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In the service of the Sultan Islams Black Slaves A History of Africas Other Black Diaspora Ronald Segal 241pp Atlantic Books At a time when the United States crusading Christianitys last outpost is again mounting its mangy charger along comes another book documenting a dark half-forgotten and deeply unsavoury aspect of Islam Until Ronald Segal author of the excellent and similarly panoramic survey of the Atlantic slave trade The Black Diaspora began to pick at the scars Arab raiders and their black African outriders left on large parts of the continent over 14 centuries this had been one of the great untold stories You can find the descendants of Islams black slaves even now in places as diverse and surreal as suburban Greece the badlands of Iran southern Iraq or in the paddy fields that still run up to the back doors of the hotels of tourist Turkey - and everywhere they share the same look of confusion and abandonment of those left on the high-water mark of retreating emirates and empires Unlike the millions of west Africans who were crammed on to coffin ships bound for plantations in the Americas those dragged through the Sahara or down to the Indian ocean at Zanzibar were mostly women Zanzibar was a black Belsen a clearing house of shackled humanity where the stench of death was masked by the cloves on which the islands Omani emirs built a great trading empire Without a nascent industrial complex to feed many of the men were castrated for domestic service or drafted into slave armies that emptied the lands around the great lakes of their peoples One in 10 by some estimates survived the trek from the interior By the mid-19th century when east African slave magnates - many of them the free sons of Arab slavers and their black concubines - ran out of infidels and animists to enslave they and the expanding black Islamic empires that supplied
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