Wednesday, February 07, 2007
When Arabs Enslaved Europeans And Africans
Posted GMT 2-6-2007 15:30:19
E.A. Belayev (1895-1964), the Soviet historian of Islamic Caliphate used his Marxist interpretation of history to describe the Quran as the ideological expression of a slave owning class full of slave owning mentality (Islam and the West by Bernand Lewis p.113). Paradoxical as it might appear, Islam which Muslims claim to have brought humanity out of Jahaliya (pagan darkness) institutionalized slavery instead of abolishing it.
In Bible there are verses like - Servant in all things do the orders of your natural masters; not only when their eyes are on you as pleasers of men but with all your heart fearing the Lord (Colossian3:22). The Allah in Quran says Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty (33.50).
Serge Tifkovic the noted Serb-American intellectual on Islamic history compares- While both the Old and New Testaments recognize salvery the Gospels do not treat the institution as divinely ordained. Christianity recognized slavery as a fact of life as part of how the world works as indeed it did in New Testment times. The Koran by contrast not only assumes the existence of slavery as a permanent fact of human existence but regulates its practice in considerable detail thereby endowing it with divine sanction by revealimg Gods detailed will for how it should be conducted. Mohammed and his companions owned slaves. The Koran recognizes the basic inequality between master and slave and the right of the former over the latter (Islams Wretched Record on Slavery in Front Page magazine November 20, 2002).
The mention of slavery instinctively reminds us a) ancient Greece or Rome b) the pre-Civil War USA. A large corpus of literature and movies are available of them But Islamic slavery, not unknown to the old world, is overlooked. The Arabs were the first to introduce slavery in sub-Saharam Africa. Its tentacles reached both across the Sahara desert and Red Sea-Indian Ocean routes. The 'exotic Timbuktu in Mali was at once a great centre of Islamic studies (the great Madrasa of Sankore was built in 989CE) and a noted slave trading centre. The same is true about Darfur in Sudan which is in news for last several years as humanitarian crisis zone. The Janjaweed, brown-skinned Arab gunmen have perpetrated massacre and atrocities on non-Arab blacks, descendents of former slaves. Their common religion Islam appears to be of little halp.
The Arab piracy and slave trafficking that afflicted the Mediterrnean Sea between early 16th and early 19th centuries make a thrilling stuff. Sea-Wolves of the Mediterrranean -The Grand Period of Moslem Corsairs by commander E. Hammiltan Curry (John Murray London 1910) recaptured that turbulent era. The piracy emanating from the Barbary (North African) Coast viz.Morocco, Tunis, Algiers and Triplotania had paralyzed Christian maritime commerce. More importantly over three centuries it had taken over a million of White European Christian men and women as slave and concubines. The European ships, coasts and islands on the Mediterranean were subject to constant slave-raids.
Mark Twain toured the Mediterranean the fruit of which was the book The Innocents Abroad (1869). In spain he saw (chapter VII )-At short intervals along the Spanish shore were quaint-looking old stone towers-moorish we thought--but learned better afterwards. In former times the Morocco rascals used to coast along the Spanish Main in their boats till a safe opportunity seemed to present itself and then dart in and capture a Spanish village and carry off all the pretty women they could find. It was a pleasant business and was very popular. The Spaniards built these watchtowers on the hills to enable them to keep a sharper lookout on the Moroccan speculators.
Miguel de Cervantes who wrote Adventure of Don Quixote, worlds first novel, spent five years as salve in Algeria between 1575 and 1580 until he was ransomed back by Christian monkish order of Trinitarians .In his writings he has left a realistic portrayal of Algiers including its slave-markets and slave enclosures.
The daring Barbary Pirates raided costly as far as England and Iceland to carry off men and women. Icelands historians and poets have much to say about a raid of Barbary corsairs who descended upon their coasts in 1627 and carried off hundreds of captives to slave markets of Algiers. One captive a Lutheran pastor by the name of Oluf Eligilsson who was subsequently ransomed and returned to native land wrote a book describing adventures as slave in North Africa.... the discovery that his maidservant had fetched a much higher price than he had upset him as much as anything else(Islam and the West p.74).
Modern dhimmi academicians have tried to ignore the Mediterranean slavery while focussing on American slave trade. It is heartening to see that Robert Davis a hintorian in Ohio State University has broken the spell with his book Christian Slaves Muslim Masters-White Slavery in the Mediterranean. The Barbary Coast and Italy 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan 2003) Davis says- Indeed if we consider the entire 250 years over which corsair slaving was a significant factor in the Mediterranenan the total number of slaves soon exceeds a million( p23).
By Priyadarsi Dutta