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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Islamic Slavery

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As far as NBA immortal Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is concerned, asking football players to stand for the National Anthem is tantamount to locking them in leg irons and enslaving them. But where is his concern for the actual slavery that still continues in many Islamic countries?

Abdul-Jabbar wrote in the Hollywood Reporter that “to the slave owners, singing slaves would drown out their own cruelty and oppression, clothe them in a coerced choir of decency. But it wasn’t enough that the slaves had to sing, they had to sing their oppressor’s feel-good songs that are summed up in the Porgy and Bess refrain of ‘I’ve got plenty of nothin’, and nothin’s plenty for me.’ Yay, nothin’. Currently, the song being demanded is the national anthem during football games.”

Comparing coddled, lionized, Leftist millionaire athletes with slaves forced to work in the fields in the scorching heat is obscene enough in itself, but Abdul-Jabbar looks even worse when one considers the fact that this famous, high profile convert to Islam has never said a word about the slavery that persists in the Islamic world.

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, owned slaves, and slavery is taken for granted in the Qur’an. Throughout Islamic history, the great caliphates and other Islamic political entities were slave societies. In my new book The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, I show that even Muslim Spain, much-lauded today as a paradise of multicultural harmony, was a center of the Islamic slave trade.

In Islamic al-Andalus, Muslim buyers could purchase sex-slave girls as young as eleven years old, as well as slave boys for sex as well, or slave boys raised to become slave soldiers. Also for sale were eunuchs, useful for guarding harems. Blonde slaves seized in jihad raids on Christian nations north of al-Andalus were especially prized, and fetched high prices. Slave traders would use makeup to whiten the faces and dye to lighten the hair of darker slaves, so that they could get more money for them.

A twelfth-century witness of the sale of sex slaves described the market:

The merchant tells the slave girls to act in a coquettish manner with the old men and with the timid men among the potential buyers to make them crazy with desire. The merchant paints red the tips of the fingers of a white slave; he paints in gold those of a black slave; and he dresses them all in transparent clothes, the white female slaves in pink and the black ones in yellow and red.

If the girls did not cooperate, of course, they would be beaten or killed. The Andalusian slave market became particularly important in the eleventh century, when two of the other principal markets from which the Muslims drew slaves, Central Asia and southeastern Europe, dried up. The Slavs by this time had converted to Christianity and were no longer interested in selling their people as slaves to Islamic traders. In Central Asia, meanwhile, the Turks had converted to Islam. The primary market for slaves among Muslims was for non-Muslims, as enslaving fellow Muslims was considered a violation of the Qur’an’s requirement to be “merciful to one another” (48:29); hence Muslim slave traders had to look elsewhere for merchandise.

And what about today? Slavery persists in many Muslim countries in North Africa, notably Mauritania and Niger. 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.” Messaoud explained: “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.”

What does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have to say about these “traditional Muslim behaviors”? Nothing? Now, why is that?

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

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