Modern day slavery is an interfaith problem - updated 7/11/2013

Modern day slavery is an interfaith problem

by Sheila Musaji

When the international community learned about the resurgence of the slave trade in Sudan, there was uproar in Western countries.  Everyone has heard about:  Slavery in Sudan, the exploitation and abuse of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.  And, some, like Robert Spencer, refer to this as “Islamic” slavery and point to this as a Muslim problem and a “basic Muslim behavior”.  The fact that slavery exists anywhere in the world today is shocking.  And, if any of the perpetrators of this crime are Muslims then that is a shame, and a problem that must be addressed.

While Islamic law historically did allow slavery under certain conditions, it is almost inconceivable that those conditions could ever occur in today’s world, which means that slavery is effectively illegal in modern Islam. Most Muslim countries, like other countries, have laws that prohibit slavery.  However, just because slavery is illegal does not mean that it doesn’t exist.

Slavery exists in the modern world and this problem of modern day slavery is not only a Muslim problem.  The problem is worldwide.  Slavery today is sometimes called by other names but no matter what it is called, it is slavery, and it is evil.  The fact that it is called by names that don’t sound quite so primitive and barbaric should not be allowed to confuse us or to deflect our attention from the problem of modern day slavery.

Millions live in modern day slavery.  “Global economic development during the last half century have fostered a resurgence of slavery.  Economic opportunities attract many people to urban centers around the world, making millions vulnerable to exploitation.  Also, the ease and speed of transportation has increased cross-border human trafficking.  The United Nations’ International Labor Organization says more than 12 million people are enslaved in the world.  Other estimates are higher.  For example, Free the Slaves says at least 27 million people are held in bondage.  But given the illegal nature of forced labor and the difficulty of verifying cases in populous countries like China and India, analysts say the total number will never be known.”  Dr. Kevin Bales is president of Free the Slaves, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending slavery around the world. According to Bales, there are 27 million victims of slavery worldwide. 

Child labor today is an epidemic.  “There are now estimated to be 20 million child laborers in the world. This is today’s world of nine year old coal miners and eight year old prostitutes, and of little girls who work 12 hour shifts in sweatshops.  In most of these sweatshops, they are forced to eat, sleep and work in the same stuffy, overcrowded room.  Girls rescued recently from one Bangkok sweatshop were forced to work in strict silence from 6 am to midnight.  They were mercilessly flogged for breaking the rules.  ...  A whole range of goods produced by child laborers are sold in the West: cheap skirts, shirts, the hand-knotted carpets so popular here, toys (which they will never play with), bangles, brassware, locks, glass and embroidery products, polystyrene cups, matches and textiles.”

The fact that there are different estimates of the scope of the problem should also not be allowed to confuse us or deflect our attention from the very real problem of modern day slavery.

The problem is so widespread that there are specific anti-slavery movements like the Anti Slavery child labor program, and articles discussing the widespread problem like The Social Psychology of Modern Slavery, and Human trafficking and modern day slavery in the U.S..  “Last year, the federal government spent more than $102 million on 224 projects under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). There is even an annual national convention for organizations participating in the ‘New Abolitionist Movement.”

According to an anti-slavery site“Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their ‘employers’.  Slavery exists today despite the fact that it is banned in most of the countries where it is practised. It is also prohibited by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. Women from eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race.”

Slavery by other names is found around the world.  There are migrant workers in Israel , England, the European UnionAustralia, and China.  There are domestic workers in Europe.  There is child trafficking in Britain and the Philippines.  There are slave laborers in Central Asia.  Thousands were rescued in 2007 from slavery in Brazil.

When we want designer clothing, furniture, inexpensive produce, even small inexpensive gifts from the dollar store, do we think about how these items can possibly come to us for the low price we are paying?  Whether it is Walmart, J.C. Penney and Sears,  or high end designers like Donna Karan many have been involved in sweatshop scandals.  Just because it’s designer doesn’t mean it’s sweatshop free.  And, as long as we continue to purchase these items, we are participating in continuing slavery into the 21st century.

We know in the back of our minds that the term blood diamonds means something, and that there is a reason so many of our clothes are made in China or India, but we repress what that really means. 

And before we get too complacent about this being “their” problem, (not necessarily a Muslim problem, but a foreign problem) the problem exists right here in AmericaFacts on Human Trafficking  lists the number of people trafficked worldwide at 600,000 to 800,0001, and the number of people trafficked within the United States: 14,500 to 17,500.

Modern slavery is thriving in America, even in upscale America

Mexican girls are being brought into Florida and forced into sexual slavery and prostitution.  In New Orleans, Thai workers that were brought in to work after Hurricane Katrina had their passports confiscated and were forced to work without proper pay.  There has been Human Trafficking in California which is in fact considered a top destination for human traffickers, and “over a five-year period, from 1998-2003, university researchers found 57 forced labor operations in nearly a dozen California cities involving more than 500 people from 18 countries.”

There have been abuses amounting to slavery in many states:  Connecticut, Florida, Rhode Island, TennesseeTexas, Maryland, New York, Minnesota,  and even Washington D.C. 

There are some hopeful signs.  Modern Slavery in New York   New York has become one of 29 states to pass state-specific human trafficking legislation. “The law, designed to address some of the perceived gaps and shortcomings of the federal law, gives local law enforcement agencies new tools to prosecute traffickers and new services for victims. Scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2007 it was immediately hailed by a broad group of supporters, including victim and immigrant rights organizations as well as the editorial board of the New York Times.”

However, it is obvious that we have a long way to go if we want to stop Modern Day Slavery 

The first thing that we need to do is to accept that this is OUR problem, no matter what our nationality or religion.  All of us share responsibility for this and all of us need to find a way to work together to end this blight on humanity once and for all. 

The abolitionist movement in the United States was led by people of faith.  I believe that the various religious communities and the interfaith community must be the foundation of a new abolitionist movement.  For this movement to be effective we need to stop wasting time and energy by pointing fingers at others and work together. 

We need to keep our focus on the actual issue and not be confused or distracted by side issues (like who is more guilty) that only lessen our ability to actually do something to solve the problem.  I believe that the interfaith community provides our best chance to discuss and heal our societies’ maladies.  We can educate ourselves, and encourage local interfaith groups to hold educational seminars and encourage local faith communities to stop buying goods that are produced by slave labor. 

UPDATE 11/18/2011

An International Muslim Abolitionist Movement (IMAM) has been formed.  Dr. David Liepert reports

So what does the Quran say about slavery? Rather than promoting the taking of slaves, the Quran promoted their freedom and proclaimed their equal status to their masters under God. The Quran declared that slaves had rights and that masters had a responsibility to protect them, and it made freeing a slave worthy of eternal reward.

What did Muhammad say about slavery? That slave and free were brethren, and that female slaves in particular should be protected, respected, educated, and either married or freed outright.

How did the earliest Muslims treat slaves? Following Muhammad’s example they helped, cared for and freed them, listened to, learned from and included them, respecting their contributions to the community of Islam.

Muhammad’s immediate household personally freed almost 40,000 slaves alone.

What do Muslim scholars say about slavery? That the natural state of humanity is freedom, and that slavery is an abhorrent aberration. Rather than merely the gradual eradication of slavery, all scholars agree that Muslims should seek to eradicate the discriminatory injustice that is slavery’s root cause as well.

So what does al-Shariah—an Arabic phrase that means “the well trodden path to the waterhole” that has come to mean Islamic law as well—say about slavery?

Well, it really depends which sharia you’re talking about.

Because al-Shariah, the path Muhammad and his companions walked led toward a world without slavery, something every modern day scholar will happily confirm. But after they passed away, later Muslims who saw their slave-count dwindling decided they didn’t like it. So they “tweaked” the rules just a little, just enough maintain their access to fresh slaves.

And whenever that happens, whenever Muslims put their own ambitions ahead of true fidelity to the path of Islam—that leads us to serve God by serving His Creation, albeit in different roles—and instead misdirect al-Shariah to serve their own dark desires instead, they turn their man-made so-called sharia laws into an abomination.

However, personally, I think the most important lesson al-Shariah teaches us is that the life of faith is a journey, and no matter how far down a path you’ve gone in the wrong direction, you can change it back into a righteous path just by turning yourself around.

And quite frankly, it’s long past time for Muslims who honestly love Islam, sharia and Muhammad’s legacy to fix those abuses and begin to take sharia back for Muhammad’s exemplary Islam!

Because the message of the Quran, the Sunnah (the acts and words of Muhammad), Islam’s wise scholars and the Salaf (early Islam’s first three generations) is clear: Muslims should have ended slavery long ago.

So if you are a Muslim who loves Islam and strives to honor Muhammad’s true legacy of justice, peace and freedom for all humankind, then please join the IMAM to say a prayer for freedom for the sake of all humankind on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (Friday, Dec. 2), and help us take a step toward ending slavery and oppression and injustice throughout the world today.

Free the Slaves notes

Muslim voices have called for the abolition of slavery since ancient times. According to the Prophet Muhammad, “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money.”

Many scholars note that the Quran “disapproves” of slavery and instructs Muslims to treat slaves humanely. Sura 90 in the Quran states that the righteous path involves “the freeing of slaves.”

Many scholars note that the Quran “disapproves” of slavery and instructs Muslims to treat slaves humanely. Sura 90 in the Quran states that the righteous path involves “the freeing of slaves.” Muslim leaders made significant stands against slavery in the 1800s. Muslim jurists in India concluded it was improper to kidnap Africans and transport them to other countries as slaves. They also opposed debt bondage, a common practice where people would sell themselves or their children into slavery to pay debts.

Also in India in the 1800s, influential Muslim reformer Sayyid Ahmad Khan wrote that key Quranic references, which had historically been interpreted as condoning slavery, should instead be regarded as “freedom verses.” Ahmad Khan has been called the “Islamic William Wilberforce.”

In recent times, the Cairo Declaration on Human rights in Islam took a definitive stand against slavery. Adopted by 54 countries in the 1980s as part of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the declaration states that “human beings are born free, and no one has the right to enslave, humiliate, oppress or exploit them, and there can be no subjugation but to God the Most High.”

Free the Slaves has met a number of Muslim clerics interested in social justice issues, including modern slavery. Without fail they recount Islam’s rich history of anti-slavery efforts, beginning with the Prophet Muhammad himself.

As Imam Yassir Arafat of Chicago pointed out, “Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) closest was called the “Emancipator” because he went to where the slaves were being persecuted and he would free them.” The Imam says that these teachings weren’t always followed, despite the fact that freeing slaves and granting their rights is a major teaching in Islam. Slaveholders were to provide slaves with the same food, clothes and work burdens as one’s self, and to “treat him as your own brother in faith and humanity.”

Indeed, these rules regulating slavery in the Quran were so stringent that it disappeared in many parts of the Muslim world.

While this history is rich and inspirational, and is mentioned in some sermons and classes, the issue of modern slavery “has not reached the level of advocacy” says Imam Arafat. But that change appears to be coming. He has said that “I, as a Muslim, as one of my leaders in my community, will touch on this issue and learn more about it.” That’s good news because, as he points out, “These are brothers and sisters, no matter what faith you follow, it could be your blood brother or sister enslaved.”

This value for each individual is highlighted by the Quran’s teaching that all people are equal, like the teeth in a comb.

In 1964 The sixth World Muslim Congress pledged global support for all anti-slavery movements. The oldest Muslim organization, founded in 1926, the Congress has Consultative Status with the United Nations and observer status with the Organization of Islamic Countries. 

The Columbia CNMTL Educational project notes that

During the 19th century a number of international treaties were signed in an attempt to ban slavery. (Larsen, 87) The Peace Treaty of Paris in 1814 was the first multilateral treaty to condemn the slave trade. Other treatises, such as the 1815 Treaty of Paris, the 1815 Declaration and Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, and the 1822 Declaration of Verona, followed suit. Although these treaties lacked enforcement mechanisms or definite implementation deadlines, a number of states began outlawing the slave trade, as did the Latin American colonies upon achieving their independence. The respective dates of these events were as follows: France in 1848; Portugal in 1958; the Netherlands in 1863; Spain in Cuba in 1870; and Brazil in 1871. (Larsen, 88) In addition, the abolitionist movement was not an exclusively Western phenomenon and Muslim and Buddhist anti-slavery movements are also known to have been active during this period.

Muslim leaders made significant stands against slavery in the 1800s. Muslim jurists in India concluded it was improper to kidnap Africans and transport them to other countries as slaves. They also opposed debt bondage, a common practice where people would sell themselves or their children into slavery to pay debts.

Also in India in the 1800s, influential Muslim reformer Sayyid Ahmad Khan wrote that key Quranic references, which had historically been interpreted as condoning slavery, should instead be regarded as “freedom verses.” Ahmad Khan has been called the “Islamic William Wilberforce.”

UPDATE 12/28/2012

This article was published on Salon:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a naval officer from the United Arab Emirates to pay $1.2 million to a former domestic worker for his family in Rhode Island who accused him of forcing her to work long hours for little pay.

U.S. District Court Judge John McConnell in August ruled Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali in default for failing to appear in court in a lawsuit brought by Elizabeth Ballesteros, who cared for Al-Ali’s family in East Greenwich when he was studying at the U.S. Naval War College.

On Wednesday, McConnell ordered Al-Ali to pay Ballesteros for forcing her to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and for what he called outrageous and inhumane conduct.  Al-Ali was previously acquitted of criminal charges.

The court ruling was totally appropriate, and this man certainly engaged in outrageous conduct which should require reparations to the victim of the injustice.  Such behavior is despicable. Such stories, sadly are all too common.  There have been similar arrests of non-Muslims in Massachusetts, in Britain, in Chicago, in Colorado, in Israel, in Argentina, and Israel again, etc.  Slavery/human trafficking continues to be a problem for all of us.  Headlining the stories with the religion of the criminal perpetrators serves no purpose.  Would it help in any way to solve the problem of slavery to list the religious affiliation of each of these criminals?

For Robert Spencer, the key point in this story is the religion of the criminal, because this individual is a Muslim - and so, that “fact” goes in his article headline Muslim naval officer from UAE must pay $1.2 million to domestic worker for holding her as slave.  Not content with that, he says:

“Muhammad owned slaves, and the Qur’an takes the existence of slavery for granted, even as it enjoins the freeing of slaves under certain circumstances, such as the breaking of an oath: “Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom” (5:89).

While the freeing of a few slaves here and there is encouraged, however, the institution itself is never questioned. Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was, of course, in the West up until relatively recent times. Yet the impetus to end slavery moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. Because the Qur’anic word cannot be questioned, and the book does not contain the Biblical principles that led to the abolition of slavery in the West, there has never been a Muslim abolitionist movement. Slavery ended in Islamic lands under pressure from the West.”

If only such individuals would stop pointing fingers at only one manifestation of issues that face all of us, perhaps we could join together to take meaningful action to stop the scourge of slavery in all of its forms. 

We would all do well to focus on an important article published last week in The Atlantic by J.J. Gould Slavery’s Global Comeback.  This article details the extent of this problem worldwide.  I was particularly struck by one point “There are now twice as many people enslaved in the world as there were in the 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade”.

Also, we might think about the fact that Ahead of international day marking slavery’s abolition, UN officials warn of ‘new’ forms of bondage

The 21st century has seen the rise of new forms of slavery, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today in a message to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, in which he also urged Member States to increase their efforts in the fight against the dehumanizing scourge.

In his statement marking the Day, celebrated each year on 2 December, Mr. Ban noted that despite the approval of the Slavery Convention 85 years ago in which signatories vowed to prevent and suppress the slave trade, the practice had acquired new manifestations as it adapted to an ever-changing world.

“The movement against slavery brought together the international community to declare that slavery practices constitute an affront to our common humanity and that no human being should be another’s property,” stated Mr. Ban.

“Today, governments, civil society and the private sector must unite to eradicate all contemporary forms of slavery,” he added.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery marks the date of the adoption by the General Assembly of the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others on 2 December 1949.

The Day’s focus is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as debt bondage, serfdom and forced labour; trafficking of persons and trafficking for the purpose of organ removal; sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, but also forced marriage, the sale of wives, widow inheritance.

According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), some 21 million women, men and children are currently trapped in slavery all over the world.

Pointing to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the Secretary-General acknowledged that the UN already boasted “important tools” to advance the goal of slavery’s eradication but that maintaining adequate financing was difficult.

“Over the past two decades, the Fund has assisted tens of thousands of victims of slavery in more than 90 countries. Yet the fund is in dire need of funding to fulfil its mandate and respond to the growing need,” Mr. Ban said as he appealed for governments and private enterprises to funnel investments into the Fund’s activities.

“Together, let us do our utmost for the millions of victims throughout the world who are held in slavery and deprives of their human rights and dignity,” the UN chief stated.

Drawing a particular emphasis on the nexus between bondage and forced marriage, the UN independent expert on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, also called for greater anti-slavery legislation, including the criminalization of all servile marriages.

“Women and girls who are forced to marry and find themselves in servile marriages for the rest of their lives,” Ms. Shahinian said in a statement for the Day. “Women and girls should not be forced to marry. Women and girls should not be forced to spend their life time in slavery. Nothing can justify that.”

The UN expert noted that women in servile marriages frequently experience human rights violations, such as domestic servitude and sexual slavery, and often suffer from violations to their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence.

She added, however, that solely focusing on the criminalization of servile marriages would not succeed in effectively combating the problem.

“Such legislation should go hand in hand with community programmes to help detect, provide advice, rehabilitation, education and shelter where necessary,” the statement continued. “Public awareness raising campaigns should be implemented to highlight the nature and harm caused by forced and early marriages.”

Somehow we must find ways to stop this!

UPDATE 3/30/2013

Details about the high incidence of slavery in Mauritania have recently been reported.  It is a terrible situation, and will require a multi-pronged effort to help the country solve this problem.

It is important to bear in mind a few facts.  In Mauritania there is a - 51% literacy rate, 30% unemployment rate, 44% of population lives on less than $2 per day -  slavery abolished in 1981 and became a crime in 2007.  % of population living in slavery is 10 to 20% - the current government is a dictatorship that oppresses everyone.  Compared to these statistics, in the U.S. there is - 99% literacy rate, 7.70% unemployment rate, per capita income 38,611 ($105.78 per day), slavery abolished in 1864, democratic government

A recent NSNBC article Mauritania addresses Slavery but Root Causes for Slavery worldwide persist puts this into some perspective:

Resolving Mauritania´s slavery problem, which is deeply rooted in the country´s history, culture and traditions is an extremely complex and difficult task, which is not alone served by laws and law enforcement. ...
Slavery will persist, worldwide, in different shapes and forms, unless the political and social issues behind it will be addressed. Solving the problems with slavery in Mauritania alone will not solve the global slave-trade problems and those women caught in the net prostitution traffickers are not better off that those kept by Mauritanian slave masters.

One of the fundamental problems is a global economical system, that prevents nations like Mauritania, in spite of its richness in resources, and in spite of its productivity of its population, from developing a national economy that facilitates a healthy middle class and social security networks for the poorest and most vulnerable.

Instead of working with others to help get rid of the problem of modern day slavery everywhere, some shameless individuals like Pamela Geller insist on maintaining that there is only one problem - and that is slavery in Muslim countries - and that Islam is responsible for this situation.  She has decided to produce a new series of ads on “Islamic” apartheid, including one featuring the situation in Mauritania which she calls “Islamic slavery”. 

We know that we have a lot of work to do to end slavery (no matter what it is called) everywhere. 

Sadly, there are still some Muslim individuals who are not helping in this effort, and are oblivious to the fact that MOST Muslim scholars in the past century have stated that slavery is “inconsistent with Qur’anic morality.” and MOST majority Muslim countries have made slavery illegal.  A few scholars (e.g. Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan and Shaikh Saad Al-Buraik - both Saudi Wahhabi scholars) have gone against the majority and continue to uphold what is now a fringe minority opinion. 

As Khaled Abou El Fadl said on p. 255 of The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From the Extremists this:  ”... is particularly disturbing and dangerous because it effectively legitimates the trafficking in and sexual exploitation of so-called domestic workers in the Gulf region and especially Saudi Arabia.”

Sadly, there are also Christian individuals who are not helping in this effort.  In a recent article GOP talking points: slavery, extermination, deportation, execution, I noted that

Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro in a self published book titled “Letters To The Editor: Confessions Of A Frustrated Conservative” made some shocking statements:

“… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” (Pages 183-89)

African Americans must “understand that even while in the throes of slavery, their lives as Americans are likely much better than they ever would have enjoyed living in sub-Saharan Africa.  Knowing what we know today about life on the African continent, would an existence spent in slavery have been any crueler than a life spent in sub-Saharan Africa?” (Pages 93 and 189)

“… one of the stated purposes of school integration was to bring black students up to a level close to that of white students. But, to the great disappointment of everyone, the results of this theory worked exactly in reverse of its intended purpose, and instead of black students rising to the educational levels previously attained by white students, the white students dropped to the level of black students. To make matters worse the lack of discipline and ambition of black students soon became shared by their white classmates, and our educational system has been in a steady decline ever since.” (Page 27)

..the immigration issue, both legal and illegal… will lead to planned wars or extermination. Although now this seems to be barbaric and uncivilized, it will at some point become as necessary as eating and breathing.” (Page 9)

The last quote is absolutely beyond anything that should be acceptable for an elected representative of the people of the United States.  He is not only racist, but thinks that immigration might have to be “corrected” by extermination of both legal and illegal immigrants.

...  Republican Rep. Loy Mauch of Arkansas called the Confederate flag a “symbol of Jesus Christ.” He demanded, unsuccessfully that Hot Springs remove a statute of Abraham Lincoln from its convention center, and he defended slavery. ...

We need to make an effort to reach such individuals and encourage them to re-evaluate their beliefs and help us to eradicate the scourge of slavery and economic exploitation of human beings?  Clearly, Muslims promoting slavery and abolitionist Muslims are reading the same Qur’an, but interpreting it differently.  Clearly, Christians promoting slavery and abolitionist Christians are reading the same Bible, but interpreting it differently. 

UPDATE 5/30/2013

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad has written in the Muslim History Detective’s log:

On October 4, 1865, the anti-slavery, Tunisian Muslim General Otman Hashem arrived in New York via the steamship Persia. The very next day, the New York Times reported his stay in the city to be a one day rest stop before moving on to his intended destination of Washington, DC. But wouldn’t you know it, given how “colorful” New York City is, the stopover morphed into quite an eventful, days-long tour of the city, full of vibrant engagement with its residents and officials.

Gen. Hashem had come to the United States, representing His Highness the Bey of Tunis, to convey to President Andrew Johnson, and the American people, condolences on the tragic assassination of President Lincoln and congratulations on the end of the “calamitous” Civil War.

...  When Hashem finally made his way to Washington DC, he met with President Andrew Johnson at the White House. The DC visit was also covered extensively in New York papers.
During the meeting, which took place in the Blue Room, President Johnson acknowledged the anti-slavery perspectives of his Muslim guest and reflected on the United States’ current challenge around liberty post-Civil War.

The president declared, in part:

“You are favorably known to us as a soldier and a scholar, and, above all, as a statesman devoted to the extinction of slavery. You will be able to report to His Highness the Bey that the American nation are trying a humanitarian experiment. It is nothing less than this: Whether a people can save liberty and at the same time govern itself.”

Interestingly, this all took place before slavery was constitutionally outlawed by the ratification and adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. ...  Read the entire article

UPDATE 7/11/2013

Robert Spencer once again finds a particular instance of an individual who happens to be a Muslim committing a crime California: Saudi princess charged with human trafficking for holding maid as slave, and rather than condemning the individual - he exploits the opportunity to condemn the religion of Islam.  Spencer makes the claim - Yet the impetus to end slavery moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. Because the Qur’anic word cannot be questioned, and the book does not contain the Biblical principles that led to the abolition of slavery in the West, there has never been a Muslim abolitionist movement. Slavery ended in Islamic lands under pressure from the West.  Spencer also refers to “Islamic slavery”. 

Typical Islamophobic nonsense from Spencer.  Actually, in 1846 Tunisia became the first Arab country to abolish slavery.  The abolition of slavery in Tunisia preceded the abolition in the U.S. by almost 20 years.  The abolition of slavery in Tunisia preceded the abolition in the U.S. by almost 20 years.  There certainly have been Muslim abolitionist movements.  The Qur’an can’t be questioned, but certainly, the interpretations of the meaning of verses may be examined and re-interpreted - it’s called ijtihad.  And, the Qur’an 9:60 contains Qur’anic principles that should lead to the abolition of slavery:

“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect (Zakat) and for bringing hearts together and for freeing captives (or slaves) and for those in debt (or bonded labour) and for the cause of Allah and for the (stranded) traveller - an obligation (imposed) by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.”  9:60

According to a BBC report Slavery in Islam: “It’s misleading to use phrases such as ‘Islamic slavery’ and ‘Muslim slave trade’, even though slavery existed in many Muslim cultures at various times, since the Atlantic slave trade is not called the Christian slave trade, even though most of those responsible for it were Christians.”


Africa: Guilty Pleasure - Slavery and Child Labour in the Production of Chocolate
Anti-Slavery Campaign Interview Series - Seyed Amir Akrami - ISLAM and SLAVERY: Core Values and the Necessity of Change
Arkansas State Rep. Loy Mauch (R-AR): ‘If Slavery Were So God-Awful, Why Didn’t Jesus Or Paul Condemn It?’’t-jesus-or-paul-condemn-it/
Arkansas State Representative Jon Hubbard (R-Jonesboro): Slavery Was A ‘Blessing In Disguise’ For ‘The Blacks’
The condemnation of slavery in Islam,  Shezhad Saleem
The Devil’s Bargain: Sweatshops and the American Scheme, John W. Whitehead
Does Islam Endorse Slavery?, Habib Siddiqui
Ending ‘modern-day slavery’: Kuwait
FBI Report:  Human trafficking in the U.S.
The Fight Against Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery, Bryan Cain-Jackson
Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery: by country
Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery: Israel
Human trafficking in the U.S.
Israel named by the United Nations named Israel as one of the main destinations in the world for trafficked women
Israel’s Dirty Little Secret – Slavery
Madagascar Must Combat Poverty to Eradicate Slavery, UN Independent Expert Urges
Mauritania addresses Slavery but Root Causes for Slavery worldwide persist
Modern slavery in Israel: It’s all politics, Rebecca Hughes,7340,L-4270686,00.html
Modern slavery, Siddharth Kara
Philippines: Trafficking of Children and Modern Slavery, Father Shay Cullen
The Religious Right, the Bible, and Slavery, Peter Montgomery
Qur’anic Verdict on Slavery:  Islamic and Christian Perspectives,  Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar Rizvi and
Sex slavery and Israel’s failure to fight the growing trade
Slavery: Alive and well in the 21st century, Rageh Omaar **
Slavery convict gets 11 years prison for forcing girls to labor at Ypsilanti home
Slavery in Islam
Slavery lives on in Mauritania
Slavery’s last stronghold: Mauritania, John D. Sutter
Super Bowl Is Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident In U.S.: Attorney General
UAE approves anti-slavery bill


Originally published August 1, 2009