Where did Monirul Islam (pictured here) get the idea that he could treat someone this way? Perhaps from the Qur’an and Sunnah: 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).
While the freeing of a few slaves here and there is encouraged, however, the institution itself is never questioned. Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was, of course, in the West up until relatively recent times. Yet the impetus to end slavery moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. Because the Qur’anic word cannot be questioned, and the book does not contain the Biblical principles that led to the abolition of slavery in the West, there has never been a Muslim abolitionist movement. Slavery ended in Islamic lands under pressure from the West.
In fact, when the British government began pressuring other regimes to abolish slavery in the nineteenth century, the Sultan of Morocco was incredulous. “The traffic in slaves,” he noted, “is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam…up to this day.” He said that he was “not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect” and that the very idea that anyone would question its morality was absurd: “No one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.”
Sadiq al-Mahdi, former prime minister of Sudan, would agree. On March 24, 1999, he wrote to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, that “the traditional concept of JIHAD does allow slavery as a by-product.” And so slavery persists in some areas of the Islamic world. The BBC reported in December 2008 that “strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan”s Darfur region.”
Mauritanian human rights crusader Boubakar Messaoud asserted that in that country, people are born and bred as slaves: “A Mauritanian slave, whose parents and grandparents before him were slaves, doesn”t need chains. He has been brought up as a domesticated animal.” Three years later, nothing had changed. Messaoud explained in March 2007: “It”s like having sheep or goats. If a woman is a slave, her descendants are slaves.” Likewise in Niger, which formally abolished slavery only in 2003, slavery is a long-standing practice. Journalist and anti-slavery activist Souleymane Cisse explained that even Western colonial governments did nothing to halt the practice: “The colonial rulers preferred to ignore it because they wanted to co-operate with the aristocracy who kept these slaves.”
Islamic slavery has not been unknown even in the United States. When the Saudi national Homaidan Al-Turki was imprisoned for holding a woman as a slave in Colorado, he complained that “the state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution.” Where did he get the idea that slavery was a “traditional Muslim behavior”? From the Qur’an.
“Bangladeshi man says he worked in slave-like conditions for consul general in W. 57th St. apartment: suit,” by Dareh Gregorian for the New York Daily News, March 21 (thanks to Maxwell):
A Bangladeshi man says he was lured to the U.S. with the promise of a “good” $3,000 a month job working for his country’s counsel general — and wound up spending 18 months in their luxury Manhattan apartments in “slavery-like conditions.”
In papers filed in Manhattan Federal Court, Mashud Parves Rana says consul general Monirul Islam and his wife, Fahima Tahsina Prova, forced him to work from 6:30 am to 11 pm, seven days a week for 18 months — and never paid him a dime.
They kept the man “in forced labor in slavery-like conditions” in their sprawling, $8,000-a-month W. 57th St. apartment, the suit says, barring him “from leaving their residence under his own volition, threatening to beat him or kill him, threatening that the police will arrest him or kill him if he left their residence, physically assaulting him on at least two occasions, (and) maintaining possession over Mr. Rana’s passport and visa,” says the suit.
Among his tasks, the suit says, was cooking the family’s food from scratch, washing their clothes by hand, supervising their 11-year-old son and cleaning the apartment daily.
“Mr. Rana would complete his daily tasks by approximately 11:00 pm each night. However, if defendants were attending an event outside of the house, Mr. Rana was required to wait for them to return to let them in and prepare a late meal for them. On these occasions, Mr. Rana did not finish work until approximately 1 am.
“Several times per month, defendants hosted parties and gatherings in their home, for which Mr. Rana was required to cook for all of the guests, and to clean up after the guests left. On these occasions, Mr. Rana did not finish his work until at least 3 a.m.,” the suit says — and he was also required to cook for events at the Bangladesh Consulate on E. 43rd St.
He wasn’t allowed to cook for himself, however – the suit says he was only allowed to eat expired or leftover food….