|Pellew's flagship at the Bombardment of Algiers, 1816|
When Barack Obama recently described Islam as being part of the "fabric" of the United States from the beginning of American independence, it's safe to say that he was not thinking of the ransoming of American captives from enslavement in the Barbary States, though he might as well have been.
It would have made more sense than his risible, ludicrous, politically-driven invention of history.
Not to mention his bare-faced denial of the Islamic nature of IS.
As is well-known, the phenomenon of Europeans enslaved in the Barbary States of North Africa had been known since Tudor times, when the Ottomans took control of the area,seafarers and travelling merchants (Jews among them) being especially vulnerable to capture, though inhabitants of certain coastal villages even as far north as Britain, the Netherlands, and Iceland were not immune to slave raids by Barbary pirates (corsairs).
"While Barbary corsairs looted the cargo of ships they captured, their primary goal was to capture people for sale as slaves or for ransom. Those who had family or friends who might ransom them were held captive but not obliged to work; the most famous of these was the author Miguel de Cervantes, who was held for almost five years. Others were sold into various types of servitude. Attractive women or boys could be used for sexual services, the traditional "fate worse than death". Captives who converted to Islam were generally freed, since enslavement of Muslims was prohibited; but this meant that they could never return to their native countries.
Historian Robert C. Davis estimated that between 1530 and 1780, 1–1.25 million Europeans were captured and taken as slaves to North Africa, principally Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, but also Constantinople and Salé. Captives often suffered from privation on voyages to North Africa if taken at a distance. Those who survived the journeys were often forced to walk through town as they were taken to slave auctions. The slaves typically had to stand from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon while buyers viewed them. Next came the auction, where the townspeople would bid on the captives they wanted to purchase and once that was over, the governor of Algiers (the Dey) had the chance to purchase any slave he wanted for the price they were sold at the auction. During the auctions the slaves would be forced to run and jump around to show their strength and stamina. After purchase, the captives would either be held for ransom, or be put to work. Slaves were used for a wide variety of jobs, from hard manual labor to housework (the job assigned to most women slaves). At night the slaves were put into prisons called 'bagnios' (derived from the Italian word "bagno" for public bath, inspired by the Turks' use of Roman baths at Constantinople as prisons), which were often hot and overcrowded....
Although the conditions in bagnios were harsh, they were better than those endured by galley slaves. Most Barbary galleys were at sea for around eighty to a hundred days a year, but when the slaves assigned to them were on land, they were forced to do hard manual labor. There were exceptions: "galley slaves of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople would be permanently confined to their galleys, and often served extremely long terms, averaging around nineteen years in the late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century periods. These slaves rarely got off the galley but lived there for years." During this time, rowers were shackled and chained where they sat, and never allowed to leave. Sleeping (which was limited), eating, defecation and urination took place at the seat to which they were shackled. There were usually five or six rowers on each oar. Overseers would walk back and forth and whip slaves considered not to be working hard enough.
Enslaved Christians taken ashore at Algiers, 1706
Barbary slaves could hope to be freed through payment of a ransom. Despite the efforts of middlemen and charities to raise money to provide ransoms, they were still very difficult to come by. As European communities increased their charity funding for ransoming slaves, North African states increased the amount of ransom required. Lack of money to pay a ransom was not the only problem. Persons taken captive needed to notify their families of their status and tell them the ransom price. Mail charges were often beyond the reach of ordinary captive slaves, and it could take several months for the mail to be delivered.
After payment of a ransom, slaves were often taken to a port to wait for the ransom to be finalized. In some cases in the 17th and 18th centuries, slaves were kept under quarantine due to fear of the plague threatening the life of the slave and payment of the ransom.
Not many Barbary slaves could depend on being ransomed by their communities. They had to be deemed worthy of it and many poor people were never ransomed...."Here is an extract from a letter of September 1748 from an unnamed campaigner that appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine, a monthly published in London:
(Thanks to public subscriptions, these unfortunates were ransomed, though only after two further years of captivity and torment.)
Captain William Bainbridge (1774-1833) got a firsthand look at how Islam was part of the "fabric" of America:
"In 1800 during the months before the First Barbary War broke out, Bainbridge was given the ignominious task of carrying the tribute which the United States still paid to the Dey of Algiers to secure exemption from capture for U.S. merchant ships in the Mediterranean. Upon arrival in the 24-gun USS George Washington, he allowed the harbor pilot to guide him directly under the guns of the fort overlooking the harbor. Upon his arrival the Dey demanded that Bainbridge use his ship to ferry the Algerian ambassador and tributary gifts to Constantinople, and that he fly the Algerian flag during the journey. With the George Washington under the guns of the fort and surrounded by the Dey's warships and military personnel Bainbridge reluctantly complied for fear of imprisonment and raised the Algerian flag on his masthead and delivered gifts of animals and slaves to Constantinople.
President Jefferson found that bribing the pirate Barbary states did not work, and decided to use force. On May 21, 1803, Bainbridge was placed in command of the USS Philadelphia, tasked with enforcing a blockade of Tripoli. Bainbridge mistakenly ran the ship aground on an uncharted reef on October 21, 1803. All efforts to refloat her under five hours of cannon fire from Tripolitan gunboats and shore batteries failed, and Bainbridge decided to surrender. Before doing so he ordered all small arms thrown overboard, the powder magazine flooded and the naval signal book destroyed. Soon afterward, the ship floated free after high tide and was captured by the Pasha of Tripoli. Bainbridge and his crewmen were imprisoned in Tripoli for nineteen months"
Regular readers of this blog might recall the heart-wrenching case of a teenage enslaved American in Oran, who in 1812, escaping the attentions of his cruel taskmaster for a few moments, emotionally begged a visiting Royal Navy officer, Captain William Dillon, for help, only to be told by that regretful officer that he was powerless to intercede for a non-Briton.
In July 1815 another Royal Navy officer, Captain Walter Croker, wrote to a member of Parliament back at Westminster of the plight of Christian slaves in the Barbary states:
".... The subject and descriptions I now would treat of deserve, indeed, a more able pen, and, though I must here,fall short, yet, when I remember the few opportunities likely to offer to men of greater talent, to witness and describe the scenes of horror which I have lately seen, I humbly hope that my faithful relation of these facts will not be considered presumptuous, nor proceeding from any other motive than the fulfilment of a duty, which I feel that I owe to my poor suffering fellow-creatures, and to the honor of my country.
.... On inquiry [the day following my arrival at Algiers] into the purport of a paper which I saw in the hands of the vice-consul I found it to be a subscription for the relief of nearly three hundred Christian slaves, just arrived from Bona, after a journey of many days, and who after the usual ceremony of bringing them to the Dey's feet, were ordered to their different destinations. Such as were able to go to their bani [bagnio], or prison, were sent there, but the far greater number were found objects for the hospital, which Spain, in her better days, humanely established for the relief of Christian slaves at Algiers; it is the only one in that city.
1 naturally wished to know the particulars of the capture of those wretched persons. The Christians in Algiers who are not slaves are very far from numerous, being only the consuls of the Christian states, at peace with Algiers, and their families, with very few dependents on their protection¡ on the authority of them all, I learnt that these last Christian slaves, three hundred and fifty seven in number, were taken by two Algerian pirates, which presumed to carry the English colors, and by so doing, decoyed those unhappy beings within their reach,
They were landed at Bona, whence (hey were driven to Algiers like a herd of cattle. Those who were no longer able to walk were tied on mules, and if they became still more enfeeebled they were murdered. On their journey, 59 expired, and one youth fell dead at the very moment they brought him to the feet of the Dey. Since their arrival, an interval of only six days, near 70 more have died.
I was, on a subsequent day, at the public quarries, and saw the Christian slaves and mules driven promiscuously to the same labor, by their infidel [sic!] masters. 1 at once anxiously and patiently heard the melancholy tales of their misery. I tasted of their bread, and I must own, I tasted of sorrow. You will conceive, air, my sad surprise, when many of them referred me to our own consul, lo prove that they were actually made slaves while under English passports, and for the very purpose of supplying our armies with grain! ...."If you ever saw the Hornblower miniseries on television you will probably remember the prominent inclusion of a non-fictional naval personage in the storyline, Captain Edward Pellew, portrayed by actor Robert Lindsay.
Pellew (1757-1833), whose brother Israel Pellew commanded HMS Conqueror at Trafalgar, was one of the most distinguished sea officers of his generation. Islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria were named for him by Matthew Flinders, and Cape Pellew, adjacent to those islands, as well as Exmouth Gulf on Australia's north-west, commemorate him.
The expedition against the Barbary States, which resulted in the Bombardment of Algiers (depicted in the above painting by George Chambers) which proved a decisive victory for Exmouth (who narrowly escaped serious injury, even death) and his ships, features in Alexander Kent's naval yarn Relentless Pursuit.
It is described fully in a biography of Exmouth by Edward Osler, which contains the letter that Exmouth, on board his flagship, HMS Queen Charlotte in the Algiers Bay, wrote to the local potentate, the Dey of Algiers, on 28 August, the day following the triumph:
The book also contains the General Memorandum that Exmouth addressed to his victorious fleet on 30 August 1816, from aboard the Queen Charlotte in Algiers Bay:
The listing of the national origins of the Christian slaves held makes enlightening and sobering reading:
So, there it is: almost 200 years ago, an English admiral laboured under the delusion that he had brought Muslim enslavement of Christians to an end.
And almost 200 years on, in the words of a Canadian writer, a Muslim gentleman who's friendly towards Israel:
|Tweeted 18 October 2014|
"In recent years, according to some scholars, there has been a "worrying trend" of "reopening" of the issue of slavery by some conservative Salafi Islamic scholars after its "closing" earlier in the 20th century when Muslim countries banned slavery and "most Muslim scholars" found the practice "inconsistent with Qur'anic morality."
In 2003 a high-level Saudi jurist, Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, issued a fatwa claiming “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.” He attacked Muslim scholars who said otherwise maintaining, “They are ignorant, not scholars ... They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel.” At the time of the fatwa, al-Fawzan was a member of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, a member of the Council of Religious Edicts and Research, the Imam of Prince Mitaeb Mosque in Riyadh, and a professor at Imam Mohamed Bin Saud Islamic University, the main Wahhabi center of learning in the country.
According to multiple sources, religious calls have also been made to capture and enslave Jewish women. As American journalist John J. Miller said, "It is hard to imagine a serious person calling for America to enslave its enemies. Yet a prominent Saudi cleric, Shaikh Saad Al-Buraik, recently urged Palestinians to do exactly that with Jews: 'Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women?" [This source cited. Emphasis added.]
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri of Karbala expressed the view in 1993 that the enforcement of servitude can occur but is restricted to war captives and those born of slaves.
Abdul-Latif Mushtahari, the general supervisor and director of homiletics and guidance at the Azhar University, has said on the subject of justifications for Islamic permission of slavery:
"Islam does not prohibit slavery but retains it for two reasons. The first reason is war (whether it is a civil war or a foreign war in which the captive is either killed or enslaved) provided that the war is not between Muslims against each other - it is not acceptable to enslave the violators, or the offenders, if they are Muslims. Only non-Muslim captives may be enslaved or killed. The second reason is the sexual propagation of slaves which would generate more slaves for their owner."British Muslim commentator Mo Ansar said "If slaves are treated justly, with full rights, and no oppression whatsoever… why would anyone object?". [Emphasis added.]
According to CNN and The Economist, the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq [For IS and slavery see here] and the Levant "justifies its kidnapping of women as sex slaves citing Islamic theology." An article entitled, 'The revival (of) slavery before the Hour,' (of Judgement Day), published in the ISIL online magazine, Dabiq, claimed that Yazidi women can be taken captive and forced to become sex slaves or concubines under Islamic law, "[o]ne should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar -- the infidels -- and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law." It not only justified the taking of slave but condemned as apostates from Islam those who "deniedy or mocked" the verses of the Koran or hadith that justified it. ISIL appealed to apocalyptic beliefs and "claimed justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world." In late 2014 ISIL released a pamphlet on the treatment of female slaves.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist group, said in an interview "I shall capture people and make them slaves" when claiming responsibility for the 2014 Chibok kidnapping. Shekau has justified his actions by appealing to the Quran saying "[w]hat we are doing is an order from Allah, and all that we are doing is in the Book of Allah that we follow".