Especially some black Muslims raise ever so often the point that:
Muhammad made it mandatory for believing Muslims to release slaves. The Bible on the other hand condems us to slavery ...
First let me point you to a different perspective from an African Christian and a report on the current situation in Africa.
Some more quotations: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 
Christianity, Islam and Slavery
A short article on Slavery and the Bible and a long series to be of articles asking: Does God condone slavery in the Bible?
Fight for the Abolition, William Wilberforce and the Fight Against Slavery, John Newton
The British fight slavery and the Arabs continue it.
Book recommendation on slavery in Islam:
Bernard Lewis Race and Slavery in the Middle East : A Historical Enquiry Oxford University Press, 1990, 184 pages, ISBN 0-19-505326-5
Though the below is not an answer that was originally addressed to Muslims, I found this on the Christian newsgroup and don't think I could say anything better in response.
Subject: Slavery in the Bible Michael J. Bumbulis wrote: I was recently involved in a short exchange on another board about slavery in the Bible. I'll repost it here as some Christians might find it useful. Someone said: >Now, in fairness to Christians, I must acknowledge that the >fight in opposition to slavery in the 19th century was led, >in large part, by Christians... and that most Christians of >today would be as horrified by Mr. Davidson's statement (I >think) as I am. > >On the other hand, the pre-Civil War *defense* of slavery >also was led by devout Christians who used Biblical argu- >ments such as Mr. Davidson seems to be using. We must keep in mind that anytime an evil is to be justified, it is often denied that it is evil and instead said to be good. Since the Bible was considered _the_ standard of good, it is to be expected that anyone trying to justify an evil would appeal to certain interpretations of the Bible. If Darwinism laid at the foundation of the zeitgeist, it would not be hard to imagine how this would have been used to justify slavery. The fact remains that slavery came to an end here (and elsewhere [ie, Britain]) because many Christian leaders did not keep their religion to themselves, but instead, spoke out forcefully. In some cases, like John Brown, religious zealots paved the way for the end to slavery. BTW, I have a book which outlines the arguments made by the pro-slavery and abolitionist religious leaders. It is interesting to see how both groups reach different conclusions using the same texts. There are >things in the Bible which can be interpreted to frown on >slavery (for example, the Golden Rule, which implies that >you shouldn't own slaves unless you have no objection to >being a slave) but as far as I'm aware there isn't any >explicit, clear-cut commandment forbidding Jews and >Christians to own other human beings and make use of their >forced labor. Slavery is treated as a normal part of life >in the Bible, and St. Paul directs slaves to obey their >masters. I'll get to Paul in a moment. But no, the Bible does not have an explicit condemnation of slavery. This is one argument that was used by the pro-slavery folks. Abolitionists responded with a laundry list of other evils which are not explicitly condemned in the Bible. We must keep in mind, however, that contrary to the claims of some members of the so-called religious right, the Bible is not a book of moral philosophy. It is a book that contains the revelation of God which in turn speaks to the heart of each and every reader. The book is not a blueprint for making utopia. It is a revelation that, when perceived, leads to a "new creation" - the individual who seeks conformity with God's will. This ties in with what I will say below. >This is one of the things which suggests to me that >the Bible was written by fallible human beings, bound to >the ideas and customs of their place and time, rather >than being the inspired "word" of a morally perfect >deity. If the Bible said, "Thou shalt not possess slaves," I doubt you would consider it to be anything more than the work of human beings. What you expect from the "inspired word" is not what I expect. Simple codes are usually the products of men. Teachings which reach deeper, and transform from within rather than from without, seem to me to be a more likely clue of divine influence. Now, let's take Paul. Paul wrote a very short letter to Philemon, a wealthy Christian who was also a slave-owner. One of Philemon's slaves, Onesimus, was a runaway slave who later met up with Paul and became a Christian. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon, but he writes two very important things: 1. "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love." [vs.8] 2. "Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good - no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord." [vs.16] Many powerful points come to light. First, Christians read vs.8 not only as the words of Paul, but also as the words of God. Thus, God, through Paul, could have order Philemon to treat Onesimus as a man and brother rather than a slave, but instead, he appealed to him. Thus, Philemon was challenged by his faith to transform from within, rather than simply adhere to a new command. *THIS* is the essense of Christian transformation! Through the light of faith and love, to see God's will rather than simply adhere to a new order. This, in my opinion, is the divine response to slavery (and so much else). The Quaker and Mennonite approach to slavery captured this beautifully. Rather than cite certain "proof-texts" for their beliefs, they based their life on the basic biblical values so that their thinking and behavior and way of life was at odds with slavery. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, slavery declined. Now I would not claim this was primarily due to Christianity, but we should not forget that Christianity was a religion shared by many slaves and slaveowners. With such shared faith, it would harder and harder for slaveowners to see their slaves as mere "property." This attitude even continued into the Middle Ages. My ol' college history text puts it like this: "Since ancient times, it had been a universally accepted practice to enslave conquered peoples. The church had long taught that all baptized Christians were brothers in Christ and that all Christians belonged to one "international" community. Although the church never issued a blanket condemnation of slavery, it vigorously opposed the enslaving of Christians. In attacking the enslavement of Christians and in criticizing the reduction of pagans and infidels to slavery, the church made a contribution to the development of human liberty." While I can understand why you would want an explicit biblical condemnation of slavery, I see things differently. I see the implicit condemnation that goes hand-in-hand with an inner transformation that is more real, and also entails a communion between the person and his/her Creator. Always remember that Christianity is not a religion which teaches that evil was defeated with angelic armies. It was defeated instead by the suffering of the Son of God. That is, Christians believe God entered Creation to defeat evil from within by involving us and history. Of course, I don't expect any nonchristian to be convinced by these words (and not just because I have not fully developed the thesis). Instead, I'm simply explaining what I believe and why it is that I do not find the lack of explicit condemnation to be of great signficance. In my original reply, I failed to speak about something that is relevant. The original author said: >Slavery is treated as a normal part of life in the Bible, and >Paul directs slaves to obey their masters. I think there is much more to it that this. I already brought up the passages in Philemon which are _very_ relevant (for here Paul writes to a slave-owner about one of his slaves). But there is more. First, it is true that Paul directs slaves to obey their masters. And a simple reading of such commands, divorced of the general context of the Bible, certainly makes it seem as if the New Testament condones slavery. But is it really that clear? Recall that Jesus taught that a Christian should "turn the cheek" when struck. Is Jesus condoning violence? I think not. Instead, Jesus is instructing the Christian on the type of attitude one should have when victimized by evil. In fact, Paul picks up on this theme: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge ... do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." [Rom. 12:17-21] The Christian reads Paul's instructions to slaves in THIS light. The Christian does not read Paul's instructions to slaves divorced of this context. Thus, Paul is no more condoning slavery than Jesus condoned physical assault. Instead, Paul is teaching slaves how they are to respond to this evil AS CHRISTIANS. And there is a sublime element to is all. Y'see, when Paul instructs slaves to "obey their masters," he goes much further than this. He tells them to serve as if they were serving Christ. They then become a witness for the Lord, and that witness will become far more important than adhering to some moralistic principle. In fact, Paul "let's the cat out of the bag" in Titus 2:10. Paul instructs slaves to "go the extra mile" in being obedient and trustworthy so "that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." Think about it. What if Paul had said, "Slaves, rebel against your masters. They are instruments of evil that must be defeated?" Slaveowners would have responded by cracking down on Christian faith among their slaves. Thus, nothing would have come of such a command expect strife, violence, and self-righteousness. But by instructing slaves to be obedient, even extra-obedient, the Gospel would become attractive to slaveowners. And what happened when slaveowners became Christians? They learned of God's grace and love. They learned from Paul that in Christ, there is no distinction between slave and free man. Paul even instructed them in the same breath he instructed slaves. He told them that they too have a Master and there is no favortism with Him. He told them to provide their slaves with what is "right and fair," and this itself was revolutionary at the time. In short, the distinction between slaveowner and slave would erode away as both would serve a common Master as 'brothers.' Once this approach was instituted, it was only a matter of time before slavery would cease to exist, as God had planted a seed which would grow and strangle the very basis upon which slavery was founded. So while the Bible may not contain an explicit condemnation of slavery, it contains something far more powerful - a way of thinking and a way of relating that would undermine the very source that fueled slavery. And in my opinion, this is a far better indicator of divine origin than a simple commmandment. *************************************************************************** email@example.com (Jarrod J. Williamson) wrote on this subject in the same thread: Subject: Re: Slavery in the Bible The following is an excerpt from a dialoge I had over email. The general theme of this discussion was slavery, and the slavery of black Africans by Europeans in general. I have deleted the name of the person I was speaking with, but am now substituting "John" for his name. jarrod *************************************************************************** [ ...] [John] > The difference between slavery in other instances > and the genocidal type practiced by Europeans is > that never before was race the determining factor. [Me] [Note: I put my references below, at the end of this letter.] Genocide and slavery are two entirely different things. Genocide, by definition, is the deliberate attempt to murder an entire group of people while slavery, again by definition, is to keep people as property in order to do work for you. In effect, slavery is to treat human beings as beasts of burden, as animals, rather than as created in the image of God with inalienable, God-given rights. What happened in Auschwitz and Rwanda was genocide. What happened in America, Brazil, China, Rome was slavery. If what happened in the U.S. was genocidal there would have been no blacks kept as beasts of burden. I don't say this to make slavery any less evil than it is, but to call what was slavery "genocidal" is to make genocide less terrible. It does a disservice both to that measure of humanity that have been treated as animals (slaves) and those who have been exterminated (genocide). As truly evil as slavery was (is) any Jew or Rwandan would have desperately prayed to have exchanged places with any slave. It is interesting that in Portuguese-colonized Brazil the total number of imported black slaves was much higher than in North America (i.e. the U.S.) and was almost entirely male. The reason for this is that it was much easier for nearby Brazil to easily travel to Africa for more slaves while in the U.S. it was much more difficult to do that. In Brazil the beating of a slave to death was much more common for economic reasons, i.e. new slaves were easy to get in Brazil. In the U.S. slaves were not beaten to death nearly as often for simple economic reasons. The number of slaves imported to the U.S. was far less than in Brazil, however, the total number of black slaves in the U.S. was far greater than in Brazil. The reason for this is simple, as black slaves were too difficult to get from Africa, they were simply allowed to reproduce in the U.S., rather than go to Africa to get them. The mentality toward slaves was certainly quite different here in the U.S. than in Brazil and other Portuguese controlled colonies. Portuguese and Spanish thought at the time espoused no view of equality among all peoples. Hence, it was no moral trouble to get and own slaves because, in effect, they were the bottom of the totem pole, the lowest class of humanity, and it was okay to enslave them and kill them. Hence, while they did attach slavery to a particular race, there was no moral compunction to deny their humanity. The dilemma was different in the U.S. American thought did espouse the equality of all men in the sight of God, yet they still held slaves. The only rational for them to hold slaves (i.e. own people) and still at least maintain a facade of this idea was simple ... deny the essential humanity of black Africans. All sorts of rationales were used to justify this, often religious, e.g. the split between Southern Baptists (who held slavery) and other sorts of Baptists (who, like most Protestants, were often moral abolitionists) was over just this issue. Around the world the slave trade was conducted by merchant peoples, such as Venetians, Greeks, and Jews in Europe , the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia , or by the Arabs who played both the merchant and marauder roles in Africa , though even here the same individual seldom handled the slave from initial capture to final sale . When Italian merchants began displacing Jewish merchants in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea in medieval times, they also began displacing Jews in the Black Sea slave trade . Another great merchant people -- Gujaratis from India -- often financed the African slave trade, though they did not usually conduct it . The Yao, a Central African tribe noted for being the leading traders of ivory in their region, likewise became the leading traders of slaves in that region . Neither a national policy nor a racial ideology was necessary for the enslavement to take place. All that was necessary was the existence of vulnerable people, whoever and wherever they might be -- and regardless of whether they were racially similar or different from those who victimized them. People regularly subjected to slave raids might indeed be despised and treated with contempt both during their enslavement and after their emancipation, but that was not what caused them to be enslaved in the first place. Although there was no religious basis for racism in the Islamic world (as opposed to the non-Muslim religion, the Nation of Islam) the massive enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans by Arabs and other Muslims was followed by a racial disdain toward black people in the Middle East -- but this racial disdain followed, rather than preceded, the enslavement of black Africans, and had not been apparent in the Arabs' previous dealings with the Ethiopians . In the West as well, racism was promoted by slavery, rather than vice versa. Both in North America and in South Africa, racist rationales for slavery were resorted to only after religious rationales were tried and found wanting . But that is not to say that either rational was in fact the reason for the enslavement. In many other societies, no rational was considered necessary. Africa remained prey to other nations, long after mass enslavement was no longer viable in many other parts of the world, because it remained vulnerable longer. Africa was, and is, the least urbanized continent and long contained many smaller, weaker, and more isolated peoples, who were prey to more powerful African tribes, such as the Ashanti and the Yao, as well as to Arab slave raiders. Many of the peoples victimized by the Arabs in Central Africa had lived isolated from the outside world and were easy prey for marauders with firearms, who seized their goods and such people as they wished, leaving behind famine brought on by looted granaries and diseases spread by caravans . Europeans became mass traders of African slaves largely by purchasing from Africa's more powerful tribes and empires. A particularly high cost prevented most Europeans (the Portuguese being an exception) from capturing Africans directly -- the extreme vulnerability or Europeans to African diseases during the era of slavery. Before the use of quinine became widespread, the average life expectancy of a European in the interior or sub- Saharan Africa was less than one year . Most European slave traders therefore purchased Africans who had already been captured by others, typically by other Africans. After lasting thousands of years, slavery was destroyed over most of the planet in a period of about one century, and over virtually all of the planet within two centuries. The destruction of this ancient and worldwide institution was all the more remarkable because it was accomplished in the face of determined opposition and cunning evasion at every level, from the individual slaveholders to the heads of nations and empires. Moreover, the impetus for the destruction of slavery came not from any of the objective, material, or economic factors so often assumed to be dominant in history, but from a moral revulsion against slavery which began in the late eighteenth century in the country which was the largest slave-trading nation of its day, with highly profitable slave- plantation colonies -- Great Britain. Slavery was so deeply entrenched and seemingly impregnable when the anti-slavery political crusade began among evangelical Christians in the eighteenth-century Britain that the most fervent crusaders among them hoped only to stop the continued enslavement and international trading of human beings. Any though that the very institution of slavery itself could be abolished was considered Utopian. Yet the mobilization of public opinion in Britain against the slave trade produced such powerful and enduring political pressures that successive generations of British governments found themselves forced to push the anti-slavery effort further and further toward its logical conclusion - - first to abolish the international slave trade, then to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, and finally to pressure, bribe, and coerce other nations into abolishing slavery as well. The Quakers were the first organized religious group in Britain to repudiate the institution of slavery and to impose on their members a requirement that they not hold any slaves. But the larger political effort to get the slave trade banned by government was led by others inspired by the Quaker 's example. This worldwide political revolution against slavery began with a small and rather conservative group of evangelicals within the Church of England, staid people who distanced themselves from the emotionalism of the Methodists and whose principal leader, William Wilberforce, was such a relentless opponent of the radical ideas arising from the French Revolution that he sought to have those ideas stamped out in England by government censorship. Among the other members of the inner C"Clapham Sect" that began the crusade against the slave trade was the very reserved and dignified Henry Thornton, wealthy banker and a landmark figure in the development of monetary economics. Yet these were the leaders of a movement whose achievement was one of the most revolutionary in the history of the human race. Seldom was there a group of revolutionaries that so defied stereotypes, in a crusade that defied the odds. Repeatedly and resoundingly defeated in Parliament on bills to abolish the slave trade, Wilberforce, Thornton, and their supporters persisted for 20 years, until finally -- of February 27, 1807 -- the House of Commons passed such a bill, 283 to 16 . It was a remarkable victory from a mass mobilization of public opinion -- and, once mobilized, this public opinion proved so strong, so tenacious, so enduring, and ultimately so irresistible, that the anti-slavery crusade was swept along beyond its original goals of stopping the international trade in human beings to abolishing slavery itself throughout the British Empire, and eventually throughout the world. Once the moral issue seized the public 's imagination in Britain, its support spread far beyond the particular religious group that initiated the antislavery drive. Socially, it extended across class lines from the rich to the poor, from the working class to the titled nobility . In an age before mass communications, mass transit, or mass movements, people were astonished to see petitions arrive in Parliament with tens of thousands of signatures, demanding an end to the slave trade. At one point, Parliament received more than 800 petitions within a month, containing a total of 700,000 signatures . (Wilberforce also appropriated a section of land in Africa, now called Sierra Leone, for the repatriation of black who wanted to go back. Take a look at early postage stamps in Sierra Leone, they bear the likeness of Wilberforce.) The anti-slavery movement proved to be as unrelenting as it was widespread. British missionaries fueled the public' s outrage with their reports from Africa itself, reports widely disseminated by a powerful missionary lobby in London. Not all government officials favored the anti-slavery cause by any means, and some in both the civil and military establishments resented the extra burdens put upon them by this cause, as well as the complications that the anti-slavery crusade made in British foreign relations. But the political pressures forced successive British governments to continue their worldwide opposition to slavery. Though slavery did not exist in Britain itself, it became such a factor in British domestic politics that candidates for political office felt a need to declare where they stood on the issue. By the mid-1820 s, being pro- slavery was considered a political liability . British warships were sent on patrol off West Africa, boarding not only British ships to inspect them for slaves, but also boarding the ships of some other nations who had "voluntarily" granted them this right. By the early 1840s, Britain began to urge the Ottoman Empire to abolish the slave trade within its own dominions. The initial reposes of the Ottoman sultan was described by the British ambassador: ... I have been heard with extreme astonishment accompanied with a smile at a proposition for destroying an institution closely inter-woven with the frame of society in this country, and intimately connected with the law and with habits and even the religion of all classes, from the Sultan himself on down to the lowest peasant . Britain was far in advance of most of the rest of the world in its opposition to slavery. However, its example inspire abolitionists in the United States, and the French government later abolished slavery in its own empire and then sent its navy on patrol in the Atlantic to help intercept slave- trading ships. Eventually, opposition to slavery would spread throughout Western civilization, even to despotic governments like that of czarist Russia, which stamped out slavery among its Central Asian subjects. The European-offshoot societies of the Western Hemisphere all abolished slavery before the end of the nineteenth century, and the spread of Western imperialism to Asia and Africa brought slavery under pressure around the world. Outside of Western civilization, the anti-slavery effort was opposed and evaded, especially in the Islamic world. Repeated pressure on the Ottoman Empire led its government to decree a ban on the slave trade within its domains in 1847, even though this ban led -- as expected -- to discontent and revolt among Ottoman subjects. However, mindful of the opposition within, Ottoman authorities were not very active at trying to stamp out the slave trade. Eventually, the British government threatened to begin boarding Ottoman ship in the Mediterranean to search for slaves, unless the Ottomans themselves began enforcing the ban on the forbidden slave trade . Nor was the Ottoman Empire the only foreign government to feel the pressure of British anti-slavery policy. In 1873, British warships anchored off Zanzibar and threatened to blockade the island unless the slave market there closed down . It closed. A sharp distinction is apparent between the ending of slavery in Western civilization and in non-Western regions. By 1888, slavery had been abolished throughout the Western Hemisphere. Yet the struggle to end slavery, or even the slave trade, continued on into the twentieth century in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The British added naval patrols in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf after the Ottoman Empire s formal ban on slave trading provided the legal cover for such intervention. Yet slave trading continued on the land until after European imperialism took control of most of the African continent. Only then could the attempt be made to stamp out slavery itself. The difference between the Western and Eastern worlds as regards the ending of slavery is perhaps epitomized in the words used to described the process -- "emancipation," a once-and-for-all process in the Western hemisphere, and "the decline of slavery" in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, where it was a more protracted process that lasted well into the twentieth century. Even after Western hegemony extended into many nations of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, slavery continued in remote regions of Borneo, Burma, Cambodia, and other parts of Southeast Asia . Among the Islamic nations of North Africa and the Middle East, the abolition of slavery came especially late, with Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and the Sudan continuing to hold slaves on past the middle of the twentieth century . Mauritania officially abolished slavery on July 5, 1980 -- though its own officials admitted that the practice continued after the ban . > Slavery was usually it was the result of a war > between groups of people, not arrogant and > erroneous assumptions of racial superiority. Correct, until one party kept their position of superiority for an extended length of time, then the slavery became linked to their race. Both the Aztecs and the Mayas did this to the peoples around them. The Egyptians certainly linked their slavery to their superiority over the peoples around them as did the Japanese ... which sense of superiority still continues to this day. Check the connotations of the word "gaijin" which means essentially foreigner/barbarian. Historically what has happened is that stronger groups of people would enslave the weaker to do their work. Over time if the stronger peoples were able to keep conquering the same group the slavery then came to be connected to race. Historically this was no more prevalent among Europeans and anyone else. Check out the history of the Incas, Mayas, Babylonians, Celts, Zulu s, Chinese (incl. the Xia and Chou dynasties), Koreans, Japanese, etc. I defy you to find a culture that did not at one time or another practice chattel slavery and eventually link it to race. [...] End of relevant discussion.  Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe; Daniel Evans, Slave Coast of Europe  I am too tired to type in the rest of the references. If you wish, email me and I will send them privately. --------------------------------------------------------------------- And I asked him for these references which was met with; Jochen: On Thu, 23 May 1996, Jochen Katz wrote: > Yes, I am interested in the rest of there references to your > article. Actually, that part about including the references upon request was part of the original email exchange that I had with "John." I excerpted much of my information from Thomas Sowell's "Race and Culture." Sowell is an excellent scholar and I recomment any of his works, including "Race and Culture," "Marxism," and "The Economics and Poltics of Race." Sowell is a senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation. jarrod
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