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Mother paid her way into slavery

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Muslim women

In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful… and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction… (Quran 2: 195)
In search of Gold, in search of dollars. She is a big trader in one of the big cities in the city and by all standards neither she nor her husband could be said to be poor, at least, by the city’s standard. Yes. Remember, a rich man in that city is a poor man in the city beside the Lagoon or the Sahara. But as it is the case in all human affairs, each time we arrive our destination we always realize we have actually not reached the destination; as soon as we become the millionaire of the neighborhood, we begin the journey towards becoming the billionaire of the city. The woman of interest to me today has friends whose children are living across the Mediterranean. Despite her stable and comfortable condition, financially speaking, she wants one of her children to ‘travel’. She always looked forward to that day when one of her children would bid Nigeria bye and finally too.

Yes. The urge to travel is innate in us as all as humans. In fact, our life is all about journeys; it is all about departures and arrivals; the departure from the unknown to the known; the departure from our mothers’ womb to the world and from the world into the tomb. I have since learnt, in line with Augustine of Hippo, that the world is like a book; not to travel is to read only one page of the book. But Islam forbids travelling for travelling sake. Islam forbids putting one’s head on the scaffold just because one desires the better life.

Eventually it came to pass that the woman got information about people who help ‘people’ travel and she immediately sent words to them that she would want her daughter to travel too. She demanded to know how much it would cost for the journey to come into reality. “Not much” she was told. She was asked to raise a sum of five hundred thousand naira only for the ‘agents’.

And so it came to pass that the woman began to look for the money. And so it came to pass that the girl who was billed to ‘travel’ equally began to make preparations for her journey; her journey to the promised-land; her journey to Libya and from Libya, across the Mediterranean, to the land of magic where the Euro, Pound Sterling and Dollars are picked like ripened fruits from the streets. “She just wants to travel” she told her friends. No that other lady wants to go to Italy. Yes. She has been told there are ‘jobs’ for young ladies over there. “I must travel’ she told herself.

When an elderly compatriot of mine and yours got wind of the news and the plans by the woman to send her daughter to the land of the unknown, he went to offer some counseling and advice. When he got to the woman’s homestead, he was welcomed with open aversion by the young girl. She knew who the man is and the ideals he stands for. She prayed fervently that his presence that day in her house would be for positive reason.

Brethren, after his interactions with the woman and her daughter, it was evident that neither the woman nor her daughter has knowledge of human trafficking networks and the untold atrocities that they currently perpetrate across parts of Africa. Trafficking is defined as “the movement of people across countries and continents, to destinations where they are ultimately exploited.” While all countries in the world prohibit slavery, human trafficking, which is an euphemism for modern-day slavery, continues to be a problem and affects countries all over the world, including some Muslim majority countries. It was a matter of wonderment for our brother who went to counsel the family that despite the stories of extreme deprivations, dehumanization, exploitation and death that returnees from Libya now tell from their experience across the Mediterranean, some Nigerians could still nurse the atrocious plan to send their daughters to the wilderness. “Could it be that this people do not listen to news?” he wondered. Brethren, if an “ordinary” trader could raise five hundred thousand naira to fund a journey to the unknown, what other financial benefit would she derive from sending the fruit of her womb to the hawks in order for her to be turned into a sex-slave?” I queried.

I retrieved the above story in response to the news thread on the social media. In the voice message, a man is heard bewailing the circumstance of women house-helps in Saudi Arabia, how they are being oppressed and exploited, how they are being treated like animals by their hosts. The last time one of such messages came my way, I could not but pooh-pooh the whole scenario. I remember that neither Jeddah nor Tripoli is a near-by city. I knew that nobody could venture to go to Italy, or Saudi Arabia except that the person would have freely obtained an international passport, obtained an entry visa and, again, freely entered an airplane from Kano, Abuja or Lagos to an unknown world.

In other words, it is sickening and crude for my compatriots to complain of maltreatment in the hands of citizens of a country who knew you were there illegally. I equally know that one of the cardinal principles of Islam is that Muslims should avoid the temptation to exploit or oppress their fellow human beings. Chapter 4 verse 75 amply exemplifies these rulings. He, the Almighty says: “And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of the Almighty, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help”. The Almighty also forbids the act of turning the female gender into articles of merchandise. He says in Quran 24 verse 33 thus: “But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life…”

Kindly encourage that female compatriot of mine not to willfully walk into the hands of traffickers who would take her on a journey into hell and one from which she may never return except perhaps in a body bag. Please tell her to hold on to that which she has presently. To be poor in here in “Naija” is better than to become a slave in an unknown jungle.

Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.DProfessor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts,
University of Ibadan,
Ibadan, Nigeria


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