|The Scourge of Slavery - The Rest of the Story|
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Over 28 Million Africans have been enslaved over the Muslim world over the past 14 centuries
While much has been written concerning the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Islamic slave trade across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. While the European involvement in the Trans Atlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for just over three centuries, the Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries, and in some parts of the Muslim world is still continuing to this day.
CONTRASTS IN CAPTIVITY
A comparison of the Islamic slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims.
While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Trans Sahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%!
While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service.
While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive.
While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth.
It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States).
Slaves in Africa - in the early 20th century.
However, at least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East. As at least 80% of those captured by Muslim slave traders were calculated to have died before reaching the slave markets, it is believed that the death toll from the 14 centuries of Muslim slave raids into Africa could have been over 112 million. When added to the number of those sold in the slave markets, the total number of African victims of the Trans Saharan and East African slave trade could be significantly higher than 140 million people.
THE ABSENCE OF ARABIC ABOLITIONISTS
William Wilberforce led the campaign against slavery for 59 years.
While Christian Reformers spearheaded the anti-slavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilised her Navy, throughout most of the 19thCentury, to intercept slave ships and set the captives free, there was no comparable opposition to slavery within the Muslim world.
Even after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and Europe abolished the slave trade in 1815, Muslim slave traders enslaved a further 2 million Africans. This despite vigorous British Naval activity and military intervention to limit the Islamic slave trade. By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Islamic slave trade could exceed 180 million.
Nearly 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in America, and 130 years after all slaves within the British Empire were set free by parliamentary decree, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in 1962, and Mauritania in 1980, begrudgingly removed legalised slavery from their statute books. And this only after international pressure was brought to bear. Today numerous international organisations document that slavery still continues in some Muslim countries.
THE PAGAN ORIGINS OF SLAVERY
Slavery long predated Christianity and many of the early Christians were slaves in the Roman Empire. Without exception, the pre-Christian world accepted slavery as normal and desirable. The Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed: "From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." The great civilisations of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all the civilisations in Central America and Africa were built upon slave labour.
People became slaves by being an insolvent debtor, or sold into slavery by their parents, or by being born to slave parents, or by being captured in war, or through kidnapping by slave raiders and pirates. Slave dealing was an accepted way of life, fully established in all societies. Most of these slaves were white people, or Europeans. In fact the very word "slave", comes from the people of Eastern Europe, the Slavs.
St. Patrick, the English missionary to the Irish, was once a slave himself, kidnapped from his home and taken to Ireland against his will. Patrick spoke out strongly against slavery. He wrote: "But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most."
About 80% of those captured by
Muslim slave raiders died before
reaching the slave markets.
The Greeks, from whom we derive so many modern, humanistic ideas, were utterly dependent on slavery. Even Plato's Republic was firmly based on slave labour. Plato said that 50 or more slaves represented the possessions of a wealthy man.
Under Roman law, when a slave owner was found murdered, all his slaves were to be executed. In one case, when a certain Pedanius Secundas was murdered, all 400 of his slaves were put to death.
Before the coming of Christ, the heathen nations despised manual work and confined it to slaves. When Christ was born, half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Three quarters of the population of Athens were slaves.
Slavery was indigenous to African and Arab countries before it made its way to Europe. Slavery was widely practiced by the tribes of the American Indians long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the New World. Ethiopia had slavery until 1942, Saudi Arabia until 1962, Peru until 1968, India until 1976 and Mauritania until 1980. What is also seldom remembered is that many black Americans in the 19thCentury owned slaves. For example, according to the United States census of 1830, in just the one town of Charleston, South Carolina, 407 black Americans owned slaves themselves.
THE CHRISTIAN ROOTS OF LIBERTY