To Forget the Past……

 

zan01s-683x640My 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.

Start with your children, get them to read these books. We can’t all have a prejudiced African grandfather.

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  1. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    Good to hear from you again. 
    This is a good example of how hard it is for established narratives to be shaken. A parallel example is the enslavement of Native Americans by other Native Americans: it’s strange how these things can be well-documented, or at least not too hard to look up, but almost totally ignored at the same time because they don’t  fit the model of evil whites tearing into innocent Others. The book you cite is not old, but I’ve often found that you have to go back to older sources to find accounts of other peoples that consist of the author just saying what he saw.

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  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Thank you.  This is a great post.

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  3. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I have 4 Black great grandchildren, with 2 step-great grandchildren, and I thank you for the book suggestions. Their Black grandparents are also 1/2 Native Americans, but the stories are always about the “evil” whites and never about anyone else. The oldest girl at age 16 did not know about her Native American ancestry until I told her about 6 months ago.

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  4. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Slavery is a constant of history. It has taken many forms and is often not recognized. Citizens of the USSR were forbidden anything not afforded by government and expected to do whatever government officials told them to do, but were they called slaves? Is it slavery to temporarily serve in payment of a debt freely entered into? Were “company towns” a form of slavery? Is it slavery to lord over someone by means of financial or legal leverage, as opposed to the threat of physical injury?

    Slavery, like torture or dictatorship, is an evil which exists by degrees. As it is unhelpful to refuse use of the term “dictatorship” until a governor has acquired absolute control, so it is unhelpful to use “slavery” only in reference to total domination. Such evils should be noted and stopped before they are fully implemented. In essence, slavery is the willful deprivation of freedom. It is to the individual what dictatorship or totalitarianism is to a society. 

    Jesus shockingly never spoke against slavery even as He spoke against adultery and usury. He spoke to slaves and did not advise them to rebel. He spoke to slave owners and did not advise them to free their slaves. I have often wondered at the significance of that. I am sure the lesson has something to do with the fleeting nature of power, as of material possessions. 

    It’s worth remembering that we modern Westerners assert standards of freedom which are exceptional even today. One’s measures of slavery as compared to willing and honorable servitude (which has always been the Christian ideal) are inseparable from one’s expectations of personal liberty. A citizen of The Congo or Saudi Arabia would likely be surprised by what an American calls slavery.

    That is not to excuse it. As I have often said, Americans and Westerners in general would be wrong to lower our standards merely because other peoples live by lower standards.

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  5. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    In re: Mauritania, you could see slaves chained to a post in middle the back yard of a neighboring house. This view was from a window in the American Embassy. 

    The Saudis don’t like to see this stuff — in theory they were supposed to be converting the infidels, not enslaving them — so slave owners would hide the posts and chains during state visits. The less scrupulous would dump their slaves on the side of the road at a crossroads about 20 miles out of town. You’d see them streaming back into town, wailing for their masters.

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  6. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    This is a timely reminder.

    Boko Haram’s most recent outrage in Nigeria has ignited a bit of a,  no doubt brief,  media storm regarding the fate of those poor girls yet unfortunately there is nothing new here. This is merely the latest in a string of horrors that goes back centuries. It is important indeed to never forget that for to blind ourselves to such evil is to abet its continuation.

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  7. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Antipodius: Arabs and muslims weren’t the first slavers, nor will they be the last.

     I recently read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books Infidel and Nomad. Particularly in Nomad, she argues (from experience) that, although various tribal barbarisms predate Islam, Muslim philosophy gives them divine sanction and Muslim culture gives them widespread social acceptability.

    When I read this account by one of the abducted Nigerian girls who escaped, it sounded like it was completely within the milieu that Hirsi Ali describes.

    “They … started shouting, ‘Allahu Akhbar,’ (God is great),” the 16-year-old student said. “And we knew.”

    EDIT: The particular intersection of Islam, slavery, and women is particularly insidious. Consider this recent story of a fatwa permitting incest so that jihadis will not be denied sexual release. When (violent) jihad is understood to trump all other considerations (“necessity makes the prohibited permissible”), Islam’s mitigating kindnesses are subordinated to barbaric passions, in the name of Islam.

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  8. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Before the industrial age, the high death rate was the only way to cut down CO2 emissions.

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  9. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle
    @SusaninSeattle

    Thank you for this, Antipodius: very much appreciated.

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  10. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Aaron Miller: “Jesus shockingly never spoke against slavery even as He spoke against adultery and usury.”

    At the time of Jesus, he was preaching to other Jews who were required to release their slaves after 7 years. If the slave refused to go, or preferred to stay in slavery, his ear was pierced to let everyone know he did not value his freedom. Jews were required to purchase other Jews who had been captured and kept in slavery. Jews were forbidden to mistreat their slaves in any way, and the wife and children of a slave were not considered slaves. Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian, thus his knowledge of slavery was from his own society and not an issue. I doubt if Jesus had any idea of how slaves in other parts of the world were treated.

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  11. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Aaron Miller: Jesus shockingly never spoke against slavery …. He spoke to slave owners and did not advise them to free their slaves. ….

    Much can be learned from the (contemporary) early Talmudic treatment of slavery. Rabbinic Judaism distinguishes two types. Foreign slaves were captured in war . Their owners were prohibited from mistreating them — e.g., they were to rest on the Sabbath, and if the owner inflicted serious injury, the slave earned his freedom — but these slaves were nonetheless considered property until their death, and could be traded. This was a Biblical anachronism by Talmudic times (i.e., theoretical discussion only).

    (cont.)

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  12. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I’m sure Jesus was familiar with Roman slavery customs as well, as He encountered many Romans. Besides which, He is God and so undoubtedly would have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak on any universal sin regardless of His immediate human experiences, if such speech was necessary. His gospel of voluntary love seems to be enough to qualify various forms of slavery. I think the Roman had multiple slavery customs, primary of which was the payment of debt. 

    Jesus is a Jew, but He did not preach only to fellow Jews. He healed the slave of a Roman soldier because the Roman believed in Him.

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  13. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    (cont. from #11)

    Hebrew slaves were a different case. A Jewish man became enslaved to another Jew primarily as the result of theft or other property crime. If convicted, the guilty party had to pay restitution — a multiple of the value of the goods. If he could not afford to pay (and presumably he couldn’t), he became a slave to his victim. This kind of slavery was treated as a kind of rehabilitation, a way to learn to self-control by living with an intact family who was responsible for his upkeep. (Remember, there were no jails; often the slavery cost the owner more than the value of the labor.) Jewish slaves were all released upon the sabbatical year, when all debts were cancelled and all land reverted to its original owners, or upon marriage.

    A Jewish girl sometimes became a slave if her family could not afford her upkeep. She was then effectively adopted by a new household. She was responsible for household chores, and the new family fed and clothed her until the sabbatical year or until she grew to marriageable age.

    Note that if a slave ran away, the fugitive was not returned to the owner.

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  14. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Son of Spengler: Foreign slaves were captured in war . Their owners were prohibited from mistreating them — e.g., they were to rest on the Sabbath, and if the owner inflicted serious injury, the slave earned his freedom — but these slaves were nonetheless considered property until their death, and could be traded. This was a Biblical anachronism by Talmudic times (i.e., theoretical discussion only).

    Which makes one wonder, doesn’t it? Why was this practice acceptable to God? Was it acceptable then but not now, as a parent might allow inexperienced children indulgences not allowed to knowledgeable teenagers?

    God led the Jews to victory in war. His intentions do not always harmonize with modern sensibilities.

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  15. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    This post suggests that slavery is basically in the past. There is plenty of slavery still today, especially in the Islamic world.

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  16. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Would a post-Christian secular West resemble Asia and Africa in this way? Are the forms of slavery taught in public school histories permanently gone from Western civilization (forced underground, at least) or might they return as our philosophical heritage is abandoned? 

    What fundamental beliefs about life and the world allow slavery to persist overtly in other societies? Or do politics and power overshadow a society’s general culture in determining norms regarding slavery and individual liberty?

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  17. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Kay of MT: #10 “At the time of Jesus, he was preaching to other Jews who were required to release their slaves after 7 years.”

    Jeremiah 34: 8 –  from the Jerusalem Bible

    The word addressed to Jeremiah by Yahweh after King Zedekiah had made a pact with all the people of Jerusalem to free their slaves; each man was to free his Hebrew slaves, men and women, and no one was any longer to keep a brother Jew in slavery.  All the nobles and all the people who had entered into the pact had agreed that everyone should free his slaves, men or women, an no longer keep them as slaves; they had agreed to set them free. 

    Afterward, however, they changed their minds, recovered the slaves, men and women, who they had set free, and reduced them to slavery again.

    So the word of the Yahweh was addressed to Jeremiah, “Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    continued

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  18. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    17 continued

    Jeremiah 34:13 –

    It said: At the end of seven years each one of you is to free his brother Hebrew who had sold himself to you.  He may be your slave for six years, then you must send him away free.  Now, today you took a different attitude and did what pleases me by proclaiming freedom for your neighbor; you made a covenant in my presence in the Temple that bears my name. 

    And then you changed your mind, profaning My Name, each of you has recovered his slaves, men and women, who you had sent away free to live their own lives, and has forced them to become your slaves again.

    Therefore – Yahweh says this: You have disobeyed me, by not each granting freedom to his brother and his neighbor. 

    Perhaps Jesus, Who is God, Who came to save us from our sins, is aware that we don’t always live up to the just demands of the law.  Perhaps that failure to adhere to the law is, at least in part, a portion of the reason He came to save us.

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  19. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Islam is the most pernicious ideology in the history of mankind. It holds this dubious distinction for two reasons:

    • It legally enshrines inequality. Islamic law codifies three categories of inequality:
    1. Between Muslims and non-Muslims. A non-Muslim cannot expect justice form an Islamic court in any dispute with a Muslim.

    2. Between men and women. Only in an Islamic court can a rape victim find herself on trial for adultery, and be sentenced to be stoned to death when convicted. Yes, I meant when, not if.

    3. Between slaves and free people. Sharia is the only current legal code which permits slavery. Sharia actually encourages slavery. Wherever there is a slave trade, Muslims will involve themselves in it. Either as raiders, traders, or buyers. 

    • Islam is anti-science. Islam teaches that every thing that happens is by the whim of Allah. According to Islamic doctrine, if I drop a pencil, it falls down solely because Allah willed it to fall down. The universe does not follow set laws, and any attempt to deduce such laws is impious, if not blasphemous. There’s a reason so little scientific and technological advancement comes from the Dar al-Islam.
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  20. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    #14  Aaron Miller:

    Son of Spengler: Foreign slaves….   these slaves were nonetheless considered property until their death, and could be traded. …

    Which makes one wonder, doesn’t it? Why was this practice acceptable to God? Was it acceptable then but not now, as a parent might allow inexperienced children indulgences not allowed to knowledgeable teenagers?

    God led the Jews to victory in war. His intentions do not always harmonize with modern sensibilities.

     Regarding Biblical slavery v modern sensibilities.
    Which is more humane, a max sentence for Grand Theft of 7 years in slavery, or 10 years in the state penitentiary?   The former is Biblical, the latter is the current law in my state.

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  21. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Perhaps Jesus did not condemn slavery because the Mosaic Law regarding slavery works, both as a civil punishment or as a consequence of bankruptcy; at least it is better than starving.  
    Another comparison on max sentence for Grand Theft:  Sharia Law prescribes chopping off the thief’s right hand.

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  22. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Aaron Miller: Why was this practice acceptable to God? Was it acceptable then but not now, as a parent might allow inexperienced children indulgences…?

     Thanks, Aaron. I’ve had this on my brain all day now. ;-)

    The general question isn’t new, of course. Within rabbinic thought, there are two main streams of thought throughout history. One, more mystical/kabbalistic/chassidic, emphasizes the perfection of Torah and the unchanging nature of morality. The other, more legalistic and historical, emphasizes contextual application and civilizational development through time. As you might guess, I’m more of a legalist and historicist.

    So I can wrap my head around the various explanations for why enslaving prisoners of war might be permitted as an exigency, as potentially the least inhumane way to deal with such issues at certain places and times. Where I get stuck is the permission to take war brides (Deut. 21:10), notwithstanding the extra conditions applied. God insists on self-control in myriad other areas of life, and I have trouble understanding why this isn’t simply prohibited to men. Has God really embedded an inextricable connection between violence and eroticism in the (male) human psyche? — and if so, why?

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  23. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Son of Spengler:

    Aaron Miller: Why was this practice acceptable to God? Was it acceptable then but not now, as a parent might allow inexperienced children indulgences…?

    So I can wrap my head around the various explanations for why enslaving prisoners of war might be permitted as an exigency, as potentially the least inhumane way to deal with such issues at certain places and times. Where I get stuck is the permission to take war brides (Deut. 21:10), notwithstanding the extra conditions applied. God insists on self-control in myriad other areas of life, and I have trouble understanding why this isn’t simply prohibited to men. Has God really embedded an inextricable connection between violence and eroticism in the (male) human psyche? — and if so, why?

    According to the Deuteronomy war bride rules, the girl got a better deal than her father and brothers probably got. The adult males got killed (Deuteronomy 20:13) if the city fought and lost. The girl got a month to mourn her dead, and if she was unsatisfactory, she could only be freed, not sold to someone else.

    As wartime exigencies go, it was better than a lot of human history.

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  24. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Antipodius: Whilst he was alive

     One of the few downsides of being American is that it is virtually impossible to use the word “whilst” without it being perceived as a pretentious affectation. I’m jealous.

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  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Modern day slavery

    • #25
  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Son of Spengler:

    Has God really embedded an inextricable connection between violence and eroticism in the (male) human psyche? — and if so, why?

    I don’t know if it’s exclusively confined to men, but yes, that connection is obviously there, and if God didn’t put it there, who did?

    A Christian might say it’s evidence of mankind’s fallen nature. And obviously it’s something we share with other animals.

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  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Aaron Miller:

    Which makes one wonder, doesn’t it? Why was this practice acceptable to God? Was it acceptable then but not now, as a parent might allow inexperienced children indulgences not allowed to knowledgeable teenagers?

    It seems evident to me that the Bible is as much about human misbehavior as it is God’s behavior. And that’s OK. Because the Bible isn’t about God (who is, after all, transcendent), but “only” about the relationship between God and Man.

    The prophets seemed to think that, in exposing the atrocities of God people, in “uncovering Israel’s shame”, they were doing God’s work. I think one of the functions of the Bible is to remind those of us who call ourselves God’s people of the depths of our depravity. I don’t actually believe the depravity’s total. But we’re kidding ourselves if we pretend it isn’t there.

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  28. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Son of Spengler: Where I get stuck is the permission to take war brides (Deut. 21:10), notwithstanding the extra conditions applied. God insists on self-control in myriad other areas of life, and I have trouble understanding why this isn’t simply prohibited to men. Has God really embedded an inextricable connection between violence and eroticism in the (male) human psyche? — and if so, why?

     I think the link between violence and eroticism in the male psyche can probably be traced to our early evolution. Aggressive males are more likely to have access to reproductive opportunities.

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  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Salvatore Padula:

    Has God really embedded an inextricable connection between violence and eroticism in the (male) human psyche? — and if so, why?

    I think the link between violence and eroticism in the male psyche can probably be traced to our early evolution. Aggressive males are more likely to have access to reproductive opportunities.

    I agree on the mechanism. I believe that’s  how  it happened, and answers “why” in a proximate sense, if not an ultimate one.

    For people who believe in both evolution and God, and who see evolution as displaying God’s elegant handiwork (if He didn’t think of it, He should have), then I guess the vestiges of our primitive past in our current character are indeed traits that God “put there”.

    God made us as animals (albeit very special animals), not ethereal beings.

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  30. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Son of Spengler:

     . Where I get stuck is the permission to take war brides (Deut. 21:10), notwithstanding the extra conditions applied. God insists on self-control in myriad other areas of life, and I have trouble understanding why this isn’t simply prohibited to men.  

     Simple. G-d allows it because HE DID IT!

    When we lived in Egypt we, too, were captives. As Ezekiel says (and as we read every Pesach), “[the Jewish people] became very beautiful, your bosom fashioned and your hair grown long, but you were naked and bare.”

    So G-d, who was engaged in a war with the deities of Egypt, desired us in all our long-haired and raw beauty. And so, on that Pesach night, as He passed over the Jewish homes, He was intimate with the Jewish people. That was the act in which we as a nation were taken by Hashem. Like the captive shiksa, we did not deserve it because of our merits – on the contrary, we were saved from Egypt because Hashem wanted to save us, and not because we deserved it.

    All the laws line up with the timeline leaving Egypt, too. 

     

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