Historical fantasies: Elmasry on Islamic slavery

From the National Post.

Historical fantasies

Jonathan Kay, National Post Published: Monday, August 24, 2009

This just in from former Canadian Islamic Congress chief Mohamed Elmasry: Islamic slavery wasn’t all that bad.

Writing in The Canadian Charger — a newly formed internet-based grab bag of anti-Western articles published by hard-left Canadian activists — Elmasry works hard to distinguish the evils of Christian slavery from the purportedly enlightened race-mixing that resulted from its Islamic equivalent.

Some snippets: “Islam, with no church, teaches that all humans, irrespective of their gender, skin col-our and ethnic origin are capable of doing good; there is no original sin. The One God is the Lord of all, not of special people or tribe[s] … Islam and Africa have made something of each other that is quite extraordinary … Islam teaches that slaves, who were then the result of wars, Africans or not, should be treated well and set free as soon as possible … Islam also teaches that slaves can buy their freedom in-kind. Thus many of them excelled to be teachers and even scholars … Islam teaches a slave is a victim of circumstances who should be helped to be free and treated fairly in the mean time. Trading in slaves is a sin. This is in contrast to the teachings of the Bible, ‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.'” … The Arab Muslims called Africans Zanji (hence the island of Zanjibar or Zanzibar), Habashi (from Habasha, Arabic for Ethiopian) or Sudani (Arabic for black). Such

Elmasry’s theme is that Islamic slavery was an enlightened exercise in regional


names “were not derogatory but simply ethnographic … Some [slaves] achieved high rank and status …” And so on.

The basic theme is that Islamic slavery — to the extent it was bad at all (and it’s not really clear that Elmasry thinks it was) — was an enlightened, almost consensual, win-win exercise in regional multiculturalism. In his characteristically absurd elevation of Islam over Christianity, he makes no mention of the fact that religious Christians led the abolition movement in the West — while slavery persisted wholesale in the Arab world until late in the 20th century, and still survives in parts of Islamic Africa, including Sudan. Indeed, one wonders what the Christian tribes-people from southern Sudan who have been abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and enslaved by Arab Muslims in recent years would make of Elmasry’s historical fantasies.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Our Christian leaders seem to do nothing but apologize these days — for every historical sin under the sun. But here you have a man who recently led the most prominent Muslim activist group in Canada, and he thinks it’s just dandy that his Arab forebears colonized and enslaved great swathes of Africa over the course of many centuries — a colonial situation that essentially persists in Sudan and regions of the Maghreb.

Remember this the next time Elmasry or one of his fellow travelers denounces Western “imperialism.”


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