Anti-slavery crusaders have great difficulty in some Muslim countries because slavery is rooted in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example. Muhammad owned slaves, and the Qur’an takes the existence of slavery for granted, even as it enjoins the freeing of slaves under certain circumstances, such as the breaking of an oath: “Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom” (5:89).
But while the freeing of a slave or two here and there is encouraged, the institution itself is never questioned. The Qur’an even gives a man permission to have sexual relations with his slave girls as well as with his wives: “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame”¦” (23:1-6). A Muslim is not to have sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else — except a slave girl: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you” (4:24).
Slavery is still practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, and there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well — notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and according to a Nigerian study, as many as one million people remain in bondage there.
“Mauritania prosecutor seeks prison for slavery activists,” from Middle East Online, August 18 (thanks to Twostellas):
NOUAKCHOTT – The Nouakchott public prosecutor on Wednesday called for jail terms to be handed out to nine anti-slavery activists accused of “rebellion”.
The nine members of an anti-slavery NGO appeared in court charged with “unauthorised gathering and rebellion”, after they organised a sit-in protest against child enslavement.
The accused were arrested on August 4 during their protest in front of a Nouakchott police station against the enslavement of a 10-year-old girl.
They claimed the woman accused of keeping the child as a slave had been freed on the day of the protest, while the child was missing.
Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 but it continued unabated and a law making enslavement punishable with up to 10 years in prison, introduced in 2007, has not been applied.
Human rights organisation Anti-Slavery International says on its website some 600,000 people are estimated to be enslaved in Mauritania.
In court the prosecutor demanded that eight of the defendants should be jailed for at least two years.
The ninth, accused of assaulting a police officer, deserves a three-year term, the prosecuting team added.
The defence lawyers called for their clients to be freed, saying they were only helping to apply the law by denouncing the enslavement of minors.
“Our clients should, on the contrary, be thanked for helping this crime to be uncovered,” one of those lawyers, Mohamed Ould Bilal, said….