‘National Socialism is a racist ideology’ is a statement which requires no debate or qualification – it is something we all accept as fact, given the beliefs set down in Nazi thought and the actions of individuals and regimes which adhere to those beliefs.
There is one system of belief which seems to have developed a strange immunity to such critique (perhaps because it is presented to us under the moniker of ‘religion’) despite possessing all the factors which would make any secular ideology at best questionable and at worst reprehensible: I am talking, of course, about Islam.
There is much which we might find perplexing about the Islamic faith and the surrounding culture – nothing more so than the unending insistence that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’.
What confuses and appals many when observing the phenomenon of (modern) Islam, is the readiness of apologists and adherents to give credence to a prophet and holy texts which, were they not considered infallible and beyond criticism by the faithful – would surely repel and disgust most believers and non-believers to their core.
I need not mention the forced veiling, house arrest, beating and honour killing of women which is sanctioned in the holy texts, and practised in Islamic Republics across the globe.
You will likely require no reminding of the fate of homosexuals in Islamic nations – whether being buried up to the neck and stoned to death in North Africa, or given the unenviable choice between a sex change or hanging without a drop in Iran (an execution method which slowly strangles the victim over the course of up to 4 hours).
I probably need not elaborate on the paranoid mistrust or bigotry the Quran holds for the other Abrahamic faiths.
“Believers, do not consider the Jews and Christians as your intimate friends for they are only friends with each other. Whoever does so will be considered as one of them. God does not guide the unjust people.”
Indeed, there is little point in sharing the details of any of these facets of the religion, as I see very few Jews or Christians converting and very few homosexuals likely to not already be wary of Islam.
One group who are repeatedly insulted and degraded in the Hadith (the text describing the words and actions of the prophet), yet who continue to convert (bizarrely) are black people – be they in Africa or the West.
The percentage of Africa that is Muslim has been estimated to be over 40%.
Half of all Muslims born in the United States are black (many are converts), and make up 20% of the country’s Muslim population.
So, the question is: why would so many black people be comfortable converting to and accepting a faith with such a history of denigrating and mistreating them?
It is fairly common knowledge that Islamic sacred texts view Arabs as a chosen people – an idea not uncommon among religions and something borrowed from the Jewish Torah.
What is less well known is the view that the prophet and other characters take on black people in the texts.
Black Africans are commonly referred to as people “whose head is like a raisin” by Muhammad, a man who routinely bought and sold African slaves.
It is also written that the prophet saw Africans as sort of inherited slave race to serve the Arabs and Turks – hence the outrage of the passage in which the Hadith states that “Anyone who says that the Prophet was black should be killed.”
Given the beliefs espoused by the prophet and his contemporaries, it is no wonder then that Arab scholars throughout the ages have voiced similarly nauseating beliefs about Africans being by nature a slave race.
One such scholar, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) attributed the perceived slavish nature of Africans to their having “attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals”.
The same scholar stated in the same text that Africans “cannot be considered human beings” because of their traditional lifestyle which Arabs at the time considered inferior.
These beliefs and justifications were not at all uncommon in the culture at the time – nor was the strange retelling of the Jewish story of the flood, wherein Noah prayed for Ham’s skin to be turned black so as to mark out the slaves (something certainly not present in the Torah account).
When it comes to more recent history, the part played by the Islamic worldview in the African slave trade often goes unspoken.
While the majority of slaves sold to Europeans and Americans were put to work either in domestic labour or on farms, plantations, etc., the majority sold to Turks and Arabs were used either as untrained soldiers (cannon fodder) or sex slaves.
Estimates for how many slaves were bought and sold in the Islamic world vary, but the numbers begin at 10 or 20 million and reach as high as 100 million.
Another major difference between the practises of Muslim slave traders versus their European and American counterparts, was the prevalence of eunuchs.
The majority of male African slaves were either castrated or had their entire genitalia removed to prevent them from reproducing.
(Presumably, a great many of these men died shortly after being mutilated.)
When it came to women (given the attitude of the Islamic world towards their own women), it will not surprise you to know that female African slaves were to be enjoyed sexually by their masters – and they had legal rights to do so.
‘But this is ancient history, and besides: the West engaged in the slave trade too’ I hear you argue.
The truth is that while the African slave trade is a fairly distant (yet shameful) memory in Western history, it is not so in the Middle East.
The United Kingdom abolished the trade in 1807 (along with much of Europe in the same period), and the United States in 1865.
Turkey continued for their part until 1908, and (most shockingly of all) Saudi Arabia did not cease black slavery until 1956 – the same year many Americans watched Elvis Presley perform on television for the first time.
So, Islam has in it’s holy writings the seeds of racism – the fruits of which have littered Islamic history in the form of the African slave trade up to as recently as 60 years ago.
But what of the treatment of Africans in Muslim majority countries today?
Egypt reached abolition in 1896, but to this day many black Africans in the country face discrimination which has it’s root in the Islamic tradition.
The New Arab reported in 2015 that many black people in Egypt are still referred to as ‘zarboon’ – meaning slave.
In one account given by Fatma Emam, a black blogger who grew up in Egypt, we are told:
“In school, other kids used to take me to the fountain and try to wash the black colour off of my skin.”
In Egypt, as elsewhere in the world, women who do not wear the veil are often targeted by Muslim men who consider them ‘easy’ or else whores.
According to another account in the New Arab article, black men are far less often targeted for fear of retribution – reflecting the cowardice one would expect from such people.
Of course, Europeans are no strangers to the targeting of unveiled women by Muslim men.
It seems that every week (if not more frequently) we Europeans hear another horror story to come from Sweden or Germany.
In fact, this month I had the displeasure of reporting that two Afghan Muslim migrants had raped a Swedish woman and live streamed the atrocity to Facebook.
In a 2009 Guardian article tackling the question of why so many Western (and particularly British) black people convert, Richard Rennie spouted this:
“One of the first issues I became aware of was the fact that many converts feel uncomfortable with the term “black Muslim”, as they regard themselves as part of a worldwide community of believers who do not recognise “race”. However, others are less reticent about associating their blackness with being a Muslim, and believe that Islam is the “natural religion of black people” and provides the means for full “spiritual, mental and physical liberation” from an oppressive system designed to subjugate them.”
I would suggest that perhaps some of the more well-read believers are uncomfortable with the term ‘black Muslim’ because they realise what a distasteful juxtaposition it really is.
All I can offer in reply to the notion that Islam might act as a liberator for the very people it has historically enslaved, mutilated and sexually abused (all with the sanction of it’s prophet): it is at best insane and at worst a horrendous slight to African ancestors.