Erased: How the Middle East Was Expunged of Its Judeo-Christian Heritage
The Muslim world is at war with history. It needs to be, if it hopes to change the narrative concerning how it came into being and, more importantly, how no one but Muslims has any right to any land claimed by Islam.
Most recently, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of culture, ‘Atif Abu Sayf, stated on official PA TV that "Our struggle is with this State [of Israel] that came out of nowhere, without a history and without geography, stole our land, and wants to put an end to our existence... There is nothing in history that proves this presence. They have not found one stone... [Israel knows] that they have no connection to this city [Jerusalem], that they have no connection to this history, and that they have no connection to the geography, just as they have no connection to the future."
Days later, in early September 2019, the minister of culture made similar assertions: “Our struggle with the occupying entity is a struggle over the narrative. We are the legal inheritors of all that is on the land… The occupier's narrative is false, and all of its attempts to find justification for its presence here have failed.”
Abu Sayf’s views are standard among Palestinians. As a September 15, 2019 report notes, “One of the central elements of the Palestinian narrative is the negation of the entire Jewish history in the Land of Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular. Despite numerous sources and archeological finds proving the opposite, the Palestinian Authority regularly repeats this claim because it is the basis for the PA's denial of Israel's right to exist.”
The irony is that, although Judaism has a millennia-old history and presence in Jerusalem, Muslims from Arabia brutally conquered, colonized, and Arabized that ancient city beginning in the year 637.
This is the “philosophical” problem confronting not just Palestinians but much of the Muslim world: most of the territory Islam claims was seized from non-Muslims through violent conquest and colonization.
As such, if conquerors and their descendants base right on might—as Islam has always done—it would seem that they have few rights to claim once their might wanes. Hence the Muslim tendency to rewrite history, particularly when dealing with non-Muslims—to present themselves not as conquerors but as “rightful” claimants of this or that land.
While such revisionism is evident in the aforementioned PA quotes concerning Israel, it is especially ubiquitous in Islam’s attempts to erase evidence of Christianity from the lands it conquered. This is unsurprising considering that the heart of the Muslim world—including all of North Africa (from Morocco to Egypt) and the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Turkey, etc.)—was Christian centuries before the scimitar of Islam came.
As Dr. Hena al-Kaldani once said during a conference in Amman, Jordan, hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Political Studies: “There is a complete cancelation of Arab Christian history in the pre-Islamic era,” “many historical mistakes,” and “unjustifiable historic leaps in our Jordanian curriculum.” “Tenth grade textbooks omit any mention of any Christian or church history in the region.” Wherever Christianity is mentioned, omissions and mischaracterizations proliferate, including the portrayal of Christianity as a Western (that is, “foreign”) source of colonization, said al-Kaldani.
“It’s the same situation in Iraq,” said Sharara Yousif Zara, a politician involved in the Iraqi Ministry of Education: “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.”
“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,” said Kamal Mougheeth, a retired teacher in Egypt: “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 hole.”
This comports with what Copts have told me concerning their Egyptian classroom experiences: there was virtually no mention of Hellenism, Christianity, or the Coptic Church—one thousand years of Egypt’s pre-Islamic history. History 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 the event as an “opening,” fath, never a “conquest.”)
As with its treatment of Judaism, the Muslim world’s expunging of Christianity from Middle Eastern history has for generations successfully indoctrinated Muslim students to suspect and hate the Christian minorities living among them, who are presented as non-organic parasitic remnants supposedly left by Western colonialists (though as seen, Christianity precedes Islam in the region by some six centuries).
This also explains one of Islam’s bitterest ironies: the ancestors of those many Muslims currently persecuting Christians throughout the Middle East—including in PA territory—were themselves persecuted Christians who over the centuries converted to Islam to end their own sufferings. In other words, Muslim descendants of persecuted Christians are today slaughtering their Christian cousins, without any clue of their common origins.
Such is the tragedy caused by Islam’s rewriting of history—a rewriting that is required whenever Muslims try to portray themselves as the “rightful” claimants of this or that land.