And yes, it still goes on.
If not for Western intervention, the practice would be an open feature throughout the Muslim Middle East.
Slavery has been officially abolished; unofficially it lingers on. There is still a silent unofficial slave trade that is carried on and leading Saudi clerics have insisted that slavery is a part of Islam. Saudis living abroad are often discovered to have domestic workers who live like slaves leading to criminal cases.
The situation is worst in North Africa where Arab colonization largely displaced and suppressed the indigenous peoples, like the Nubians in Egypt. Ethnically cleansed to make way for the Lake Nasser project, Egyptian Nubians have, like so many other North African indigenous peoples, been reduced to a persecuted minority within their own land.
Islamic Slavery and Racism
When Tuaregs and Islamists swarmed in to seize Northern Mali, one of the old grievances animating their campaign was slavery. The Tuaregs were not former slaves, they were, and in some cases still are, slaveholders.
The French invasion of Northern Mali, liberating towns and villages under Islamist rule, was a historical echo of the original French emancipation of Tuareg slaves back in the colonial period. Despite French efforts, the Tuareg did their best to hang on to their slaves and Muslim Tuareg still continue to hold thousands of slaves in Northern Mali.
Mali is not unique. The Sudanese genocide was given theological and political force by the attitude that Arabs and Muslims had the natural right to a superior position over African Animists and Christians. And today Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Butcher of Sudan, continues to enjoy the support of the Muslim world despite being indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court.
The supporters of the Muslim world’s campaign to displace the indigenous Jewish population of Israel in favor of the Arab colonists and settlers casually accuse Israel of apartheid. Every year Israeli Apartheid Week is held on college campuses in an attempt to compare Israel’s refusal to allow Hamas terrorists access to its territory with racial discrimination.
But racial Apartheid is very much a reality in the Muslim world. The same Muslim students who show up to denounce Israel as an apartheid state often come from countries where there is true apartheid when it comes to black skin.
In North Africa, the Haratin, a Berber word meaning dark skin, are the remnants of the indigenous African population. Many are still enslaved. Others live apart from mainstream society, forced into degrading or difficult occupations.