SURPRISING LESSONS ABOUT SLAVERY AND THE MIDDLE EAST AT THE DAHESH MUSEUM
When George W. Bush mentioned the Dred Scott decision in the presidential debate, some intellectuals scoffed. They should not have. Slavery has yet to be abolished in parts of Muslim Africa such as Darfour. Visiting the current exhibition entitled "Facing the Other" at the Dahesh Museum, I was startled to discover that the one his most important professional models of the French Ethonographic Sculptor, Charles Cordier, was Seid Enkess, a former slave from the Mayac Tribe in Kindom of Darfour.
Black slavery flourished in nineteen century Africa and white slavery flourished in the Middle East. Thus, in the permanent exhibit portion of the museum hangs a photograph of an Arab shiek examining the teeth of a white young woman offered for sale in Constantinopole's slave market.
France abolished slavery in both France and its colonies in 1848 and European countries began to agitate for similar abolition in the Muslim world. Then, as now, such agitation was considered anti-Muslim. Indeed, the Arab silence documented by MEMRIabout the atrocities in modern day Darfur is the most moderate of Arab/Muslim response. Note the resentment exhibited in the Arab League's efforts to protect Sudan from international wrath and the amazing claim by the Iraqi Islamists who held the French reporters hostage for four months that they were angry with the French government not only because of the scarf prohibition and its troops in Afghanistan but also because of its policies in Darfur! Just listen to Georges Malbrunot"s interview on NPR.
Believe it or not, Western demands for the abolition of slavery is still considered undue Western interference in the Middle East.
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