Archive for the ‘Libya’ Category

Arise Event Tonight on How We Can Achieve a Peaceful Future

July 17, 2022

I got this notice of an online event tonight on obtaining peace, put on as part of the Arise Festival of left-wing ideas

Push for Peace – no to an era of permanent war

Premiering online, Sunday July 17, 19.00.Register here // Retweet here // Get ticket for the whole festival here.

With: Kate Hudson (CND), Shadia Edwards-Dashti (Stop the War Coalition) & Andrew Murray (author, ‘Fall & rise of the British Left.’)

A discussion on building a peaceful future. Premiering on the Arise YouTube & Facebook channels.

Part of the “Sunday premieres” series as part of Arise 2022 – A Festival of Left Ideas.

If only there were some successful strategy for gaining a just and lasting peace around the world, as it really does seem we have entered the era of ‘forever wars’ with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the various military interventions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, the various wars in Africa and now the war in Ukraine.

Stop the War Coalition Organises Protest Against Blair’s Knighthood

June 5, 2022

Yesterday I got the latest email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition, detailing their forthcoming protests against the war in Ukraine, the government’s increased funding for the British military, which is particularly noxious given the government’s lukewarm response to the cost of living crisis, and their protest against Blair being granted a knighthood. The Coalition’s assembling a demonstration at Windsor on the 13th, when Blair is due to join the others being inducted into the Order of the Garter. Blair’s a war criminal through his illegal invasion of Iraq, which killed 100,000 people and displaced a further two million. The same invasion wrecked the country, destroying its relatively secular, welfare state. This was replaced by sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias, women may no longer work outside the home as they formerly could under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the mercenary troops brought in as part of the occupation amused and enriched themselves through running drugs and prostitution rings and shooting innocent Iraqis for sport. Not all of this carnage is Blair’s responsibility. A large part of it is his mate’s George W. Bush. But he was actively complicit, and, as books have argued, deserves to be up before the Court of International Human Rights or whatever on charges of war crimes. And this is quite apart from his role in the similar destruction of Libya, which has resulted in the Islamist nutters there opening slave markets again. They are also calling on their supporters to organise protests in their local community on the 25th of this month. I won’t be able to attend any of these demonstrations, but I’m putting up notice of them for those who may.

Protest: No Knighthood for Tony Blair – 13 June

Tony Blair should be heading to The Hague. Instead, on 13th June he will be heading to the castle at Windsor where he will be knighted by the Queen.

Despite the disastrous legacy of Blair’s foreign policy the British establishment has learnt few lessons. Blair has blood on his hands and is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians as well as servicemen and women in Afganistan and Iraq. He is the least deserving person of any public honour.

Join the Stop the War protest at the annual Garter Day procession in Windsor and let the world know there is only one court that Blair should be attending, and it’s not the royal one.

We’re assembling at 1pm at the Queen Victoria Statue on Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD to say ‘Jail Blair! No knighthoods for war criminals’.

For those traveling from London we will be meeting at Paddington Station at midday for the 12:20 train. Changing at Slough at 12:36.

Yes, I’ll be there

18 June: Peace & Anti-War Bloc – TUC ‘We Demand Better!’ March

Boris Johnson is set to announce further unprecedented increases in the UK’s military budget despite his woefully inadequate response to the biggest cost of living crisis in our lifetime. We believe that taxpayer’s money should be prioritised for our public services and protecting people’s livelihoods rather than new technologies of mass killing.

Stop the War is supporting the TUC’s ‘We Demand Better’ demonstration against the soaring costs of living on June 18th to say ‘Cut War Not Welfare’. Let’s get on the streets and make our voices heard.

I’m Joining the Anti-War Bloc on 18 June

International Day of Action – 25 June

We are asking all our groups to organise a local protest on the International Day of Action on 25 June. In the run up this we need to be broadening and deepening the movement everywhere. We ask every group to put together an action plan including:
– Stalls every weekend to build for 25 June, leafletting, collecting signatures and building a local base of activists.

– A public meeting/rally if you haven’t held one, a follow up meeting if you have.

– A systematic campaign to get our resolution passed in trades councils and trade union branches.

– Banner drops and stunts.

– Cultural events – music nights, spoken word events, film screenings etc.


There is a wide range of people and organisations who can help build a Stop the War group, including trade unionists and trades councils, peace movement activists, local churches and mosques, Labour Party activists, Momentum groups, environmental campaigners etc. Please make sure you approach all of these as you organise the campaign.

I’m Organising An Event on 25 June

A History of Racism in the Islamic Middle East

May 27, 2022

Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: OUP 1990).

Bernard Lewis is a veteran scholar of Islam, and this book is an examination of the emergence and development of predominantly Muslim Arab racism in the Middle East. The book is a reworking of two previous studies from the 1970s, one of which was first published in French. It started off as part of an academic examination of intolerance, concentrating on religious bigotry. Lewis, however, believed that issue had been solved and so moved on to racial intolerance. Unfortunately, as the past fifty years have unfortunately shown, religious hatred and bigotry has certainly not died out, as shown here in Britain with the sectarian violence in Ulster.

Arab Ethnic Identity Before Colour Prejudice

Islam is viewed as an anti-racist religion, and the Qur’an states categorically that Blacks and Whites are both equal and should be treated as such. This admirable attitude was maintained by its theologians and jurists. However, with the emergence and expansion of the Islamic empires this began to change and prejudice and racism, based initially in ethnic differences and then on skin colour, emerged. The book argues that the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabs, like the other nations around them, had a strong sense of their own superiority against those of the surrounding peoples. This was based on ethnicity, not colour. A variety of colours were used to describe the variations in human complexion, and were used in relative rather than absolute terms. Thus the Arabs saw themselves as black compared to the ‘red’ Persians, but white compared to the Black peoples of Africa. As the new Arab ruling class intermarried with the peoples they had conquered, so there developed an attitude which saw Arabs of mixed descent as inferior, leading to dynastic conflicts between those of pure and mixed race. Muslim Arabs also saw themselves as superior to converts to Islam from the indigenous peoples of the Islamic empire, and a set of rules developed to enforce the converts’ inferior social status. At the same time, the Arabs formed various explanations based on the environment for the ethnic differences they observed among different peoples. An Iraqi writer believed that Whites had been undercooked in the womb due to the coldness of the environment they occupied. Blacks, on the other hand, were overcooked. The Iraqi people, however, were brown and mentally and physically superior to the other two races.

Development of Anti-Black Prejudice

As Islam expanded into sub-Saharan Africa anti-Black racism developed. This did not initially exist, not least because Ethiopia had been one of the major superpowers in the Arabian peninsula with a superior culture. Muslims also respected the Abyssinians for giving sanctuary to many of Mohammed’s followers during their persecution by the Meccan pagans. Over time, however, an attitude of contempt and racial superiority emerged towards Blacks. This racism even extended towards highly regarded Black Arabic poets and the governors of provinces, who were reproached and vilified for their colour by their enemies. Here Arab racist views of Blacks is nearly identical to those of White European racists. They were seen as lazy, ugly, stupid and lustful. The prurient view of Black women as boiling with sexual desire mirrors the racist attitude towards Jewish women amongst western anti-Semites. On the other hand, Blacks were also seen as strong, loyal, generous and merry. They also had excellent rhythm. Although both Whites and Blacks were enslaved, White slaves had a higher status and different terms were used to describe them. White slaves were mawlana, literally, ‘owned’. Only Black slaves were described as slaves, abid, a term that is still used to mean Black people in parts of the Arab world today.

The expansion of the European states and empires effectively cut off or severely diminished the supply of White slaves, and as a consequence the value of Black slaves began to rise. Unable to afford White slaves and concubines from Europe and the Caucasus, the peoples of the Middle East turned instead to Abyssinians and the Zanj, Black Africans from further south. Abyssinians in particular were prized for their beauty and other qualities, and its from this period that the Arab taste for the beauty of Black Africans rather than Whites developed. And as anti-Black racism developed, so Muslims scholars and authors wrote pieces defending Blacks from racism, not least because many of Mohammed’s Companions had been Black and the emergence of powerful Muslim kingdoms in Africa.

Islamic Slavery and Slave Armies

Islamic slavery was comparatively milder and more enlightened than western slavery. Although technically slaves could not own property and were disbarred from giving evidence in court, there was limitations on the punishments that could be inflicted on them. Muslims were urged to treat their slaves humanely and manumission was praised as a noble act. It was particularly recommended for the expiation of particular sins. At the same time Islam permitted contracts to be made between master and slave allowing the slave to save enough money to purchase his freedom at an agreed date. There were stories of particular Muslims who freed their slaves even in circumstances where punishment would have been expected. One master freed a female slave after she asked him why he was still alive, as she had been trying to poison him for a year. Slaves could rise to high office. The viziers and other chief dignitaries of the Ottoman empire were slaves. Slaves were used to staff Muslim armies, and there were separate regiments for White and Blacks slaves. Sometimes this resulted in battles between the two, as during the dynastic battles where one side used Black soldiers and the other White. The mamlukes, the Egyptian warriors who ruled Egypt and who expelled the Crusaders and stopped the Mongols conquering the Middle East, were White slaves. They were freed after completing their military training and their leaders preferred to purchase other slaves for training as their successors rather than pass on their position to their own children.

Islam’s acceptance and regulation of slavery, like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, as well as the views of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, also meant that there was opposition to its abolition. Muslim defenders of slavery produced the same arguments as their Christian counterparts, including the argument that Blacks and other infidels were better off enslaved as it introduced them to a superior civilisation. When a 19th century British consul inquired of the king of Morocco what steps he was taking regarding slavery and the slave trade, he was politely informed that all the legislation was based on the Qur’an and sharia and that there was no intention of banning slavery as it was permitted by Islam. Indeed, the Ottoman province of the Hijaz, the area around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was exempt from the Ottoman ban on slavery and the slave trade after the ulema and nobles declared it to be an attack on Islam, along with legislation allowing women to go in public without the veil. The Turks were declared to be apostates, who could be killed and their children enslaved. Many of the pilgrims to Mecca came with a number of slaves, who acted as living sources of funding. When the pilgrim needed more money, he sold one or two of them.

The Myth of Muslim Non-Racism

In the last two chapters, Lewis discusses the emergence of the view of Islam as completely non-racist and that its slavery was benign. He argues that this was largely the creation of western scholars reacting to the horrors of New World slavery during the American Civil War. Christian missionaries also contributed to this myth. They attempted to explain their failure to make converts by arguing that it was due to Black African revulsion against harsh western slavery. In fact it was due to differences of colour. Islam spread because it was promoted by Black African preachers, rather than White westerners. Particularly influential in the creation of this myth was Edward Blydon, a Black West Indian who was educated in Liberia by the missionaries. He became convinced that Islam was more suited to the needs of Black people, and his books also stressed White guilt, contrasting it with Muslim tolerance. Lewis also believes that the myth is also due to a widespread feeling of guilt among western Whites, which he sees as the modern counterpart to Kipling’s White man’s burden.

Along with the text of the book itself are extensive notes and a documentary appendix containing texts including a Muslim discussion on national character, the rights of slaves and diplomatic correspondence and observations on the 19th century slave trade.

Race and Slavery Compared with Brown’s Slavery & Islam

This book should ideally be read alongside Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam, as the two present contrasting views of slavery and racism in Islam. Brown is a White, American academic and convert to Islam. While he condemns slavery totally, his book presents a much more positive view of Islamic slavery compared with western servitude and even the conditions endured by 19th century free European workers. He also extensively discusses Islamic abolition and the voices for it, while Lewis lays more stress on Muslim opposition. Brown recognises the existence of racism in the Islamic world, but also emphasises Muslim anti-racist texts like The Excellence of the Negroes. But as Lewis points out, these texts also show the opposite, that there was racism and bigotry in the Muslim world.

Lewis also recognises that Muslim slaves generally enjoyed good conditions and were treated well. However, the real brutality was inflicted on them during the journey from their place of capture to the Islamic heartlands. He also suggests that this relatively benign image may be due to bias in the information available. Most Muslim slaves were domestic servants, unlike the mass of slave labouring on the plantations in America. There were gangs of slaves working cotton plantations and employed in mining and public works, and these laboured in appalling conditions. It may also be that there were more slaves working in agriculture than recognised, because the majority of the information available comes from the towns, and so ignore what may have been the harsher treatment in the countryside.

He also discusses the absence of descendants of the Black slaves, except for a few pockets, in the modern Middle East. David Starkey in an interview for GB News claimed it was because the Muslim slave masters killed any babies born by their slaves. I don’t know where he got this idea. Lewis doesn’t mention such atrocities. He instead suggests that it may have been due to the castration of large numbers of boys to serve as eunuchs in the harems. The other slaves were forbidden to marry and have sex, except for female slaves purchased for that purpose. Slaves were also particularly vulnerable to disease, and so an epidemic lasting five years could carry off an entire generation.

Importance of the Book for an Examination of Contemporary Racial Politics

I was interested in reading this book because of the comparative lack of information on slavery and racism in Islam, despite the existence of books like Islam’s Black Slaves. Lewis in his introduction states that researching the issue may be difficult and dangerous, as it can be interpreted as hostility rather than a genuinely disinterested investigation. I think there needs to be more awareness of the history of Muslim slavery and Islam. For one reason, it explains the emergence of the slave markets in that part of Libya now occupied by the Islamists. It also needs to be more widely known because, I believe, the emphasis on western historic slavery and racism can present a distorted image in which the west is held to be uniquely responsible for these evils.

Mark Steyn also Misses the Point about David Amess’ Assassination

April 19, 2022

Ali Harbi Ali, the assassin responsible for the murder of Tory MP David Amess, was tried last week and duly found guilty. There really couldn’t be any doubt, as the thug didn’t try to run away or deny his crime. He was caught bang to rights. His sentencing elicited due comment from various politicos and members of the media class, one of whom was Mark Steyn. Steyn’s a right-winger with a strong hatred of Islam. He has been on various far right news media, giving viewers the benefit of his opinion on Islam. I don’t know if he was ever on Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media, a Canadian internet broadcaster with miniscule rating and a very anti-Islam attitude, but it wouldn’t surprise me. He was, however, out in New Hampshire sharing the airwaves with Reaganite blowhard Rush Limbaugh on his station. That was before Limbaugh finally gave up the ghost and left this Earth. Now he appears occasionally on GB News. As he did a few days ago, to criticise mainly Labour politicians for failing to mention the elephant in the room: that the motivation behind Amess’ murder was Islam and its hatred of the west.

The Labour politicos had put the blame on a number of factors. These included a generally increasingly confrontational and violent attitude towards politicians and intolerance towards anybody who doesn’t share the same points of view. The evidence for this is the abusive messages, including threats of death, rape and violence, sent to MPs. Others also tried to put it into some kind of context by placing it with the various other assassination and assassination attempts that have occurred. The most notable of these was Jo Cox’s murder by a White nationalist, but there was also the attempt on the life of Lib Dem MP a few years ago by a maniac with a samurai sword, which claimed the life of one of his staff. But Steyn considered that all this missed the point, and dishonoured Amess’ memory because the motive behind his killer was abundantly clear: he was a Muslim seeking to kill an infidel. He’d marched up and down looking for victims before finally deciding on Amess.

But Steyn’s analysis of his motives also misses the point. Harbi Ali wasn’t simply motivated by the bigot’s hatred of the unbeliever. No, he said that he was moved to do what he did in order to protect Muslims from being killed by the west. And this supports William Blum’s observations behind the animosity towards the West in the Dar al-Islam. Blum was a long-term, bitter critic of American imperialism and its many wars. He states in one of his books that the world’s Muslims don’t hate us because they envy our freedoms or any of the other explanations offered by the right. He states that the reason they hate us is simply because we keep invading their countries. And he supports this with polling stats and comments from various authorities and Muslim spokespeople.

I don’t doubt he’s right. Bush and Blair’s wars have devastated Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which seem to have been waged partly for geopolitical purposes, as well as the benefit of the oil industry and western multinationals. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the Middle East, and millions displaced. Such aggression is going to leave much hatred behind it amongst those on the receiving end.

But a left Labour party Zoom event against imperialism remarked about a year ago that the people and forces behind these imperialist wars seem to be trying to stage a comeback. And these invasions were all sold to the British and American public as a response to an imminent threat – true in the case of Afghanistan after 9/11, a complete lie in the case of Iraq and the imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction – and as liberating these benighted nations from evil tyrants. We were going to give them freedom and democracy. But this hasn’t worked. In the case of Afghanistan, it created the massively corrupt government of Hamid Karzai, who was determined to screw as much as he could out of his countrymen before scarpering to America when it all came tumbling down.

There are real problems with Islam. I’ve recently blogged about the appearance of bigoted, reactionary mullahs appearing on Islamic networks preaching jihad and the enslavement of unbelievers, despite two centuries or so of abolitionist preaching and legislation by Muslim anti-slavery activists. Fanatical imams have preached intolerance towards non-Muslims and gays in British and western mosques to the serious concern of many bog-standard, ordinary British Muslims. Several times worshippers at these mosques tried to alert the authorities, only to find themselves ignored. But that obviously doesn’t mean that there is a problem with the religion as a whole. As we’ve been reminded, the actions of terrorists don’t represent Muslims as a whole.

But the motive behind Amess’ murder wasn’t simply ‘Islam’. It was outrage at the deaths in the Muslim world that resulted from the west’s wars and invasions. Amess didn’t deserve to be killed, and Ali Harbi Ali certainly deserves to be sent to prison and not get out. But it needs to be realised what his motives were. And by simply blaming Islam, Steyn very definitely misses the point. Some of this is almost certainly because of his own deep hostility to Islam. But another reason may be that if he mentions it and gives it the discussion it deserves, it would cast serious doubt on the wisdom and effectiveness of further such actions and wars in the future.

And we can’t have that. Not when the west’s ability to put fear and awe into the rest of the world, and the interests of the oil industry and multinationals like Haliburton are at stake.

Bristol’s Left Certainly Does Care About All Slavery, Not Just Historic Black

April 7, 2022

As a proud Bristolian, I felt I had to post something about this. A day or so ago History Debunked posted a short video arguing that the left in Bristol had no knowledge of the slavery in the city before or after the transatlantic slave trade. Instead, they were solely concerned with historic Black slavery. They were not aware that Anglo-Saxon Bristol exported enslaved children and seemed unconcerned with the conviction a few days previously of two Slovakians for holding smuggled migrants in effective slavery. Such exploitation isn’t called slavery, but ‘people trafficking’. The thumbnail to his video shows the toppling of the statue to Edward Colston by the BLM mob last year.

Now I have put up some of Simon Webb’s material when it has been about fake history presented as factual Black history. But he does have some deeply troubling opinions. He seems to believe the Bell Curve nonsense, that Asians are more intelligent than Whites who in turn are brighter than Blacks. He feels Enoch Powell has been smeared and misrepresented and put up a video about 1968 as the year everyone was talking about repatriation. This is apart from videos attacking what he describes as ‘the disability scam’. He’s also made some mistakes when talking about African history. He’s said before now that when Europeans reached Africa, they found its people in the Bronze Age. Not so: iron working in West Africa began about a thousand years before it emerged in Europe because of the presence of easily worked bloom near the surface. I can only assume he believes they were in the Bronze Age because of the Benin bronzes, the bronze sculptures made as shrines to the king’s lifeforce. I got the distinct impression that all of Africa’s peoples were using iron before European contact, with the possibly exception of one of the Khoi-San hunter-gatherer peoples in South Africa. So, like many YouTubers across the political spectrum, it’s worth checking his content for yourself.

He’s right about Bristol being a centre of the slave trade in the Anglo-Saxon period. In the 11th century the Anglo-Saxon cleric, Bishop Wulfstan, preached a sermon in the city against it that put an end to it. This is established historical fact, and is included with the display of Colston’s statue at the M Shed museum in the City. In the city continued to be a centre of the slave trade into the 12th century, when a part of visiting clergy hoping to raise money for one of the French cathedrals were warned not to have dinner aboard the Irish ships then in dock. These had a habit of luring the unwary aboard and then slipping off to sale them in the Emerald Isle. David Harris Sacks in his book, The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy 1450-1700 (Berkeley: University of California Press 1991) also notes that in the 17th century White children in Bristol were also kidnapped by ‘spirits’ for sale as indentured servants in the Caribbean colonies. I got my copy of the book when I visited the ‘Respectable Trade Exhibition’ then on display at the City Museum about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade.

As for the contemporary enslavement of Whites, the local news for the city and the surrounding region has called it what it is: slavery. A few years ago a farmer in Gloucestershire was found guilty of enslaving migrant workers, and there have been other instances of this, including cases where the victims have been people with learning difficulties. In all those cases they’ve been rightly described, at least on the news reports, as slavery.

What is now called ‘people trafficking’, at least as it involved forcing migrant European women into prostitution, was referred to as ‘White slavery’ in the late 19th and early 20th century. Looking through the government reports held in the archives of the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, I found one government document from the first years of the 20th on an international police conference held in London about the issue. It was interesting because it contains many parallels to contemporary people smuggling and sex slavery. Many of the young women smuggled into Britain and then forced to work in brothels today are from eastern Europe. Back in 1904 or thereabouts, the parliamentary report noted that the victims were ‘German’ girls – really Slav women from the territories then ruled by Germany and Austria. There were differences with today as well. These women were mostly smuggled to service migrants to the Latin American nations, which were then experiencing an economic boom. Today Britain seems to be the destination of the women trafficked here, rather than further afield. Also it would be incorrect to describe all of today’s enslaved women as White, as many seem to come from outside Europe, such as Asia.

As far as I am aware, the mainstream left haven’t ignored the plight of such enslaved women. I can’t remember the details, but I have the strong impression that many of the female MPs in the Labour party were very much concerned with the sexual exploitation of smuggled women, at least when it became a national issue a few years ago.

Black Lives Matter, it is true, has an exclusive focus on historic Black slavery. This is because the organisation, along with many anti-racists,, believes that the modern poverty, poor educational performance, marginalisation and racism experienced by western Blacks is due to the transatlantic slave trade. Hence the call for reparations. How far this is true is open to question. The Black American Conservative Thomas Sowell has argued that slavery did not result in the breakdown of the Black family. Indeed, according to him, marriage rates among Blacks following emancipation were slightly above those of Whites as families separated by the slavery masters sought to find each other and solemnise their relationships through the formal marriage. Other Black conservatives have cited statistics to argue that, despite segregation and Jim Crow, the years from emancipation to the 1960s were a time of professional and economic expansion for Black America. They were moving into more jobs, establishing businesses and were catching up on Whites in the years spent in school. Of course, this is part of an ideological assault on affirmative action and state aid, which they believe has acted instead to reverse these gains. The point, however, is that BLM are not interested in slavery as an issue in itself, but only as far as it is responsible for the current problems of western Blacks.

Now I doubt that Black Lives Matter and movements like them are aware of the broader history of the slave trade outside of the enslavement of Black Africans. They’re also not concerned when it’s done by Black Africans to other Africans. Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter, condemned the new slave markets opened in Libya. But she did so as part of a general attack on the new western imperialism,, and didn’t mention the other slave markets that have opened in Uganda. The impression I have is that BLM is strongly based on Critical Race and Postcolonial Theory, which are solely concerned with White racism and ignore it and as well as other oppressive practices in non-western societies.

Black Lives Matter does enjoy widespread support among parts of the left, although I think its popularity is waning as time wears on. It’s been hit in America by a series of scandals, must notably surrounding the disappearance of donated money to the tune of millions and the use of some of it by its former president to buy herself five upmarket homes. Several of the protests were in fact riots, in which Black-owned businesses were also attacked and looted.

Black Lives Matter, although highly visible now, is only part of the broad left. And while I believe its members and supporters should be far more aware of slavery as an issue, and that it also involved the enslavement of Whites, BLM does not represent the whole of the left.

I believe very strongly that many on the left in Bristol are aware of its history as centre of the slave trade before it moved into transatlantic, Black slavery, and are definitely still active campaigning against contemporary forms of enslavement, such as people trafficking. Even if it is no longer called ‘White slavery’.

A Black Woman Visits Qatar’s Museum of Slavery

April 3, 2022

Very interesting video posted by Angela B. on her channel on YouTube. It was posted five years ago for Black history month. The hostess is an English-speaking Black woman, who lives in the Middle East. One of her parents is African, while the other comes from the Virgin Islands, which gives her a personal connection to the history of slavery. The video is her visit to a museum of slave trade in Qatar. This covers the history of slavery from ancient Greece and the use of enslaved Ethiopians in the bath houses, which understandably chills Angela B on what they saw and what they were used for – through the Atlantic slave trade and then the Arabic slave trade. It has animated displays and the voices of the enslaved describing their capture, the forced march through the desert during which many were left to die where they fell before arriving in Zanzibar, Kilwa and other east African islands under Arab suzerainty. The museum describes the enslavement of boys as pearl fishers and the abolition of slavery in Qatar in 1951. It also goes on to discuss the persistence of slavery in the modern world. Angela B is personally chilled, as someone with ancestors from the Virgin Islands, by the sight of the slave manacles in the museum. Interestingly, the explanatory panels in the museum also talk about serfdom in medieval Europe, which she doesn’t comment on. Serfdom is one of the numerous forms of unfree labour that is now considered a form of slavery by the international authorities. It’s interesting to see it referenced in an Arabic museum to slavery, when it is largely excluded from the debate over slavery in the West, which largely centres around the transatlantic slave trade. The recorded speech and voiceovers in the Museum are in Arabic, but the written texts are bilingual in Arabic and English.

The video’s also interesting in what the museum and Angela B include and comment on, and what they omit. There’s a bias towards Black slavery, though how much of this is the museum and how much Angela B obviously attracted to the part of the slave trade that affected people of her own race is debatable. Slavery was widespread as an unremarkable part of life in the Ancient Near East long before ancient Greece. There exist the lists of slaves working on the great estates from ancient Egypt, some of whom had definite Jewish names like Menachem. Slavery also existed among the Hittites in what is now Turkey, Babylonia and Assyria, but this isn’t mentioned in the video. If the museum doesn’t mention this, it might be from diplomatic reasons to avoid upsetting other, neighbouring middle eastern states. Or it could be for religious reasons. Islam regards the period before Mohammed as the ‘Jaihiliyya’, or ‘Age of Darkness’, and discourages interest in it. This is perhaps why it was significant a few years ago that the Saudi monarchy permitted the exhibition in the country’s museums of ancient Arabian pre-Islamic gods, except for those idols which were depicted nude. If the museum did include that era, then Angela B may have skipped over it because her video is concentrating and Black slaves. At the same time, the video doesn’t show the enslavement of White Europeans by the Barbary pirates and other Muslims. This may also be due to the same reason. The ancient Greeks used slaves in a variety of roles, including as craftsmen and agricultural labourers. Some of the pottery shows female sex slaves being used in orgies. There’s also a piece of pottery in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in the shape of a sleeping Ethiopian boy curled up around a wine pot. I wonder if the piece about enslaved Ethiopians serving as bath attendants was selected for inclusion in the museum because it was similar to forms of slavery they would have been familiar with.

The video’s fascinating because it, like another video about the Arab slave trade I posted and commented on a few days ago, it shows how the issue of slavery and Black civil rights has penetrated the Arab world. The other video included not only discussion of Libya’s wretched slave markets, but also covered modern Afro-Iraqis and their demand for civil rights and political representation. These are issues we really don’t hear about in the west, unless you’re an academic at one of the universities or watch al-Jazeera. But there’s also an issue with the museum. While it naturally condemns historic slavery, Qatar and the other Gulf Arab states effectively enslave and exploit the foreign migrant workers that come to the country. This has provoked protests and criticism at the country hosting the World Cup and one of the Grand Prix’.

Black and Muslim YouTubers Discuss Slavery and Racism in Islam

March 30, 2022

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.

Novo Lectio on the Real Reasons behind the Overthrow of Gaddafi

March 17, 2022

This is a very informative video I found on YouTube laying bare what was really behind the revolution in Libya against Colonel Gaddafi. And as we’ve seen with the Iraq invasion, this had absolutely nothing to do with liberating the country’s people from an evil tyrant. The real causes were Islamic politics in the Arab world on the one hand, and the desire of the French under Sarkozy to get their hands on Libyan oil. The video states that the uprising against Gaddafi was part of the Arab Spring series of revolutions and protests throughout the Arab world such as that against the military dictatorship in Egypt. These were hailed by the west as protests against tyranny. The rebellion against Gaddafi, however, was by moderate Islamic organisations and groups similar to the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. They were backed by Qatar as a way of increasing its power in the region and counterbalancing the extreme Islamists like ISIS backed by Saudi Arabia.

The presenter states that Gaddafi was a dictator, but under his rule the country kept control of its own oil and its people enjoyed a reasonable standard of living. The rebellion broke out in the east of the country, along the traditional fault lines between Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and a third region. Gaddafi’s forces were able to crush it in the most of the country, and were about to move on its centre when the Muslim rebels appealed to Sarko and the West for help. According to emails received by Hillary Clinton’s office, the rebels offered the French 35 per cent of the country’s oil if it would help to overthrow this Mad Dog of the Middle East. So Sarko and Blair sent in the planes to bomb the country, and Gaddafi was overthrown. He was kneecapped and sodomised with a stick before being shot.

Another reason Sarko wanted him gone was because Gaddafi was planning on ditching the North African Franc in favour of an African currency. If that had gone ahead, it would have meant France losing economic domination of the region.

The result of the revolution has been to split Libya in two, with one half backed by France, Syria and Russia and another backed by the West and the EU. Supplies of oil from Libya have collapsed.

In other words, it’s another revolution that was all about western imperialism and Islamic geopolitics than promoting liberty or democracy.

The presenter sounds Arab and the accompanying text contains the sources for the video, so it seems solidly based in fact, narrated by a person indigenous to the region.

Statement from Stop the War Coalition Against Russian Invasion and NATO and Government Warmongering

February 25, 2022

I got this statement yesterday from the Stop the War Coalition. It condemns the Russian invasion and calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops. But it also argues that NATO is an aggressive imperialistic organisation that itself has caused wars. It rejects economic sanctions against Russia as a form of warfare, and points out that the government expects to have increased funding for the armed forces while at the same time increasing repayments on student loans and cutting expenditure on the NHS. The statement reads as follows

‘The Russian invasion of Ukraine overnight is a massive escalation in the conflict there. Stop the War is calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops and for an immediate ceasefire. Our statement is here and our resolution for union branches/CLPs here.

The danger of war involving nuclear weapons is more real than previously and must be opposed. The real losers will be the ordinary people of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of Europe.

We should, however, take no lessons in peacemaking from our own government and its allies. They have brought us decades of escalating wars, each of which has been a failure. They have encouraged a growing arms race internationally. And they have set on a path of Nato expansion which has brought the military alliance to the borders of Russia, in contravention of agreements made at the end of the Cold War.

Nato is not a defensive alliance but an aggressive one, centrally involved in wars in Afghanistan, Libya and Yugoslavia, and engaged in more and more ‘out of area operations’ including in the Indo-Pacific.

Our government wants to hide its domestic problems behind its belligerent statements, and we can be certain that this will continue, at the same time that it will provide unlimited money for war but increase student loan repayments and cut the NHS.

There is a surge or argument in favour of greater sanctions, including from those who purport to be anti war. But sanctions are not an alternative to war – they are economic warfare and therefore a prelude to war. We have seen this in Iraq where all they did was bring war closer, at the same time as bringing real suffering to the people of Iraq.

As an anti-war and peace movement, our first priority is to stop war. This conflict has not developed in the last few weeks alone, but reflects a society where war is being turned to increasingly to solve other problems. However, we are also aware that this is a different situation from previous wars where our government has been directly involved in military action, and we need to do as much as we can to explain and discuss the issues with those around us.

We are asking our members, supporters, groups and affiliates to do the following:

  1. Make sure our statement and resolution are disseminated as widely as possible.
  2.  Do everything to publicise and support our international meeting on Saturday 26th February and our in person rally on Wednesday 2nd March in Conway Hall, London.
  3. Hold urgent meetings in all localities – in person where possible – calling for withdrawal of Russian troops, ceasefire now and against Nato expansion.
  4. Attend the demos and actions in support of the NHS with placards linking cuts in public spending with money for war- you can download and print our new placard design from our website.
  5. Prepare for a day of action (tba) where we hold protests and vigils against the war.

Please contact the office for materials and more information, and for speakers.

Due to the high volume of traffic we are currently experiencing, we apologise for any difficulties you may encounter whilst trying to access our website today; please keep refreshing or try again later.

Best wishes,

Lindsey German

Convenor’

I also noticed that the Depress was ranting about Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott against because they had both condemned NATO, and one of the other Tory rags had reported that Starmer was under pressure to discipline 14 other Labour MPs who’d done likewise.

Which means that Corbyn, Abbott and the other 14 are the only people talking sense in all this.

Left Labour Message on How to Join Them and Speak Up for Peace

February 18, 2022

I got this message early this afternoon from the good peeps at Arise, the left Labour festival of ideas. It details their petitions, internet article and forthcoming protest against a possible war in Ukraine. It’s entitled ‘Speak Up For Peace – What You Can Do’, and it runs

‘Hello David

As much of the world hopes for de-escalation around the Ukrainian crisis, we are joining with the anti-war movement, Young Labour & others to oppose the UK’s Goverment’s sabre-rattling. Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Sign the Stop the War Coalition statement against the war-mongering Tory Government here.
  2. Read the latest analysis from Kate Hudson (CND) here, Young Labour here and Andrew Murray (Stop the War) here on our media partner Labour Outlook.
  3. Join Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon,  Jess Barnard (Young Labour), Sophie Bolt (CND) and Murad Qureshi (Stop the War) to discuss Why Labour Must Speak Up For Peace on March 5 at the Making Another World Possible: an internationalist agenda for the Left & Labour event (1-4.30pm), which will also feature sessions on The Global Struggle for Climate & Vaccine Justice Women for peace, global justice & socialism.

Labour Party Conference passed policies that show a clear alternative of how we can build a world of international justice, equality & peace. But too often the Party leadership is not offering this alternative to the Tories’ reactionary foreign policy agenda. Please support the anti-war movement and join us on March 5, which will be a key point to organise for an international agenda for justice, equality. Be there!

Yours in solidarity,
The Arise Volunteers Team.

Stop The War Coalition’s statement against our government’s warmongering over Ukraine reads:

‘Stop the War opposes any war over Ukraine, and believes the crisis should be settled on a basis which recognises the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination and addresses Russia’s security concerns.

Our focus is on the policies of the British government which have poured oil on the fire throughout this episode. In taking this position we do not endorse the nature or conduct of either the Russian or Ukrainian regimes.

The British government has talked up the threat of war continually, to the point where the Ukraine government has asked it to stop.

Unlike the French and German governments, it has advanced no proposals for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and has contributed only sabre-rattling.

Indeed, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has even accused those seeking a peaceful settlement of preparing “another Munich.”

Instead, the British government has sent arms to Ukraine and deployed further troops to Eastern Europe, moves which serve no purpose other than inflaming tensions and indicating disdain for Russian concerns.

It has also declared that Ukraine has a “sovereign right” to join NATO, when no such right exists to join it or any other military alliance.

Britain needs to change its policy, and start working for peace, not confrontation.

Stop the War believes that Russia and Ukraine should reach a diplomatic settlement of the tensions between them, on the basis of the Minsk-2 agreement already signed by both states.

It believes NATO should call a halt to its eastward expansion and commit to a new security deal for Europe which meets the needs of all states and peoples.

We refute the idea that NATO is a defensive alliance, and believe its record in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Libya over the last generation, not to mention the US-British attack on Iraq, clearly proves otherwise.

We support all efforts to reach new arms control agreements in Europe and to move towards nuclear disarmament across the continent.’

I’ve added my name to the statement because I am extremely worried about the way our government seems to want to take us to war there, and the Coalition are fundamentally correct in everything they say. NATO made an agreement with Gorbachev after the fall of communism that the former Warsaw pact countries would not join NATO and would remain neutral, with their security guaranteed by both parties. And then as soon as it could, NATO expanded in eastern Europe right up to Russia’s borders, thus stoking Russian fears of encirclement.

The invasion of Afghanistan had less to do with overturning a repressive Islamist despotism and creating a free and democratic state for its people, and far more to do with geopolitics and securing a vital oil pipeline. The overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy by rebels aided by western bombing has resulted in a divided country, one half of which is run by Islamists, who’ve dragged it back into the middle ages. Gaddafy was a dictator, but he believed in Africa as a continent and the equality of all its peoples, Black and White. But the Islamists don’t, and have reopened slave markets selling migrants from further south, who have struggled to reach Libya in their efforts to cross to Europe.

As for the Iraq invasion, that has been an object lesson in how right the British scientist, broadcaster and Fabian Socialist Jacob Bronowski was when he said ‘War is theft by other means’. Again, the war wasn’t about overthrowing a tyrant for the benefit of the Iraqi people. It was done so the American and Saudi oil cartels could steall their oil and western multinationals could still their state industries. I caught a bit of a talk about the invasion and its consequences in a recent Zoom meeting organised by the Labour left by an Iraqi gent. It’s heart-breaking and disgusting what has been done to the country. The American occupation government divided the state industries up into three categories – those that were to be privatised, though that were to be mothballed, and those that were to be simply closed down, thus helping to wreck the country’s domestic economy. And the Iraqi health service has been decimated. According to the gentleman, if you have a relative or friend in hospital now, there are no drugs to treat them. You have to run around outside trying to find someone who will sell them to you. But this was a country under Hussein that had a good healthcare system where treatment was free.

I think there are forces in the military and the Tory party that have been hoping for a confrontation with Russia for over half a decade. I think they were looking forward to a war between NATO and Russia in Lithuania in 2017. That year’s come and gone, and the theatre of war has moved south.

And I really do wonder what we are doing supporting the Ukrainian government when it has strong links with real Nazis. Novara Media put up a video this week discussing the story and photograph on the front page of the times. This was about a 78 year old women, who was undergoing training with some kind of paramilitary outfit in order to defend her homeland. Well, this would all be good if the paramilitaries involved were an ordinary patriotic defence group. But they weren’t. They were the Azov Battalion, a bunch of Nazis who have form for dressing up in the uniform of World War II SS auxiliaries and celebrating Nazi collaborators as national heroes. And it hardly needs to be added that they are definitely anti-Semites.

I don’t want to see a war in Ukraine. I don’t want to see it plundered and robbed, or destabilised for the benefit of big business, like Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. And I am terrified that any confrontation will very swiftly become nuclear.

And so I fully support the demands for peace made by the Coalition, Arise and its multitude of supporters. Including Jeremy Corbyn, the greatest Prime Minister this country has had stolen from it.