'Slavery is a phenomenon I think of as something from long ago and a history I’m ashamed of.' Sughra Ahmed - 03/08/16
Slavery is a phenomenon I think of as something from long ago and a history I’m ashamed of. Our history books are full of examples of enslaved people that were shipped from one part of the world to another or the subjugation of our own people to serve the wants and desires of those who happened to be of a particular skin colour, wealth and status. However slavery is still with us. Women, men and children are stripped of their human rights and freedoms because someone decides that their lives will be spent as slaves in people’s homes, in spaces where they will be used for their bodies as domestic or sex slaves. Their stories are only brought to light when we hear about prosecution cases against traffickers.
What is as shocking is that this is happening all around us on a daily basis. A new cabinet taskforce has been set up to tackle this barbaric crime. Our Prime Minister described modern slaves as "Vulnerable people who have travelled long distances, believing they were heading for legitimate jobs, are finding they have been duped, forced into hard labour, and then locked up and abused.”
Slavery has also been a challenge for religious traditions and we know this through the example of prophets and religious texts. Prophet Muhammad, for example, put himself at risk when he freed those who were enslaved by people of the time. It was commonplace for powerful men to own slaves, in fact it was seen as a sign of wealth and stature in their communities. The story of Muhammad freeing the slave Bilal is the most famous and was a clear demonstration to those of the time, and those who read the story today, that slavery is abhorrent in Islam. Perhaps this is why Muslims across the world find the enslavement of people by the likes of violent extremists such as Boko Haram and Daesh all the more repugnant.
In the Qur’an God says: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, righteousness is this that one should believe in God…give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, the beggars” (2:177)
It’s insufficient to perform rituals like prayer if injustices go on within communities and so, in the same way, we need action from the taskforce. It has a responsibility to tackle human rights abuses responsibly and passionately on behalf of us all. I believe people deserve to live with the freedom to make choices without exploitation; this is a right that all people should be born with.