Christianity is being physically erased from the Middle East with scant worldwide attention. Yet even fewer are aware that Christianity’s historical role and presence in the Middle East is also being expunged from memory.
Last month, a video emerged showing Islamic State members tossing hundreds of Christian textbooks, many of them emblazoned with crosses, into a large bonfire. Per one report, ISIS was “burning Christian textbooks in an attempt to erase all traces of [Christianity]” from the ancient region of Mosul.
Christianity once thrived there for centuries before the rise of Islam. This isn’t simply about ISIS: ultimately, ISIS is merely an extreme example of Islam’s normative approach.
This was confirmed during a recent conference in Amman, Jordan, titled “Toward a Complete Strategy to Combat Extremism.” While presenting, Dr. Hena al-Kaldani, a Christian, said: “[T]here is a complete cancelation of Arab Christian history in the pre-Islamic era,” “many historical mistakes,” and “unjustifiable historic leaps in our Jordanian curriculum.”
By way of example, he said: “Tenth-grade textbooks omit any mention of any Christian or church history in the region.” Textbooks make no mention of Jerusalem’s Christian sites. Wherever Christianity is mentioned, omissions and mischaracterizations proliferate. Christianity is primarily mentioned as a Western (that is, “foreign”) source of colonization, said al-Kaldani.
Of course, Christian minorities throughout the Middle East — not just in Jordan — have long maintained that the history taught in public classrooms habitually suppresses the region’s Christian heritage while magnifying (including by fabrication) Islamic history.
Said Kamal Mougheeth, a retired teacher in Egypt:
It sounds absurd, but Muslims more or less know nothing about Christians, even though they make up a large part of the population and are in fact the original Egyptians. Egypt was Christian for six or seven centuries [before the Muslim invasion around 640]. The sad thing is that for many years the history books skipped from Cleopatra to the Muslim conquest of Egypt. The Christian era was gone. Disappeared. An enormous black whole.
This aligns perfectly with what my parents, Christians from Egypt, told me of their classroom experiences from more than half a century ago: there was virtually no mention of Hellenism, Christianity, or the Coptic Church, a millennium of Egypt’s pre-Islamic history. History simply began with the pharaohs before jumping to the seventh century, when Arabian Muslims “opened” Egypt to Islam.
Wherever Muslims conquer non-Muslim territories, Islamic hagiography euphemistically refers to it as an “opening,” fath. Never a “conquest.”
Sharara Yousif Zara, an influential politician involved in the Iraqi Ministry of Education, agrees:
It’s the same situation in Iraq. There’s almost nothing about us [Christians] in our history books, and what there is, is totally wrong. There’s nothing about us being here before Islam. The only Christians mentioned are from the West. Many Iraqis believe we moved here. From the West. That we are guests in this country.
Zara might be surprised to learn that similar ignorance and historical revisionism predominates in the West as well.
Although Christians are in fact the most indigenous inhabitants of the Arab world, I am often asked — by educated people — why Christians “choose” to go live in the Middle East among Muslims if the latter treat them badly.
The Middle East’s pseudo-historical approach to Christianity has, for generations, successfully indoctrinated Muslim students to suspect and hate Christianity, which is regularly seen as a non-organic, parasitic remnant left by Western colonialists. Despite preceding Islam in the region by six centuries.
This also explains one of Islam’s bitterest ironies: a great many of today’s Middle East Christians are being persecuted by Muslims — including of the ISIS variety — whose own ancestors were persecuted Christians who converted to Islam to end their suffering. In other words, Muslim descendants of persecuted Christians are today slaughtering their Christian cousins.
Christians are seen as “foreign traitors” — perpetuating the cycle that originally made the region Muslim majority — in part because many Muslims do not know of their own Christian ancestry.
Due to such entrenched revisionism, Muslim “scholars” are able to disseminate highly dubious and ahistorical theses, as seen in Dr. Fadel Soliman’s 2011 book Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad. It claims that at the time of the Muslim conquest of Egypt, the vast majority of Egyptians were not, as Muslim and Western history has long taught, Christians. Rather, the book claims they were prototypical Muslims, or muwahidin, who were being oppressed by European Christians. Hence, the Islamic invasion of Egypt was really about “liberating” fellow Muslims.
Needless to say, no historian has ever suggested that Muslims invaded Egypt to liberate “proto-Muslims.” Rather, the Muslim chroniclers who wrote our primary sources on Islam candidly and refreshingly present the “openings” as they were: conquests. Replete with massacres, enslavement, displacement of Christians, and the destruction of thousands of churches.
In the end, the Muslim world’s historical approach to Christianity should be familiar. After all, doesn’t the West engage in the same chicanery?
In both instances, Christianity is demonized and its history distorted by its usurping enemies: in the West by a host of “isms” — including leftism, moral relativism, and multiculturalism — and in the Middle East by Islam.
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