In my previous article, “Jamaica demanding reparations will fall on deaf ears”, I explored Jamaica’s call for reparations was made again previously in 2015 & and currently in 2021. I reiterated the need to move past it and determine our own future, as we will not be compensated.
The call for reparations excludes the Arab world, which was complicit in horrific acts of slavery centuries before Europeans. Due to the dominant narrative of European chattel slavery, the Arab slave trade has remained hidden in society.
When discussing what Islam has perpetrated in the African world, it can stoke up ideas of Islamophobia, this is not the case, this is purely telling history from an objective lens. This sensitivity has prevented us from challenging history and its atrocities for many years. History is uncomfortable, but we must confront it. Arabs also enslaved Europeans, and in 2016, an estimated 520,000 men, women, and children were living in modern slavery in the Arab States.
‘Slavery was extremely popular in the 17th century when Islam was gaining notoriety in North Africa. Seven centuries before Europeans came to the continent ten centuries before West Africans were sold across the Atlantic to America.’
Arab Muslims in East and North Africa captured Africans and sold them to the Middle East, where they worked as teachers, field workers, or harem guards. This is why the castration of male slaves was practised. Muslims, on the other hand, including African Muslims, were not allowed to be enslaved, according to Islamic legal views. They had to convert to not be enslaved. The military power of Europe ended the expansion of Islam, which created a shortage of slaves, Arab Muslims had to look for other ways to find slaves, which was black Africa.
The Arab world owes us reparations as well
Arabs were the first major slavers of the African people, in what is known as the “Trans Sahara trade“, existing for over 13,000 years. Otherwise known as “the Veiled genocide”, a term coined by French-Senegalese author Tidiane N’Diaye.
From around AD 1000, Islam made Africa into a slave-trading nation. Arab merchants captured around 180 million African people selling them into slavery.
Historian Paul Lovejoy estimates that some 9.85 million Africans were shipped out as slaves to Arabia.
Lovejoy said: “Between AD 650 and 1600, an average of 5,000 Africans was shipped out by the Arabs. This makes a rough total of 7.25 million. Then, between 1600 and 1800, another 1.4 million Africans were shipped out by the Arabs. The 19th century represented the highest point of the Arabian trade where 12,000 Africans were shipped out every year. The total figure for the 19th century alone was 1.2 million slaves to Arabia.”
Merchants of Arab slavery were focused on concubines, capturing women and girls turning them into sex slaves. In the European “New World ”, a measure of a man’s stature was contingent upon the ‘physical dimensions of an empire built upon the foundation of forced masculine labour’. Contrastingly within the Islamic Orient wealth prestige was the marker of wealth. Young women were favoured as the vessels of the male pleasure ground, as they were viewed as malleable material shaped to the will of the master.
Author John Dewar Gleissner in his book In “Prisons & Slavery,” writes: “The Arabs’ treatment of black Africans can aptly be termed an African Holocaust. Arabs killed more Africans in transit, especially when crossing the Sahara Desert, than Europeans and Americans, and over more centuries, both before and after the years of the Atlantic slave trade. Arab Muslims began extracting millions of black African slaves centuries before Christian nations did. Arab slave traders removed slaves from Africa for about 13 centuries, compared to three centuries of the Atlantic slave trade. African slaves transported by Arabs across the Sahara Desert died more often than slaves making the Middle Passage to the New World by ship. Slaves invariably died within five years if they worked in the Ottoman Empire’s Sahara salt mines.”
The Arab Slave Trade continues today
According. to the Global Slavery Index in 2018, Africa had the highest rate of modern-day enslavement. Slavery has not stopped because it is such big business. “Globally, slavery generates as much as $150bn (£116bn) in profits every year, more than one-third of which ($46.9bn) is generated in developed countries, including the EU”.
Additionally as recent as 2019, BBC news Arabic conducted an undercover investigation exposing that domestic workers are being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market in Kuwait. The mere horror that the slave trade continues, but receives minuscule grains of attention is symbolic of social justice movements not holding the Arab world to the same moral, financial and accountable standard as the West.
Slave traders in the past had to consider the price of journeys and high mortality rates, now in the modern world exploiters have less to worry about, due to the advancement in transportation and technology. Combined with the flows of migration, now a larger supply of exploitable and vulnerable people is used in the world’s global supply chains in agriculture, fashion, beauty, and sex industries.
The Arab world must also pay its debts and its time more people knew of the atrocities committed. We continually ask the European and the American societies to pay reparations, but the same standard is not held towards the Arab world. We must challenge the legacy of slavery in its entirety. By no means is this a comparison of the slave trade, but a mere calling to the double standard and no true sense of accountability we hold the Arab world too. The Arab world continues countless inhumane, morally reprehensible practices, but the challenges are lacklustre as we do the European and American world.