2004 March 09 Tuesday
White Slavery By Muslims Was More Common Than Previously Believed

OSU history professor Robert Davis has a new book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters : White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 about European Christian slavery at the hands of Muslims in North Africa.

A new study suggests that a million or more European Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa between 1530 and 1780 - a far greater number than had ever been estimated before.

In a new book, Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, developed a unique methodology to calculate the number of white Christians who were enslaved along Africa's Barbary Coast, arriving at much higher slave population estimates than any previous studies had found.

Most other accounts of slavery along the Barbary coast didn't try to estimate the number of slaves, or only looked at the number of slaves in particular cities, Davis said. Most previously estimated slave counts have thus tended to be in the thousands, or at most in the tens of thousands. Davis, by contrast, has calculated that between 1 million and 1.25 million European Christians were captured and forced to work in North Africa from the 16th to 18th centuries.

The slaves suffered a very high mortality rate.

Putting together such sources of attrition as deaths, escapes, ransomings, and conversions, Davis calculated that about one-fourth of slaves had to be replaced each year to keep the slave population stable, as it apparently was between 1580 and 1680. That meant about 8,500 new slaves had to be captured each year. Overall, this suggests nearly a million slaves would have been taken captive during this period. Using the same methodology, Davis has estimated as many as 475,000 additional slaves were taken in the previous and following centuries.

Christians and other non-Muslims have long been second or third class citizens in Muslim lands paying higher taxes, denied legal protections, and oppressed in other ways. It is therefore not surprising that over a period of centuries after the Muslim conquest of formerly Christian lands the Christian populations, less able to feed themselves and less protected, dwindled and even disappeared entirely in some Muslim countries.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 March 09 01:14 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

mike quinlan said at March 9, 2004 2:55 PM:

Guesstimate stuff, albeit an understudied subject matter. But the bit about christians less able to feed themselves and less protected, dwindled and even disappeared-- is unwarranted and a false conclusion. Really its only purpose is propaganda. And here I thought you didn't believe in myths yet here you are spinning one. Rilling up anti-islamic sentiment,
may be perceived as a tactic in the clash of civilisations, but its no way to promote an appeal to islam to reconcile itself to modernity.

Randall Parker said at March 9, 2004 5:09 PM:

Mike, You seem to be the one who believes in the myths. Islam itself can not be reconciled with modernity. It is incompatible with modernity.

Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims and therefore, yes, they did have a harder time feeding themselves. Go back a couple of hundred years and further and calorie malnutrition was the leading cause of death for most of human history. Less money due to higher taxes translated into less money to buy food and therefore more death than the Muslim population. Even death from disease was mostly caused by weak immune systems brought on by malnutrition. See Thomas McKweon's book A Social History Of Medicine on that point.

Do you disbelieve my statement that nonbelievers paid higher taxes? The jizya tax on non-believers has its origin in a verse in the Koran.

According to Sura 9:29, the Muslims held an obligation to humble and abase dhimmi. The Prophet himself had followed such practices and thus established them as his sunna.[xvii] A dhimmi “must ride an ass, not a horse; he must ... sit…sidesaddle, like a woman.”[xviii] Jews were prohibited from worship in temples higher than mosques, and no new temples could be built. Christians and Jews wore special emblems on their clothes; a ninth century caliph in Baghdad required Jews to display a yellow badge, perhaps a precursor to later Western European religious labeling.[xix] In a time of civil unrest in the mid-800s, Caliph al-Mutawakki nervously ordered that wooden devil images be fastened to dhimmis’ doors.[xx] When attending public baths, Jews were required to wear signs around their necks to distinguish them from Muslim believers.[xxi] Dhimmi women followed regulations forbidding costly clothing, and they were permitted to travel barefaced, unlike Muslim women.[xxii] Plus, dhimmis could not adopt Muslim names and were restricted in government service.[xxiii] The names shared by the three religions soon developed different spellings for each faith.[xxiv] Jews were further prohibited from public religious processions and praying too loudly.[xxv] Muslims legally married free dhimmi women, but dhimmi men could not marry Muslim women nor own a Muslim slave. A Shi ‘ite author criticized the Caliph ‘Umar for treating non-Arab Muslims as Christians or Jews by restricting their marriage rights.

Sura 9:29 does indeed specify that non-Muslims must pay a special tax (Jizya in some translations):

[9:29] You shall fight back against those who do not believe in GOD, nor in the Last Day, nor do they prohibit what GOD and His messenger have prohibited, nor do they abide by the religion of truth - among those who received the scripture - until they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly.

Sura (or Surah) 9, being a later "revelation", takes precedence over earlier published parts of the Koran.

The fact that this dates from the first period of Islam (actually more like the middle period) is decisive. As I explain in Onward Muslim Soldiers, Islamic theologians generally regard passages of the Qur'an that were revealed later to take precedence over those revealed earlier if there is a matter on which two or more passages seem to clash. The Qur'an is not arranged chronologically; the last sura to have been revealed was Sura 9, which contains the Verse of the Sword: ". . . slay the unbelievers wherever you find them" (9:5), and the command to fight against Jews and Christians "until they pay the Jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (9:29). Ibn Kathir (1301-1372), whose tafsir (commentary) on the Qur'an enjoys widespread mainstream acceptance today, says that Sura 9:5 "abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term. . . . No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah [Sura 9] was revealed."

The idea that the Verse of the Sword abrogates every peace treaty recorded in earlier passages of the Qur'an or elsewhere is the foundation of another widespread Muslim idea that I explain in Onward Muslim Soldiers. It is articulated by, among others, the Pakistani Brigadier S. K. Malik in a 1979 book, The Qur’anic Concept of War (a book that made its way to the American mujahedin Jeffrey Leon Battle and October Martinique Lewis, and which carried a glowing endorsement from Pakistan’s then-future President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who said that it explained "the ONLY pattern of war" that a Muslim country could legitimately wage). This is the idea that there is another stage of Qur'anic teaching on jihad beyond self-defense. Malik explains: "The Muslim migration to Medina brought in its wake events and decisions of far-reaching significance and consequence for them. While in Mecca, they had neither been proclaimed an Ummah [community] nor were they granted the permission to take up arms against their oppressors. In Medina, a divine revelation proclaimed them an 'Ummah' and granted them the permission to take up arms against their oppressors. The permission was soon afterwards converted into a divine command making war a religious obligation for the faithful." This is by no means a non-traditional idea, but one that is deeply rooted in the thinking of many venerable Islamic theologians -- such as Ibn Kathir.

In any Muslim country that enforces the Koran non-Muslims can convert to Islam but Muslims can not convert to another religion.

Our traditional rights of free speech and freedom from such tyrannical practices as arbitrary arrest and torture were won by generations of our ancestors with their own blood. The separation of Church and State, and the right to individual choice in religious matters which follows has also been the British way for hundreds of years. What would happen to this freedom in an Islamic state? Would the citizens be granted the right to choose the religion they want, or would they be forced into Islam according to the Quranic verse: "If any one desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost." (Surah 3:85). How about the right of a Muslim to change his own religion? Would he be given this right or would he be punished according to the apostasy rule which states that such a person should be punished by death? Mohammed said "Whoever changes his religion, kill him." Al Bukhari Vol. 9:57

Then there is the matter of Sharia law and the status of the nonbeliever.

Zimmis cannot testify against Muslims. They can only testify against other Zimmis or Musta'min. Their oaths are not considered valid in an Islamic court. According to the Shari`a, a Zimmi is not even qualified to be under oath. Muraghi states bluntly, "The testimony of a Zimmi is not accepted because Allah - may He be exalted - said: `God will not let the infidels (kafir) have an upper hand over the believers'." A Zimmi, regarded as an infidel, cannot testify against any Muslim regardless of his moral credibility. If a Zimmi has falsely accused another Zimmi and was once punished, his credibility and integrity is tarnished and his testimony is no longer acceptable. One serious implication of this is that if one Muslim has committed a serious offense against another, witnessed by Zimmis only, the court will have difficulty deciding the case since the testimonies of Zimmis are not acceptable. Yet, this same Zimmi whose integrity is blemished, if he converts to Islam, will have his testimony accepted against the Zimmis and Muslims alike, because according to the Shari`a, "By embracing Islam he has gained a new credibility which would enable him to witness..." All he has to do is to utter the Islamic confession of faith before witnesses, and that will elevate him from being an outcast to being a respected Muslim enjoying all the privileges of a devout Muslim.

I could go on with more links and excerpts. But doing this gets old. You can easily dig up lots more historical material along this vein with just a few Google searches. The idea that Christians decreased as a percentage of the population of Muslim lands due to systematic discrimination strikes me as by far the most probable explanation for why many formerly Christian lands are today overwhelmingly Islamic.

My main interest is not in trying to reconcile Islam to modernity. I doubt that can be done. My interest is in trying reconcile non-Muslims to the very distasteful and unfortunate proposition that they are living on the same planet with hundreds of millions of adherents to a religion that is not compatible with classical liberalism. We can defend ourselves and our own ways of life better only if we admit the nature of the religious ideology which we are in conflict with.

mike quinlan said at March 11, 2004 3:41 PM:

Randall, You make your point well. I'm quibling about an explanatory model, and today bombs are killing people. I'm discussed by the fanaticism that exists and finds justification in islam.
Re. earlier threads: The fact that people believe and guide their actions by constructs of ideas including myths, gives them a social reality. They do have effects in that they affect action.

Randall Parker said at March 11, 2004 4:23 PM:

Mike, The fanaticism doesn't just find its justification in Islam. The fanaticism comes from Islam.

Guides to actions: Yet they believe these myths. We can't change that by pretending that the fanaticism is not coming from the core texts of Islam. When fundamentalists advocate a return to the meaning of the base texts of a religion that does not automatically mean that fundamentalism will lead to fanatical hatred of non-believers. The result of fundamentalist belief depends on what is in the base texts in the first place. Different base texts from different religions have different effects upon their believers because the different texts have very different messages.

mike quinlan said at March 14, 2004 8:08 AM:

Dear Randall, Its not Islam per se. That type of argument could applied to Christianity and Judaism at times in their histories. I've copied an article that is germain to the real problem and adds further historical perspective. It also lets us see the structure of mosques and the fact that in some cases they are guided by men more akin to mafia dons, than to reverend leaders. They are about power and the religion in their hands is a pawn to be used.
all the best,

South Asia, February 28,2003 Asia Times

In Pakistan, sermons and signals
By Aijazz Ahmed

ISLAMABAD - The reputation of the Muslim world, especially in Pakistan, faces a serious challenge as an open-minded, tolerant, democratic and humble religious community.

"People claim that they are religious leaders and scholars, but in reality there are very few such people in backward Pakistani society," said Dr Inamul Haq Javed, a scholar, teacher and well-known poet in Pakistan.

"It is the agony that, unlike Christian priests and educators, the majority of the 500,000 Muslim religious leaders and activists in Pakistan have limited knowledge and small minds," said Saqlain Imam, a well known researcher and scholar.

"And while most Christian religious scholars are non-political, in Pakistan, the situation is the opposite. Politics is the full-time activity of religious notables, and the teaching aspect is missing from their lives. All major religious leaders are required to be role models in politics, education and knowledge. But it is unfortunate that the majority of the maulanas [religious scholars] and religious political leaders are not up to the mark as far as I am concerned, " lamented Imam.

According to Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a member of the National Assembly and deputy secretary general of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of Muslim parties that won unprecedented gains in the last year's parliamentary elections, approximately 70 percent of Pakistan's 1 million-odd mosques have mullahs with political affiliations.

[Large chunk of text deleted here by site admin due to copyright violations caused by complete article inclusion]

Mike Quinlan said at March 14, 2004 8:30 AM:

More from the same author. A very good analysis of the role of the mosque, and what has been occuring to it in different countries.


South Asia

Pakistan's wonderlands with little wonder
By Aijazz Ahmed

ISLAMABAD - He is in his 64th year, an age when a man should be extra careful about exposing himself to extremes of temperature. But Yaqoob's soul is not at rest, and every morning he sets off for the neighborhood mosque at four in the morning in the sub-zero temperatures of Pakistan's winter for the first of five daily visits.

"I clean and sweep the mosque as it is the house of the lord [God]," says Yaqoob, eyes beaming behind what should be a white beard, but is dyed coal black. "I can secure a place in heaven and in the hearts of men in this way."

[Large chunk of text deleted here by site admin due to copyright violations caused by complete article inclusion]

M.Robinson said at July 22, 2005 7:31 AM:

Clever analysis, lets get aweay from the fact that our ancestors enslaved(occasionally raped black women) black people. now this book talks about white slavery by muslims, I take it the basis of this book is to turn public opinion of ordinary white folk against muslims and more eventually towards Israel and US policy in muslim countries.

I can see the average individual decrying, ' hey them muslims(mostly brown or olive skinned) enslaved our white people, so what our ancestors enslaved you blacks'.

Them muslims are more evil because they enslaved WHITES and not blacks.

As for muslims visiting the mosque for the five daily prayers, its only incumbent upon you if you are of good health, if not then one can pray at home. again I see misinformation being spread about Islam, if you wish to discuss a point on any religion then fine but it always seems to be a focal point of Randall to attack Islam , I wonder what names he would be called if he attacks judiaism in a similar manner, or is it that you are a closet Zionist under the garb of a American patriot, helping another nation.

Randall Parker said at July 22, 2005 10:34 AM:


You keep bringing up slavery conducted by whites. Are you trying to turn us against our own civilization? Why do you only point out the moral failings of people from our past while ignoring Muslim slavery of blacks and whites? Why do you ignore the Filipinos who are held in slavery in Saudi Arabia?

I'm writing about slavery of whites in this post because I came across this information and passed it along. I did not write a complete report about all slavery conducted by Muslims. Perhaps I ought to. After all, Muslims enslaved many more blacks than whites and did it for much longer than the whites enlsaved blacks. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia was born to a black slave woman owned by a Saudi Prince (or was his father a King?).

Misinformation about Islam? How so? Are you denying that Muslims enslaved millions of people?

I figure you might be a Muslim posting under a native British name.

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