As deplorable as the history of Europe and America is for their participation in the slave trade for over 300 years, it is frustrating that 1400 years of Muslim slavery still gets a virtual pass to this day.
A comparison of the Muslim 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 Muslim 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 Transsahara 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 Christian Reformers spearheaded the antislavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilized her Navy, throughout most of the 19th Century, 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 Muslim slave trade.
By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Muslim 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 legalized slavery from their statute books. And this only after international pressure was brought to bear. Today numerous international organizations document that slavery still continues in some Muslim countries.
The latest story out of Nigeria concerning the abduction of hundreds of school girls underscores the fact that Islam and slavery are not incompatible, and that certain persons can be the property of others:
The leader of Boko Haram on Monday threatened to sell more than 200 schoolgirls his Islamist militant group kidnapped in northeastern Nigeria last month.
Boko Haram militants stormed an all-girl secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, on April 14 and packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.
The attack shocked Nigerians, who have been growing accustomed to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody five-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north.
"I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah," Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says in a video, chuckling as he stands in front of an armored personnel carrier with two masked militants wielding AK-47s on either side of him.
"Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions," he says.
Why would this Islamic leader (who rejects all non-Islamic influences in his country) believe that Allah has countenanced the selling of these girls? Perhaps these verses in the Qur'an:
Qur'an (33:50) - "O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those (slaves) whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee"
Qur'an (23:5-6) - "..who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriagebond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess..."
Qur'an (8:69) - "But (now) enjoy what ye took in war, lawful and good"
Qur'an (24:32) - "And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves..."
Qur'an (2:178) - "O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female."
Qur'an (16:75) - "Allah sets forth the Parable (of two men: one) a slave under the dominion of another; He has no power of any sort; and (the other) a man on whom We have bestowed goodly favours from Ourselves, and he spends thereof (freely), privately and publicly: are the two equal? (By no means;) praise be to Allah."
This explains why women comprise the greater number of slaves over the centuries, and why Boko Haram, which subscribes to the letter of the law in Islam, believes that Allah smiles on their kidnapping and allows the sale of these girls. In the year 2014! Not only is it appalling that this group believes it has the God-given right to sell the students, but it's equally horrific that there is a market for them in neighbouring Muslim countries.
Lest anyone argue that this has nothing to do with Islam, let's revisit the salient facts:
Boko Haram, seen as the main security threat to Nigeria, Africa's leading energy producer, is growing bolder and extending its reach... The group's name means "Western education is sinful" and Shekau in the video makes reference to the fact that the girls were undergoing Western education... The militants ... are fighting to reinstate a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria... The girls' abduction has been hugely embarrassing for the government and threatens to overshadow its first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa on May 7-9.
Prayers for these girls and their families. And let's spread the word about the real "war on women."