Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Islam, Christianity and slavery

According to Reuters,
Islam is growing fast among African Americans, who are undeterred by increased
scrutiny of Muslims in the United States since the September 11 attacks,
according to imams and experts.

Converts within the black community say they
are attracted to the disciplines of prayer, the emphasis within Islam on
submission to God and the religion's affinity with people who are oppressed.

Perhaps these black converts to Islam have never been told of Islam’s history of oppression and slavery. For example, Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis writes about huge numbers of slaves captured by Muslim invaders. He distinguishes between those “privileged” slaves employed for domestic or military use, and the usually black slaves, captured or purchased from East Africa who were used for manual labor in mines, fleets, marsh drainage, salt flats. They were herded together in groups ranging from five hundred to fifteen thousand. “Their labour was hard and exacting, and they received only bare and inadequate keep consisting…of flour, semolina, and dates” (Lewis, Bernard. The Arabs in History, New York : Oxford University Press, 1993. 112-113).

Those Muslims who owned black slaves in the centuries after Muhammad were just following the example of their Prophet Muhammad who regularly captured and sold slaves. In fact, Muhammad himself once allowed one of his wives’ black slaves to be beaten just to get information about his wife.

On the other hand, the “Christians” who owned slaves in early American history were doing so in direct violation to the spirit and teachings of the New Testament. They tried to justify their savagery by appealing to the Old Testament but nowhere in the Old Testament is there justification for singling out a group of innocent people on the basis of skin color, purely for economic advantage and greed, and ripping them away from homes and families and treating them worse than animals.

In fact, it was largely due to the efforts of Christians that slavery in Britain and the U.S. was finally abolished. Unfortunately, worldwide slave trade still flurishes today.