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Slavery in Perspective

Reader comment on item: ISIS Justifies Its Yazidi Slaves
in response to reader comment: slavery

Submitted by Michael S. (United States), Nov 3, 2014 at 08:48

Hi, ECAW.

I commented as I did, in order to shine a light of objectivity on some of the emotionally charged debates concerning "terrorism" in general, and ISIL in particular. This is important, at a time that our leaders are calling upon us to commit our tax dollars and our lives to conflicts that we understand very little.

First of all, what I said about slavery is true: In the Western world, which includes North America, most of Europe, Israel, Japan, S. Korea, Australia and a few other countries, popular attitudes towards slavery have changed dramatically in the past 200 years. Because of this, it's easy to portray Islamic societies, which are more likely to practice slavery than Western cultures, as "barbaric" by comparison; and it's a slippery slope from calling someone a "barbarian", to calling him a terrorist.

Looking at the matter objectively, I am not as hasty as most to paint modern Western "ethics" as the litmus test for barbarity. We Westerners tend to be EXTREMELY selective in accusing others and excusing ourselves in a broad spectrum of behaviors. For example:

1. Slavery. Throughout the VAST MAJORITY of Western history, slavery was a common practrice. As an example, consider this about serfdom:

The decline of serfdom in Western Europe has sometimes been attributed to the Black Death, which reached Europe in 1347,[1] although the decline had begun before that date. Serfdom became increasingly rare in most of Western Europe after the Renaissance, but conversely, it grew strong in Central and Eastern Europe, where it had previously been less common (this phenomenon was known as "later serfdom").

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom

Note that 1347 is a rather late day in our historical development. Even after serfdom became unpopular, for purely economic reasons, in Western Europe, milder forms of slavery such as indentured service have persisted -- in some forms, even to the present day. By 1807, when Great Britain outlawed the slave trade, serfdom had long ago disappeared inside the UK itself; but the Brits still found it economically expedient to enslave African labor in their colonies -- hence the example I used, of Jamaica.

2. Use of Chemical Weapons. This is a bit adrift of the "slavery" topic; but I brought it up as an example of not only a common but a UNIQUELY WESTERN practice, that has been ascribed to the "barbaric terrorists". Note that the widespread used of deadly chemical weapons was introduced by the WESTERN POWERS a mere 100 years ago, and that these same countries still have, by far, the world's largest stockpiles of such materials.

3. Capital Punishment. This is forbidden in European countries, some largely socialist countries such as Australia and Argentina, and many "blue states" in the US. In the rest of the world, capital punishment is recognized, as it is in the Bible, as not only permissable but actually good for society. When a Muslim extremist publicly executes someone, though, people are aghast -- not because the victims are innocent (which they generally are) of any crime, but because the majority of Westerners are appalled by capital punishment itself.

Those are three examples of the pot calling the kettle black. There are countless others. Remember that it is WESTERNERS, the German people who gave us much of our classical music, religious reform and scientific knowlege, who perpetrated the cold, calculating, industrial-scale horror of the Holocaust -- not in 1347, but in 1945. Up until that time, the Germans had been champions of moral causes such as opposition to slavery; but when their national self-interest was at stake, all this went out the window.

Also note that it is WESTERNERS who fire-bombed Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo and other cities, with the express purpose of inflicting as many civilian casualties as possible -- more, in some cities, than they inflicted with nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

That should put Western "horror" at the practice of slavery by the Arabs in context. We in the West probably have the worst track record of any civilization, of pointing fingers at others while practicing those very things and worse ourselves.

I do not, for a moment, condone oppressing the innocent for the sake of a few, wicked people; and I consider the leaders of ISIL some of the world's more wicked ones. By the same token, it's almost comical fo see Westerners condemning these people for things that, given the right circumstances, they would do with eagerness.

In all of this, we need to be objective and not let our emotions lead us into a horrible nightmare. The US is getting engaged in a struggle in the Middle East, that it hardly understands. I oppose ISIL and their Jihadi brothers and sisters, because they -- like others throughout history -- have an intense, unfounded hatred of God's people Israel. The fact that they enslave Yezidis and chop off heads has nothing to do with my opposition. On the other hand, I am far more concerned about our de facto ally Iran, than I am about ISIS; because Iran is pursuing a program to completely annihilate the Jews of Israel; and slavery, etc. have nothing to do with this opposition.

Thank you for considering the things I said.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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