By Yvonne Sam
That Arab slavers were the first, and last, in modern times, to ship millions of Africans out of the continent as slaves? Most people still have the so-called Transatlantic [slave] trade by Europeans in mind; but, in reality, Arab-Muslim slavery was much greater.
Even in the face of years of Black History Months, currently there still remain Earth-occupants, many of whom know little-to-nothing about the expansive role, played by Arab and Muslim slavers in the African slave trade.
Yes, there is more to be told yet, so slowly catch your collective breath. The Arab slave trade is an act, and above all, a fact of history, and anti-Black racism is a shameful thing that must be confronted in Arab societies. electronicintifada.net/content/palestinian-struggle-black-struggle/12530.
We should not allow slavery to be relegated to only the European slave trade. The real truth about slavery includes the long, extensive and deadly role, played by Arab and Muslim slavers.
Slavery is defined thus, by the British writer, Duncan Clarke, in his1998 book, Slaves and Slavery, “the reduction of fellow human beings to the legal status of chattels, allowing them to be bought and sold as goods”. www.amazon.com/Slaves-Slavery-Duncan-Clarke/dp/1840131675
Background to the Arab slave trade
Commencing more than 700 years before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Sub-Saharan Slave Trade, also known as the Arab Slave Trade, began in the late 7th century, after the Arabs successfully defeated and took over Egypt, and soon controlled North Africa, East Africa and parts of West Africa, such as Northern Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
With full control of a great part of Africa, the Arabs captured young boys and girls and took them to Egypt, where they were sold into slavery, within Africa, or taken across the Indian Ocean to Indonesia, China, South West Asia and India. face2faceafrica.com/article/the-chilling-details-of-the-arab-slave-trade-in-africa-and-the-barbaric-castration-of-black-boys
The castration of male slaves soon became a habit among slave traders, due to the fact that castrated boys were in higher demand. They were noted to work faster and more efficient and stronger, and were not a threat to slave masters and owners, who feared that their wives, concubines and female slaves would have affairs with them. The castration process usually had the testicles of the young boys removed, however, in some extreme cases, the penis was cut off, altogether.
David Livingstone, the British missionary, explorer and traveler, was so upset by the way the Arabs treated their African slaves that, in1870, he wrote back home: “in less than I take to talk about it, theses unfortunate creatures – 84 of them — wended their way into the village, where we were. Some of them, the eldest, were women, from 20-22 years of age, and there were youths, from 18-19, but the large majority was made up of boys and girls, from seven years to 14 or 15 years of age”.
In the Arabian trade, the trudge across the Sahara, in leg and neck chains, and as Livingstone describes, necks in larg, forked sticks and hands tied with bark thongs, was particularly harsh on the African slaves. newafricanmagazine.com/16616/
No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs. Only estimates, some of which vary widely, exist, as to how many Africans were sold, from East to North Africa. This is also due to the fact that many of the slaves perished. Scientific research concludes that about three out of four slaves died, before they reached the market, where they were to be sold.
Unlike the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade was not an important feature of Arab economies, and it predominantly targeted women, who became members of harems, and whose children were full heirs to their fathers’ names, legacies and fortunes, without regard to their physical features.
The enslaved were not bought and sold as chattel, the way we understand the slave trade here, but were captured in warfare, or kidnapped, outright, and hauled across the Sahara.
Race was not a defining line and the enslaved were not locked into a single fate, but had the opportunity for upward mobility, through various means, including, of all ironies, bearing children or conversion to Islam. There are those who still contend that the Arab slave traders were themselves indistinguishable from those whom they enslaved, because the word “Arab” had cultural reference, not racial.
Nevertheless, while African scholars at the Maafa (Swahili for Holocaust) make significant differentiations between the Arab and the European slave trades, the enslavement of human beings is an atrocity of unfathomable proportions, by any standard, and that is exactly what it was in the Arab world – or is anywhere for that matter. africanholocaust.net/africanholocaust/
No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs. Only estimates, some of which vary widely, exist, as to how many Africans were sold, from East to North Africa. This is also due to the fact that many of the slaves perished.
Scientific research concludes that about three out of four slaves died, before they reached the market, where they were to be sold. The attributable causes were hunger, illness or exhaustion after long journeys. The Arabian slave trade was maintained, till well after the colonization of Africa. It was outlawed in Ethiopia, only in 1935, in order to gain international support against the Italian invasion. newafricanmagazine.com/16616/
Zanzibar, considered today, as one of East Africa’s best travel destinations: white, sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and hotels offer tourists, from all over the world, an unforgettable holiday. The dark past that obfuscated this sunny paradise, 200 years ago, has been long forgotten.
Humanity has never known a holocaust of greater magnitude, savagery, or longevity, than that perpetrated against the peoples of Africa — one which has never been fully acknowledged, and certainly never atoned for.
In a world order that propagate notions of entire continents or regions as exclusive monoliths, it can be seen that a large proportion of Arabs share a part of African history, ranging from extensive trade and commerce, to the horrors of the Arab slave trade, to the current state of ignorance that does not know history and fail to connect the dots.
It is clear to see, from the shared history, that a large proportion of Arabs, including those who harbour anti-Black racism, are the descendants of African women, who were kidnapped from Eastern African nations as sex slaves, gave birth to them and lost their African identities. electronicintifada.net/people/susan-abulhawa
On October 10, 2010, while addressing the 2nd Arab-African Summit in Sirte, the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi, apologized to Africans, on behalf of Arabs, for their enslavement and gruesome treatment, during the Arab slave trade. He was the first Arab leader to apologize.
His iron fist blighted his tenure, but when it came to revolution, to pan-Africanism, he was very resolute and unwavering. www.africanexponent.com/post/6905-gaddadi-apologized-for-the-arab-slave-trade.
He always stressed the need for Africa to be united and stave off Western imperialism at all costs.
The End of Slavery
Africa remains the most exploited continent in the history of humanity; more human victims have been acquired from Africa, than from all the other continents in the world, combined. The aftermath of this drain in human and mineral resources is one of the factors in the global condition of African people. Regardless of which way we look at it, slavery was a one way street — with Africans always the enslaved victims.
History tells of no African tribe that kidnapped Europeans and put them in bondage for generations; and, conversely, I know not of any African tribe that captured Arab women for centuries and made them sex slaves. The wounds or enduring legacies of transforming human beings into chattel, for centuries, is incomprehensible, and is a topic that should be told — it may be back history but, primarily, Black history.
Seemingly, it is preferable to blame the West, and concentrate on the European slave trade, rather than talk about the past crimes of Arab Muslims.
The lingering question still remains: why are students not taught or, at best, told about the long, extensive and deadly roles played by Arab and Muslim slave traders?
Aleuta, the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.