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My Grandfather hated Arabs and Muslims. He was a lay preacher in East Africa and revered in the local community as one of the first to become “educated” (read: literate). An amateur historian, the “old man,” as he was affectionately known, was remarkably long-lived as well. He was old enough to have spent his childhood with people who had experienced the ravages of the Arab slave trade firsthand.
Whilst he was alive, he loved to have his grandchildren and great-grandchildren seated around him as he recited the oral history of his clan and the events of the past. Nothing, not even British colonialism, scarred his memory as much as his family and clan’s personal experiences with Africa’s least taught and longest lasting blight. For 1,400 years, Arabs and their African cohorts (Muslims all) enslaved an estimated 30-50 million people, transporting them across the Sahara or up the East African coast with a death rate in transit of about 80%. Yes, you read that right. Those 30-50 million people are perhaps only 20% of the poor souls rounded up by Arab Muslim slavers. To put this into some sort of perspective, we might do a compare and contrast with the Transatlantic slave trade, which is the basis of the current “Check your privilege” re-education being foisted on white youth throughout the Western world.
The transatlantic slave trade lasted 300 years, the Arab one 1,400 years. (There are still slaves in Mauritania today. Indeed the arab word for black, “abd,” means “slave”). The transatlantic slave trade was ended by the slaver nations themselves, going to lengths as great as the Civil War in America. The Arab slave trade lasted until Western nations largely ended it by force of arms. The transatlantic slavers never ventured inland themselves to capture slaves, but relied on local tribes keen to sell their fellow Africans for trinkets and arms. The Arab slavers captured their booty themselves. The transatlantic slavers captured mostly men, using the slaves as labour but allowing them to have families (though the treatment of those families was twisted and depraved). The Arab slavers captured mostly women, using them as concubines and castrating the men, preventing the slaves from having families.
In the part of the world where the old man grew up, large areas were depopulated of both people and livestock because of decades of raids from slavers out of the Sudan. Sir Samuel Baker is still revered for his role in ending the suffering of the native black population.
The old man was limited in the scope of his history talks. He never mentioned that the Arab term for white people, “mamluk,” is the term that was given to white slaves. He never knew that the Barbary pirates were a multi-national, multi-ethnic group of Muslims who enslaved an approximate 1.5 million Europeans over 200 years of activity, raiding as far north as Iceland and Ireland. He had no idea that the coasts of Spain and Italy were depopulated in much the same way his ancestral lands had been. The problem wasn’t really one of race, as he imagined it, but a worldview. Slavery is as old as mankind. Arabs and Muslims weren’t the first slavers, nor will they be the last.
What is unique — what is truly special — is the worldview that went to war against slavery. Based on a biblical understanding of the value of mankind before God, and arguments grounded in the writings of the New Testament, white western Christian civilization put an end to a millennium and a half of African suffering. It is incredible that the descendants of these nations, the inheritors of these cultures and civilizations, are being taught that they are to blame for African suffering. I hazard a guess that the average white or black American has little to no idea about the African slave trade, or the role of Europeans in ending it. History is not being taught. The past is being forgotten. We cannot do anything for the shackled, emaciated, raped, and castrated masses who shuffled in chains across the Sahara into oblivion — but we can remember them. It brings them some honor to mourn them, and fight as those who ended the horror of mass slavery in Africa did.Published in