The Scourge of Slavery
THE REST OF THE STORY
Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries,
and in some parts of the Muslim world is still continuing to this day.
CONTRASTS IN CAPTIVITY
A comparison of the Islamic 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 Islamic 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 Trans Sahara 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 many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the
USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive.
While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined
for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth.
It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of
which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only
5% of the slaves went to the United States). Remember 28 million Africans were enslaved
in the Muslim Middle East.
It was noted that black slaves were castrated "based on the assumption that the blacks had an ungovernable sexual appetite."
When the Fatimids came to power they slaughtered all the tens of thousands of black military slaves and raised an entirely
new slave army. Some of these slaves were conscripted into the army at age ten. From Persia to Egypt to Morocco,
slave armies from 30000 to up to 250000 became common-place.
Even Ronald Segal, who is most sympathetic to Islam and clearly prejudiced against Christianity, admits that well over
30 million black Africans would have died at the hands of Muslim slave traders or ended up in Islamic slavery.
A dhow, the favourite slave carrying
vessel of Arab slave traders.
Arab traders beat their cargo into
submission on the run from the African
coast to Zanzibar.
The Islamic slave trade took place across the Sahara Desert, from the coast of the Red Sea, and from East
Africa across the Indian Ocean. The Trans Sahara trade was conducted along six major slave routes. Just in the
19th Century, for which we have more accurate records, 1.2 million slaves were brought across the Sahara into the
Middle East, 450000 down the Red Sea and 442000 from East African coastal ports. That is a total of 2 million black
slaves - just in the 1800's. At least 8 million more were calculated to have died before reaching the Muslim slave markets.
Islam's Black Slaves records: "In the 1570's, a Frenchman visiting Egypt found many thousands
of blacks on sale in Cairo on market days. In 1665 Father Antonios Gonzalis, a Spanish/Belgian traveller, reported 800
- 1000 slaves on sale in the Cairo market on a single day. In 1796, a British traveller reported a caravan of 5000 slaves
departing from Darfur. In 1838, it was estimated that 10000 to 12000 slaves were arriving in Cairo each year." Just
in the Arabic plantations off the East Coast of Africa, on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, there were 769000 black slaves.
The slave market in Zanzibar sold an average of 300 slaves every day.
In the 19th Century, the East African black slave trade included 347 000 slaves shipped to Arabia,
Persia and India; 95 000 slaves were shipped to the Arab plantations in the Mascareme Islands.
Segal notes "The high death rate and low birth rate among black slaves in the Middle East and the astonishingly low
birth rate amongst black slave women" in North Africa and the Middle East. "Islamic civilisation.lagged increasingly
behind the West in protecting public health. The arithmetic of the Islamic black slave trade must also not ignore the
lives of those men, women and children taken or lost during the procurement, storage and transport.the sale of a single captive
for slavery might represent a loss of ten in the population from defenders killed in attacks on villages, the deaths
of women and children from related famine and the loss of children, the old and the sick, unable to keep up with their captors
or killed along the way in hostile encounters, or dying of sheer misery."
One British explorer encountered over 100 human skeletons from a slave caravan en route for Tripoli.
The explorer, Heinrich Barth, recorded that a slave caravan lost 40 slaves in the course of a single night at Benghazi.
The British explorer, Richard Lander, came across a group of 30 slaves in West Africa, all of them stricken with smallpox,
all bound neck to neck with twisted strips of bullock hide.
One caravan with 3000 proceeding from the coast in East Africa, lost two thirds of its number from starvation, disease
In the Nubian desert, one slave caravan of 2000 slaves literally vanished as every slave died.
AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
In 1818, Captain Lyon of the Royal Navy reported that the Al-Mukani in Tripoli "waged war on all its defenceless neighbours
and annually carried off 4000 to 5000 slaves.a piteous spectacle! These poor oppressed beings were, many of them, so
exhausted as to be scarcely able to walk, their legs and feet were much swelled, and by their enormous size formed a striking
contrast with their emaciated bodies. They were all borne down with loads of firewood, and even poor little children,
worn to skeletons by fatigue and hardships, were obliged to bear their burden, while many of their inhuman masters with dreadful
whip suspended from their waist.all the traders speak of slaves as farmers do of cattle.the defenceless state of the Negro
kingdoms to the southward are temptations too strong to be resisted, a force is therefore annually sent.to pillage these defenceless
people, to carry them off as slaves, burn their towns, kill the aged and infants, destroy their crops and inflict on them
every possible misery.all slavery is for an unlimited time.none of their owners ever moved without their whips - which were
in constant use.drinking too much water, bringing too little wood or falling asleep before the cooking was finished, were
considered nearly capital crimes, and it was in vain for these poor creatures to plead the excuse of being tired. Nothing
could withhold the application of the whip. No slaves dared to be ill or unable to walk, but when the poor sufferer
dies, the master suspects that there must have been something 'wrong inside' and regrets not having liberally applied their
usual remedy of burning the belly with a red-hot iron."
Arab slave traders along the Ruvuma River, East Africa, 1866, axe a straggler.
Records for Morocco in 1876 show that market prices for slaves varied from £10 ($48) to £30 ($140).
Female slaves comprised the vast majority of sales with "attractive virgins" fetching between £40 to £80 ($192 - $386).
It was reported that "a considerable majority of the slaves crossing the Sahara were destined to become concubines in North
Africa, the Middle East and occasionally even further afield."
CHRISTIAN SLAVES - MUSLIM MASTERS
Segal also observed that: "White slaves from Christian Spain, Central and Eastern Europe"
were also shipped into the Middle East and served in the "palaces of rulers and the establishments of the rich."
He records that: "All slavic eunuchs.are castrated in that region and the operation is performed by Jewish merchants."
Muslim slave raiders kidnapped women from Europe for harems in the Middle East.
Historian Robert Davis in his book "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters - White Slavery In the Mediterranean,
the Barbary Coast and Italy", estimates that North African Muslim pirates abducted and enslaved
more than 1 million Europeans between 1530 and 1780. These white Christians were seized in a series of raids
which depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall. Thousands of white Christians in coastal areas were seized
every year to work as galley slaves, labourers and concubines for Muslim slave masters in what is today Morocco, Tunisia,
Algeria and Libya. Villages and towns on the coast of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France were the hardest hit, but the
Muslim slave raiders also seized people as far afield as Britain, Ireland and Iceland. They even captured 130 American
seamen from ships they boarded in the Atlantic between 1785 and 1793.
According to one report, 7000 English people were abducted between 1622 to 1644, many of them ship crews and passengers.
But the Corsairs also landed on unguarded beaches, often at night, to snatch the unwary. Almost all the inhabitants
of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were captured in 1631, and there were other raids in Devon and Cornwall. Many of these white, Christian slaves were put to work in quarries, building sites and galleys and endured
malnutrition, disease and mistreatment at the hands of their Muslim slave masters. Many of them were used for
public works such as building harbours.
Female captives were sexually abused in palace harems and others were held as hostages and bargained for ransom.
"The most unlucky ended up stuck and forgotten out in the desert, in some sleepy town such as Suez, or in Turkish Sultanate
galleys, where some slaves rowed for decades without ever setting foot on shore." Professor Davis estimates that up to 1.25 million Europeans were enslaved by Muslim slave raiders between 1500 to 1800.
THE EUROPEAN SLAVE TRADE
While Islam dominated the slave trade
from the 7th to the 15th Century, between 1519 and 1815 Europe also joined in this trade in human
flesh. And it was those European nations which had suffered the most at the hands of Muslim slave raiders, and under
centuries of Muslim military occupation, Spain and Portugal, who dominated the European slave trade.
It was the enemies of the Reformation who brought Europe into this disgraceful trade. Emperor Charles V (whom Martin
Luther defied with his historic "My conscience is captive to the Word of God.here I stand I can do no other." speech)
of the Holy Roman Empire who first authorised Europe's involvement in the slave trade in 1519. Because of Pope Alexander
VI's Line of Demarcation Bill of 1493 which barred Spain from Africa, Spain issued Asientos (a monopoly) to other nations
to supply slaves for her South American colonies. First Portugal had this lucrative franchise, then the Dutch, then
the French. Finally, by the treaty of Utrecht 1713, the Asientos was transferred from France to Britain.
Britain's involvement in slavery was first authorised in 1631 by King Charles I (who was later executed by Parliament).
His son, Charles II, reintroduced it by Royal Charter in 1672.
According to "The Slave Trade" by Hugh Thomas, approximately 4 million (35.4%) went to Portuguese controlled Brazil;
2,5 million (22.1%) to the Spanish nations of South and Central America; 2 million (17.7%) to the British West Indies (mostly
Jamaica); 1,6 million (14.1%) to French West Indies; half a million (4.4%) to Dutch West Indies and half a million (4.4%)
to North America.
THE ABSENCE OF ARABIC ABOLITIONISTS
William Wilberforce led the campaign against slavery for 59 years.
While Christian Reformers spearheaded the anti-slavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America,
and Great Britain mobilised 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 Islamic slave trade. By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Islamic slave trade could
exceed 180 million.
THE AMERICAN SLAVE TRADE
Slaves freed by the British Navy.
It is extraordinary that, considering that less than 5% of all the Trans Atlantic slaves ended up in North
America, the vast majority of films, books and articles concerning the slave trade concentrate only on the American involvement
in the slave trade, as though slavery was a uniquely American aberration. However, the vastly greater involvement of
Portugal, Spain and France seem to be largely ignored. Even more so the far greater and longer running Islamic slave
trade into the Middle East has been so ignored as to make it one of history's best-kept secrets.
We tend to focus on what happened in North America because the United States would eventually fight a war, in part over
slavery, and because of the enormous and vocal American opposition to slavery. This was in sharp contrast to the indifference
that Muslims, Africans and many Europeans evidenced towards it.
THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE
A steam pinnache of HMS London puts a warning shot across the bow of a slaving dhow in 1881.
The legends of European slave raiders venturing into the jungles of Africa to capture free peoples are generally
just that: myths.
The embarrassing fact of history, is that the Europeans did not have to use any force to obtain these slaves. The
slaves were "sold" by their black owners. There was no need for the slave raiders to risk their lives or venture
into the jungles of Africa, they simply purchased the people from African chiefs and Muslim slave traders at the coast.
However, while the slave trade and slavery itself was always criticised vigorously in Britain and America, no comparable
criticism was evident in the Muslim Middle East or amongst the African tribes which sold their own people, and neighbouring
tribes, into slavery. Almost all of the African slaves transported across the Atlantic were captured and sold by African
rulers and merchants.
Many chiefs found it more profitable to sell their enemies, criminals and debtors than to kill or imprison them.
Many were weaker neighbouring tribes conquered for the express purpose of selling their people into slavery. The disgraceful
fact is that there were three equally guilty partners in the crime of the Trans Atlantic slave trade: pagan African
chiefs, Muslim Arabs and Christian Europeans.
The Trade, as it became known, involved a triangular voyage. Slave ships sailed from Bristol or Liverpool loaded
with cloths, beads, muskets, iron bars and brandy. This merchandise was then traded in West Africa in exchange for slaves.
Mostly African chiefs sold their own people, or engaged in wars and slave raids against neighbouring tribes to capture victims
for this trade. Often professional Arab slave traders provided the victims.
The middle passage transported the slaves to the West Indies. Here the slaves were sold and the ships loaded with
spices, rum, molasses and sugar. The third leg of the journey was the return to England. The average Englishman
on the street was kept in the dark as to what was actually happening on the middle passage, until, in 1785, Thomas Clarkson's
landmark study "Slavery and Commerce In the Human Species" was first published at Cambridge. According to Clarkson's
research, 10% of the slaves would normally die during the middle passage. Strong men would fetch as much as £40 while
the women and children were sold in cheap batches with the sick and weak men. In England 18 000 people were employed
simply on making the goods to trade for slaves in Africa. This trade constituted 4.4% of British exports
THE PAGAN ORIGINS OF SLAVERY
Slavery long predated Christianity and many of the early Christians were slaves in the Roman Empire. Without exception,
the pre-Christian world accepted slavery as normal and desirable. The Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed: "From
the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." The great civilisations of Mesopotamia,
Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all the civilisations in Central America and Africa were built upon slave labour.
People became slaves by being an insolvent debtor, or sold into slavery by their parents, or by being born to slave parents,
or by being captured in war, or through kidnapping by slave raiders and pirates. Slave dealing was an accepted way of
life, fully established in all societies. Most of these slaves were white people, or Europeans. In fact the very
word "slave", comes from the people of Eastern Europe, the Slavs.
St. Patrick, the English missionary to the Irish, was once a slave himself, kidnapped from his home and taken to
Ireland against his will. Patrick spoke out strongly against slavery. He wrote: "But it is the women kept in
slavery who suffer the most."