Black and Muslim YouTubers Discuss Slavery and Racism in Islam

I found this fascinating video on Sa Ra Garvey’s YouTube channel. I don’t know anything about Garvey, except that he’s probably a proud man of colour concerned with his people’s improvement and liberation. His name appears to be a reference to the Black activist and Jazz muso Sun Ra and the great Jamaican Black activist Marcus Garvey. Since the issue of slavery and reparations emerged once again in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, many, largely conservative commenters, have also been raising the issue of slavery in Islam. Slavery did not, after all, begin with Europe and the transatlantic slave trade. It has existed in various forms around the world since antiquity, and before White Europeans turned to enslaving Black Africans for the plantations in the New World, Islam had also done so. The first Black slaves imported into Europe were slaves brought into Islamic, Moorish Spain. Stephen Howe in his book Afrocentrism, states that the Arabs enslaved 5 million Black Africans, comparable to the 12 million taken by White Europeans.

In the video Black and Muslim speakers discuss the Islamic enslavement of Black Africans and the resulting legacy of racism in the Arab, Middle Eastern and south Asian worlds. One of the terms used in Arabic for Blacks is ‘abid’, which means ‘slaves’. The video also contains footage from documentaries filming the slave markets that have opened in Libya, selling Black migrants hoping to reach Europe. It also contains comments from enslaved Africans and free Blacks further south in Africa justifiably furious at the enslavement of their fellows. There are also clips from an al-Jazeera documentary on Black Iraqis. They are the descendants of enslaved Africans, and complain about the racism and marginalisation they suffer from and their political aspirations to gain power and improve their lot. One Black American contrasts the attitude of White westerners with that of the Saudis. He states that if you ask a western White about slavery, they’ll respond with remorse. The Saudis never do.

I have a few caveats about the video. Some of the material comes from Memri TV, and the video’s edited by Taqiyya Watch. These are both anti-Islam channels. ‘Taqiyya’ is an Islamic term for lying to defend Islam. It started out, I believe, as a Shi’a strategy to avoid persecution. It initially meant that a Muslim could deny he was a member of the faith in order to avoid being killed. Since then it has been expanded to the production of falsehoods to protect the faith itself. Memri TV seem to be an Israeli outfit specialising in translating material from the Islamic world which Muslims would like to hide. This is often when Middle Eastern politicians present a moderate face to the West, but present themselves as much more hard line to domestic Muslim audiences. However, the important point is that these organisations also have their overt biases against the Islamic world.

Regarding racism, Jonathan A.C. Brown discusses this in his book Slavery & Islam. He notes that the Qur’an actually condemns racism, and during the Middle Ages a series of Muslim scholars wrote books defending Blacks with titles such as The Excellence of the Negroes. He also describes the shock of one 19th century Arab visitor to France, who was shocked at how the standard of beauty was confined to White complexions, excluding the darker skin colours the Arabs preferred. The anti-Black racism is therefore against the letter and spirit of Islam, but persists nonetheless.

I am not trying to be deliberately controversial by posting this video. I find it interesting because it shows that Blacks in America and Africa are concerned about the Arab/Muslim slave trade, its legacy and resurgence. I find it particularly interesting that Afro-Iraqis are challenging racism in their country. That’s something I doubt very many people have heard about, unless they’re studying Islam or Middle Eastern politics at a post-graduate level in academia. The two speakers at the start of the video, a Black man and an Asian Muslim woman, describe how Blacks and Arabs are both minorities and so have allied with each other. But they feel that in this alliance, Blacks are very much the junior partner. They are the minorities’ minority. This is a comment on the politics of intersectional leftism, which seeks to unite a range of disparate groups, such as Blacks and ethnic minorities, gays and feminists in order to challenge conventional society. It shows that, despite right-wing attempts to present such alliances as a monolithic block, there are strains and criticisms within them. As for the re-opening of the slave markets in Libya, this is deeply offensive and troubling to the majority of severely normal Muslims around the world. In 1856, for example, the Muslim ruler of Tunis banned slavery completely within his dominions. That was 164 years ago. It is deeply repulsive and shocking that after all that time, real slavery is returning to the world.


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3 Responses to “Black and Muslim YouTubers Discuss Slavery and Racism in Islam”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    Good critique- this is obviously a topic that needs to be addressed further. FYI, I read this and thought Simon Webb had put up a video. No, he seems to be obsessed with reading rather too much into Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, and lining that up with his own Bell Curve views-basically he thinks that *would* happen as both actors are African American. Even by his standards, that is pretty ghastly.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks, Mark. I saw Simon Webb’s video about Will Smith and Chris Rock, and it’s title said it all. He believed it was a result of increasing diversity at the Oscars. As if all Black men, no matter how middle class and successful, were violent thugs. In actual fact, this isn’t the first time someone has struck someone live on TV. There’s a clip that gets shown every so often of Bernard Levin being punched on That Was The Week That Was. A man comes out of the audience and approaches Levin, who’s sat behind a desk. The man politely asks Levin to stand up. Levin, looking absolutely puzzled, stands up. The man then throw a punch. He then tells Levin it’s because he gave a bad review to a play his wife was in.
      And then there’s that moment when John Wayne nearly decked Barry Norman. It was in the early 70s and there had been a number of student protests. Wayne started ranting about Communists. Bazza thought he was joking and started to laugh. Wayne got annoyed, called him a ‘Commie pinko faggot’ or something and was about to hit him when someone pressed another whiisky into his hand. Actors and celebs have been punching people’s lights out live on camera for yours, and it hasn’t just begun with Smith.

  2. Mark Pattie Says:

    I also wonder why there seem to be less calls for more Muslim representation in the media, sport etc in Britain, given that Muslims make up 6% of the British population, whereas Black people (of all categories) only 3%- and also given the fact that more Britons tend to have a negative view of Muslims (30% ish) than they do of black people.

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