Freshman Minnesota Congressional Representative Ilhan Omar, in an apparent bid to keep a Twitter feud alive with President Trump, tweeted a photo of herself posing with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the “Door of No Return” on the coast of Ghana.
Part of a 15 member Congressional Black Caucus junket ( funded presumably by US tax dollars), they have been in Ghana to “mark ‘The Year of Return’ and the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown Virginia,” according to Pelosi. The Door of No Return, a part of the Cape Coast Castle, stands as a reminder of the evils of slavery — it marks the exit from dungeons under the castle where African slaves were held in merciless conditions until marched through that door to be packed on ships and transported to Europe and the Americas. Estimates are that 11 million African slaves ended up in the Americas; of those only roughly 400,000 came to the British colonies and subsequent United States. The vast bulk (10 million plus) were sold to buyers in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
European slave traders have rightly been pilloried for their central role in the transport and sale of other human beings for profit, and for their inhuman treatment of those they considered less than human. And, of course, Americans of the 17th through 19th Centuries have been condemned for being an avid market for the purchase of slaves and maintenance of slavery as an acceptable institution of society.
Little, of course, has been said concerning the fact that until modern times slavery had always been part and parcel of life in every civilization of the world — the powerful enslaved the weak; the conquerors subjugated their victims; empires imposed their culture on client states and conscripted “non-citizens” to forced labor. That was the way of the world. To the victor go the spoils.
Even less has been said of the fact that though the American colonists enslaved over 400,000 Africans, a blight on our national history, that accounts for only about 4% of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Where is the clamor for the guilty nation-states of Central and South America and the West Indies to acknowledge their huge part in this evil and to offer their mea culpas? Or is the United States to be held to a different standard than nations elsewhere?
But there is one fact concerning African slave trade that is even more obscured in Western media than this. There could be no slaves to transport from Africa to the West were it not for those willing to raid villages and capture innocent men, women and children and then march them bound to the slave markets they created at port cities in western Africa where the European slave ship captains could purchase them “wholesale.” The villainy of the white traders and slaveholders is often publicized, but who was the principal group that enthralled Africans in the first place to sell them to others? It turns out that the primary creators of the slave trade in Africa were Arab Muslims, going back all the way to the time of Muhammad.
Since Muhammad, the “excellent example” whom Muslims are enjoined by the Qur’an to emulate, owned slaves for himself, and bought and sold and gifted slaves in regular transactions, and mandated through Allah’s commands that those captured in jihad raids and battles became the property of the jihadis to keep for themselves or sell in slave markets, Islam has always determined slavery to be a legal and proper institution, with the one caveat that Muslims are never to enslave fellow Muslims. Unbelievers (the “kuffar”) have no rights to freedom and self-determination but are free game for Muslims able to take them captive.
As Arab Muslims invaded North Africa and colonized it, they quickly took slaves and began to send them back to the centers of their growing empire in the Middle East and Asia. With their growth in power and lust for conquest, they pushed south into sub-Saharan Africa and down both eastern and western coasts, subjugating tribes and assimilating some while enslaving others. Up until the Atlantic slave trade opened up in the 1600s, the bulk of African slaves were shipped east to the growing Muslim empires in Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Reasonable estimates suggest that some 14 million African slaves were sent east to Muslim overlords in the rapidly expanding Islamic territories. Once the transatlantic corridor opened, another 11 million were sold by the Muslim slave traders in Africa to be sent west.
Since Islam in its theology sees nothing morally wrong with the enslavement of non-Muslims, it should not come as a surprise to discover that in its 1400 years of existence Islam as a religio-politico-supremacist movement has been responsible for more human slavery than any other movement in history. Its lead role in African slavery is only one horrific chapter in a tome that includes southern Europe, the Middle East, much of Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Even today, much of the unreported slavery that exists is to be found in Muslim-majority countries where it is masked in the form of expatriate Third World employees “hired” as housekeepers and private servants.
Ilhan Omar, in her “send her back” squabble with the President, wants to play off her African roots and America’s guilty psyche over its past sins by implying that she too and her ancestors were victims of the transatlantic slave trade and that “Donald Trump and other white racists” are seeking to continue to victimize her.
This, however, is farcical on two levels. First, Omar takes pride in presenting herself as a practicing Muslim and yet has nothing to say concerning the massive evils of slavery perpetrated worldwide by Islam over 1400 years. Instead, she wants to focus on the relatively small evils (by comparison) already admitted by the USA in its retrospective on American history. While as a nation we have repented of and outlawed slavery and are working to eradicate racism, Islam has made no strides in this direction except what was required of countries for United Nations’ membership. Omar is quick to calumniate the USA for past sins, but stands silent in the face of the greatest perpetrator of the evils she finds so reprehensible, presumably because she is prohibited by Islam from denigrating the religion that Allah perfected and delivered to the world through Muhammad (Qur’an 5:3). Well could the words spoken by a famous Jewish rabbi to the hypocrites of his day be applied to Ilhan Omar: “You blind guide! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
Second, Omar’s presence as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus creates the implication that she stands with other Black Americans as a victim of America’s pre-Emancipation and Jim Crow eras. But nothing could be further from the truth. Omar’s heritage is Somali, and her family fled thence to Kenya. We have no way of knowing whether any of her ancestors were taken as slaves by the Arab Muslim slavers of Africa, but one thing is certain — if they were, they would have been shipped from the East coast of the continent, and thus would have lived out their days in the Middle East, central Asia or India. None of them would have undergone forced transport to the Americas.
So how did Omar and her family end up in the USA? It was through the grace and mercy of the US government, and the sponsorship of an American church. After having fled the savage brutality of life in Somalia, Omar survived as a child with her family in an overtaxed refugee camp in Kenya, from which after several years they immigrated as refugees to the United States in 1992, when she was ten, and were granted asylum in 1995. Her life since arriving has been a remarkable success story, learning English, gaining her US citizenship in 2000 at the age of seventeen, graduating high school and then college in 2011. Rising through the ranks of local and state politics, Omar successfully ran for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives and took up that role in January 2017. A year and a half later, she filed to run for the United States House of Representatives to fill Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District seat, won that election in November 2018 and has occupied that post since January of this year, earning a salary (not including perks) of $174,000. A hefty sum here in the United States, in Somalia that would be a fortune beyond the dreams of avarice.
One might think that having been rescued from the ravages of her native country, and from the tribulation and futility of a fragile existence in an overcrowded refugee camp, Omar would be singing the praises of a country that has allowed her to rise from desperate poverty to formerly undreamt of heights of success, power, fame and fortune. But apparently not.
Instead, Omar rides on the updrafts of victim politics, seeing any criticisms of her positions as personal attacks on her as a woman, a minority or a Muslim, or better yet, all three. In this case, however, standing with Nancy Pelosi at the Door of No Return in Ghana, her hypocrsy is crystal clear.
One could almost wish that in her “return to Mother Africa” the portal in question would live up to its name, and she would walk through it from West to East. Perhaps a long-term refresher on life in Africa would stir some gratitude in her heart for all advantages she has enjoyed during her time in America as an immigrant turned citizen and member of Congress.
Instead of railing at those who have spitefully chanted “Send her back!” against her, perhaps Ilhan Omar would do better to speak gratefully of the country which has “sent her forward.” Such a stance would go a long way to earning the right to be heard by fellow citizens, and to working constructively with those across the political aisle for the benefit of all Americans.