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Christianity, Islam and Slavery
By Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D.
Published: June 07, 1999
The most difficult subject to write about is when you are dealing with someone's spiritual belief system. Something someone grew up with since the day of reasoning. On the other hand, being a historian, I am obligated to bring forth the whole truth, no matter how devastating it may be. In the 1960s, it was almost sacrilege to talk about certain things Black people did. Two things come to mind, though not always honored: the woman of Afrikan descent, and the Afrikan involvement in the slave trade.
Back when I was a graduate student at UCLA, studying Afrikan world history and music, I wrote an article for the Afrikan student newspaper, NOMMO. It was entitled, "Can Afrikans Be Forgiven?" meaning ourselves. It focused on the Afrikan complicity in assisting Europeans in the Afrikan Holocaust, which today we commonly label as the Atlantic Slave Trade. Many people of Afrikan descent stopped talking to me and looked at me funny out of the corner of their eyes. That's when my greatest scholastic influence at that time, the late Dr. Boniface I. Obichere, stepped in and told me, "Kwaku, you don't worry about what others are saying. You keep writing about the truth. That's what history is supposed to do."
There was slavery in Afrika prior to the Arab and European incursions. In Afrika, one could become a slave in virtually one of three ways: prisoner of war; to pay off a debt; as a criminal. But a slave in Afrika rarely ever lost his/her humanity and could rise very high in particular societies. When Arabs invaded Northeastern Afrika in the 7th century A.D., in the name of Islam, this brought about a whole new relationship to the institution of slavery. Afrikans were captured, treated brutally and inhumanely, then shipped off to other Arab countries in Asia, or other parts of Afrika that they controlled. This happened approximately 600 years before the European Christians got involved.
The saddest and most painful reality of this situation is, that same slave trading is occurring today, still in the name of Islam. It is primarily happening in the countries of Mauritania, located in northwest Afrika, and Sudan, in northeast Afrika. There is a lot of denial about this from various corners, but as a scientist, the body of available evidence can only determine proof. In my case, I will sight three sources. For the past fifteen years, every Arab I have asked about this subject has openly admitted that it exists. Not some mind you, but each and every one.
I have read various articles of eyewitness accounts that seemed believable. But the most prevailing evidence that I have seen comes to us by a scholar named Samuel Cotton, a documentary filmmaker, an investigative journalist, and a brother. He presents us with his book, SILENT TERROR – A Journey Into Contemporary African Slavery. This book was published in 1998, which records his undercover journey into Mauritania, at extreme danger to his life, and actually witnessed, and interviewed present and former Afrikan slaves there, gives the best analyses of the present situation, and shows how it is all cloaked under the auspices of Islam. For a Muslim, this is horrifying, but then again, if those Arab Muslims were truly Muslims, practicing the religion of peace, they would not continue to be in the business of the slave trade, contributing to the Afrikan Holocaust.
If we assess what we have before us, this only leaves us to conclude that this is a horrendous misuse of Islam. Brother Cotton states in his vitally important book, "It is especially important for me to see that those who worship Islam, whether they are white or black, say or do something about the abuse and enslavement of their black spiritual brothers and sisters."
Of course, this could be continued, but I don't want to leave out the Christians. The reason people of Afrikan descent are in the Americas today can be attributed to the massive slave trading business of the European Christians. The reason Afrika is in the state that it is in today can basically be attributed to the European Christians. The reason most people of Afrikan descent do not know who they are and may frown when someone accidentally calls them an Afrikan, can also be attributed to the European Christians. This whole process began with Pope Julius II who signed a document entitled the "Papal Bull," dividing the world amongst his two most powerful Christian countries, Portugal and Spain. Prior to the 16th century, Spain signed a contract with the Portuguese called "Asiento," allowing them a monopoly in the carrying and selling of Afrikans across the Atlantic, until the English, who were the most aggressive, along with the French, Dutch, and later the rest of Europe joined in.
Slavery in the United States, by the European Christians, in the name of Christianity, was the development of the worst form of slavery in world history; "chattel slavery." In other words, Afrikans were not considered human but property or animals, with absolutely no type of human rights at all. This was justified through the misinterpretation of Bible stories, particularly about Afrikan people being cursed and turned black. I say in my classes all the time, I will give any student $100 if they can prove that Afrikan people were cursed and turned black in the Bible. After a number of years, I still have the $100.
Lastly, let me briefly mention those Europeans who converted to the ancient Hebrew Afrikan religion called Judaism. Though they were not involved to the extent of the Christians, their basic contribution to the Afrikan Holocaust was turning the slave trade into a business, and running it very effectively in Europe and Central and South America.
I approach this subject with much trepidation. When one believes in a particular spiritual belief system, generally referred to as organized religions, it can be very hurtful to hear what has happened in the past in the name of their religion. But as I have attempted to show, if a person is a true Christian, Muslim or Jew, there is no way that this tragic event in world history, and presently, could possibly occur. That being the case, looking at all that is happening in the world today, under the guise of a particular religion, one has to wonder, is God heading these religions, or is Satan?
Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn is on the faculty at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Africana Studies, and author of FIRST WORD Black Scholars Thinkers Warriors.