Slavery or Servitude. And a Speck of Sawdust.

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The brutal, medieval-like practises of Islamic State and Boko Haram are shocking for most of the twenty-first century inhabitants of planet Earth.
Especially citizens in the western democracies react with abhorrence to the scenes they see and practises they hear of.
Western government unequivocally condemn the IS and Boko Haram behaviour.
But not all people, nor countries or regimes are as vehement in their denunciation.

As is always the case with human rights, political, economical, cultural and religious factors readily appear in the debate.
When leading a trade mission abroad, heads of state find it extremely hard to publicly criticise foreign governments.
Even international diplomacy often boils down to nothing more than a mere ‘I’ll scratch your back, if you’ll scratch mine.’. At those times, principles have to recede into the background and Realpolitik takes over.

Critical remarks on traditions and customs are most frequently waved away or shrugged of as based on racism or on a lack of knowledge or understanding of the local traditions or religious heritage. The accuser stands to become the accused.

Even to this day, in certain religions and regions, wonts which are commonly regarded as barbaric, are still being executed.
Slavery, lashing, amputation, beheading, stoning, … : these are among the ones that elicit the worst resentment.

In its August 21 – 2015 issue, The Economist focused on the practice of slavery within Islam. The article ‘The persistence of history’ stated that the IS and Boko Haram excesses actually spring from the same source as the silently condoned practises in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and some parts of Africa.

A strict, overly strict interpretation of the Koran seems to allow Islamic fundamentalists to proceed as they see fit to do, especially towards unbelievers or infidels.

Yet in the common treatment of servants in the Arabic region, the dividing line between servitude and full slavery is extremely blurred which makes it even more difficult to assess some situations correctly.

Even if that may not come as a surprise to many who are familiar with the region, the fact that The Economist doesn’t mention anything at all about similar attitudes in upper class families in the metropolises of the western world, may strike those readers as somewhat revealing as well.

As always, it is far easier to look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye.

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