Fulas for circulation through
all these 'Mandingo' tribes, strictly prohibiting the selling of slaves -
and which later was also promulgated among the Yorubas, Fulanis and other
neighboring tribes. The slave traffic was declared to be contrary to the
teachings of Muhammad (pbuh), which pronounce the most fearful
denunciations of Allah's wrath in the world hereafter against those who
persist in the traffic with European nations."
The aforementioned excerpt from the Report of The Commission of
Inquiry, Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone Studies pages 18-19, Vol. No. XXI,
939), clearly reveals who the British - and no doubt, other colonialists -
considered to be the most formidable opposition to their imperialistic
schemes; Muslims and Islam!
In truth, the British scholar, Sir Thomas Arnold, is far more accurate
in conveying the reality of Islam's sociopolitical impact on Black Africa.
He wrote in his book entitled, The Preachings of Islam:
"The progress of Islam in Nigeria has no doubt been materially advanced by
this absence of any feeling of repulsion toward the Negro - indeed Islam
seems never to have treated the Negro as an inferior, as has been
unhappily too often the case in Christiandom." (pg, 357) and further,
"Thus the converted Negro at once takes an equal place in the brotherhood
of believers, neither his colour nor his race, nor any associations of the
past standing in the way." (pg. 359)
This latter quote from Professor Arnold's work reminds me of Malcolm's
letter from Hajj in 1964. At a recent engagement at the Islamic Center of
Long Island, while reading aloud Malcolm's letter from hajj, I became a
little emotional. It retrospect, I believe two things sparked that
involuntary reaction - the beauty and power of Malcolm's words, coupled
with my own awareness of how far this ummah (community of Islam) has
drifted since those words were first spoken.
The Qur'an teaches us to, "Stand firmly for justice as witnesses..."
even if it is against ourselves, or those closest to us. We are presently
in the season of Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), wherein millions of Muslims
have converged on the Arabian peninsula from all over the world, from blue
eyed blondes to jet black Africans. It is the greatest assembly of human
beings in the annals of history. Nothing else compares!
I vividly remember how during my own pilgrimage in 1987, I saw some of
the best and worst of humanity. Among some of my disturbing recollections
were the Muslims who were identified to me as "slaves" in Mecca. More
often than not, these slaves were dark skinned.
I say this to underscore the fact that I am under no illusions about
slavery in "Muslim lands." And further, I have no illusions that this
slavery is sometimes as much a consequence of greed, coupled with a
feeling of racial and/or class superiority, as it is attributable to
anything else that apologists might try to use to excuse it. I am also
aware that any slavery that does exist anywhere in the Muslim world, does
so in direct contravention to the teachings of Islam - both the Qur'an and
sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet.
It's also for this reason that I become immediately suspicious
whenever I hear reports of Islam oriented revivalists (such as the
government in Sudan) being accused of official complicity in a modern day
slave trade. No doubt, if one looks hard enough in any part of the African
continent where conflict is raging, one will be able to find
captives/slaves being held by rival tribe among the Christians, animists,
Who is Really Behind the Disinformation Campaign
What I find most interesting, however, is the selective and
sensationalistic manner in which Zionist funded, and Israeli-connected
government offices, organizations, politicians - and increasingly, black
"civil rights leaders" - have accused Muslim governments of being behind
alleged full blown slave trade on the African continent. A prominent
Washington area radio personality, connected with a black owned station,
has established a website dedicated to exposing certain Muslim African
governments, and attempting to direct the course of US sanctions. Now when
we look at the big picture, we are compelled to ask, what is this really
all about? And who is really behind this?
To my 21st Century Afro-American abolitionists, if you are truly
sincere about your passion for freedom, why not begin in your own
backyard? I have yet to see evidence of official government complicity in
the slave trade in Sudan - or in any other Muslim nation striving for
Islamically-based self-determination. And if the mere fact that it exists
in Sudan, Mauritania (or anywhere else for that matter) makes that
government complicit, what does this say about America?
And if you want to come with the argument that we are concerned about
the people who look like us, fine; you can still get some OJT (on the job
training) right here in the continental US. Aside from the African
immigrants who are represented in that 50,000 person estimate cited at the
beginning of this commentary, there are archipelagos within America's
prison-industrial complex, where your and my sons and daughters, brothers
and sisters, fathers and mothers, etc., etc, are being held captive in
neo-slavery (and it's all legal).
The thinly veiled, racially motivated, selectively administered,
mandatory sentencing laws unleashed over the past decade in America, have
resulted in this nation having the highest incarceration rate in the
world. And most of this has taken place on the watch of a Democratic
Administration, during the reign of the "first black president." (How
deluded and self-serving some of us can be!)
The moral of this commentary is that we should not allow ourselves to
be used to serve the political interests of others. If we are going to
stand for something, let us stand for it across the board; and above all
let us not allow ourselves to be manipulated by those whose own hands are
The same hands that fund these abolitionist junkets to Africa, are the
same hands that fund (and through funding control) some of the leading
"civil rights" organizations (and leaders) in America; and are some of the
same hands responsible for subsidizing the oppression of a people
[Palestinians] who are going through many of the same trials and
tribulations that we [African Americans] had to struggle through not too
long ago. Let us learn from the past, and not diminish our present.
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan,
The Peace And Justice Foundation
(c) All Rights Reserved, 2001
The Islamic Conference For Human Rights and Responsibility
Saturday, March 17, 2001...1-6PM
Islamic Education Center
7917 Montrose Rd.
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