I am not in favor of book-burning as a symbolic act, but the significant points here are that Islamic legal manuals justify slavery, contrary to the claims of Muslim spokesmen in the West, and that slavery still exists in Mauritania, justified by those legal texts, despite the protestations of authorities to the contrary. “Activists Arrested in Mauritania Following Burning of Islamic Jurisdiction Books Legitimizing Slavery,” from MEMRI, April 30 (thanks to David):
Following are excerpts from a report on the movement for abolishing slavery in Mauritania, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on April 30, 2012 :
Reporter : The issue of slavery has taken center stage in Mauritania once again. A human rights organization fighting slavery burnt books of the Maliki school of jurisprudence, prevailing in Mauritania, claiming that they provide a religious justification for continuing slavery. The act took place at the end of a special prayer of slaves, which emphasized their right to lead Muslims in prayer. The burning of the books sparked fury among the public.
Sheik Hamad Ould Al-Tah, head of the Islamic Scholars Association in Mauritania : There has not been much slavery in Mauritania for a long while. A fatwa that was issued by the country’s scholars, and was ratified by the authorities, abolished slavery.
Reporter : Demonstrations erupted throughout the country in condemnation of what was perceived as an affront to [Islam’s] sanctities.
The affront to Islam’s sanctities, mind you, was the opposition to slavery, not the slavery itself.
The president of Mauritania met with the protestors, and promised to implement the [penalties] of Islamic law upon the leaders of the manumission movement, who burnt the books. The president ordered them arrested and handed over to the courts.
The anti-slavery movement apologized to the Mauritanians for the burning of the Maliki books. The movement explained that this was a symbolic act, in order to draw attention to jurisprudent views legitimizing slavery….
Reporter : The activists deemed the reactions to the burning of the books to be extremist, and said that [the protestors] failed to see the connection between some religious texts and the suffering of slaves in Mauritania.
Anti-slavery activist Abeid Ould Amigin : I cannot accept the claim that slavery does not exist. After all, a slave-owner was found guilty, a few months ago, of enslaving two minors. I cannot accept that slavery does not exist, when the state legislated a law in 2007 criminalizing slavery. A state does not legislate laws for things that do not exist.