Slavery. Honestly! Mauritania may have more slaves today than any other nation.
A system exists now by which Arab Muslims -- the bidanes—own black slaves, the haratines. An estimated 90,000 black Mauritanians remain essentially enslaved to Arab/Berber owners. The ruling bidanes (the name means literally white-skinned people) are descendants of the Sanhaja Berbers and Beni Hassan Arab tribes who emigrated to northwest Africa and present-day Western Sahara and Mauritania during the Middle Ages. According to some estimates, up to 600,000 black Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved, many of them used as bonded labour. Slavery in Mauritania was criminalized in August 2007. Malouma Messoud, a former Muslim slave has explained her enslavement to a religious leader:
"We didn't learn this history in school; we simply grew up within this social hierarchy and lived it. Slaves believe that if they do not obey their masters, they will not go to paradise. They are raised in a social and religious system that everyday reinforces this idea."
In Mauritania, despite slave ownership having been banned by law in 1981, hereditary slavery continues. Moreover, according to Amnesty International:
"Not only has the government denied the existence of slavery and failed to respond to cases brought to its attention, it has hampered the activities of organisations which are working on the issue, including by refusing to grant them official recognition".
Imam El Hassan Ould Benyamin of Tayarat in 1997 expressed his views about earlier proclamations ending slavery in his country as follows:
"[it] is contrary to the teachings of the fundamental text of Islamic law, the Quran ... [and] amounts to the expropriation from Muslims of their goods; goods that were acquired legally. The state, if it is Islamic, does not have the right to seize my house, my wife or my slave."