There are black sheep in every religion
Stabroek News
December 31, 2001

Dear Editor,

In a letter captioned 'There is still slavery in Africa' [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (SN, 21.12.01) Mr Rudolph Reece claims that a previous letter written by Mr Nazil Baksh lacked all the facts. If I am not mistaken, Mr Baksh's letter was meant to indicate that the religion of Islam had always advocated the freedom of mankind ever since its inception. This is clearly evident in the text of the Quran (see chapter 90:13). To the best of my knowledge it is the only holy book that does so - please correct me if I am mistaken. Fourteen centuries ago, Muslims were constantly challenged to free slaves and bondsmen and to purchase the freedom of slaves as atonement.

However, like many others of other religions and cultures, some are less likely to heed the call of their Master than others - there are black sheep everywhere. As Mr Reece rightly points out slavery still exists in Africa, and, might I add, Asia, North America and South America. Oh no, this is not the mental form that I am referring to - this is the real thing. Just recently here in Toronto, MacLean's magazine did a piece on slavery in the Chinatowns of Toronto. Undoubtedly the same is true of all

Chinatowns across North America (even the good old USA), for poor Chinese folks are brought to the West by organized gangs at costs of no less than US$30,000 to US$50,000. They are then expected to repay their debt at interest rates of 50% and more. They are forced to sweat it out under the watchful eyes of the Chinese mafia. Neither the American nor Canadian governments care to act on a matter that has been going on for decades - it is much easier to spend billions dropping B52 bombs on starving Afghans.

And why should they care? This is only the 'yellow man' we are talking about. In South America, you need only to look into the plight and exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

Mr Reece goes on to indicate the existence of Arabs in Sudan who continue to engage in slavery. I find this so hard to understand, considering the fact that all Sudanese I have met seem more African than Arab to me. Yes, there has been a mix of the Arab and African folks through marriage from centuries gone by, but today they all look more African to me than any other race. This is true in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mali and on and on. I do not suppose that Mr Reece is afraid of admitting that all races throughout the ages of time have sold out their own folk. In a Guyanese context this is equally true of Africans and Indians whose own races profited from the slave trade and indentureship the human race is less than perfect even when dealing with their own.

I do know of many cultures where entire families have been enslaved (some say bonded) because of debts they owe. This is exactly the type of thing that is forbidden in Islam, yet practised in Africa and Asia by some Muslims. Am I to believe that Christians, Jews and Buddhists, etc, are not involved in this in one way or another? This is no different from female genital mutilation that has been practised in many parts of Africa by cultures and tribes subscribing to various religions for centuries. Yet, just a few years ago, the western media chose to portray it as a Muslim problem.

Mr Reece refers to websites and books as proof of the arguments he presents. If we were to believe everything that is printed, goodness knows what hate and ignorance we could carry around in our minds. For example, orientalists have for centuries been writing that Islam was spread by the sword in order to sway the masses away from that religion. Yet, if we examine history we will find that no Islamic army went to Indonesia (and Malaysia) which boasts the largest Muslim population in the world. And after ruling India for 1000 years, the Muslim population of India was much less that 30% when India was divided. The Christians drove Muslims and Jews out of Spain after 700 years of Muslim rule. Where was the Islamic sword for all these hundreds of years? Can you imagine what someone like Forbes Burnham would do to a nation after 1000 years? See, it is the intent of the writer which makes a difference.

Reading does matter a great deal. Fact finding, using one's intellect, matters even more. Even the worst critics of Islam agree that it has done wonders for the freedom of slaves but there are black sheep everywhere.

Yours faithfully,

G T Rebello