Were Conquered Christians Really Liberated Muslims?

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). 


The Wild Lies that Pass for ‘Truth’ in the Muslim World

Imagine if a top American historian appeared on the MSM insisting that the only reason Europeans conquered the Americas was to “defend” the Native Americans—who somehow had adopted Christianity centuries before Jesus was born—from being persecuted by heathen tribes.

While that would create a maelstrom of outrage and derision in the West, in the Arab world—where some think bewitched animals work as infidel operatives—such absurdities regularly pass for “truth.”

Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad

Consider the case of Fadel Soliman, a celebrated Sharia expert and Arab media darling, who regularly appears on al-Jazeera. Director of the Bridges Foundation—which teaches Muslims “how to present Islam” to non-Muslims—Soliman also lectures at Western universities, churches, and governmental agencies, including the U.S. Dept. of Defense.

His new Arabic book, Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad, asserts that, at the time of the Muslim conquest of Egypt (c. 640), the vast majority of Egyptians were not, as history has long taught, Christians, but rather prototypical Muslims, or muwahidin, who were actually being oppressed by Christians: hence, the Muslim conquest of Egypt was really about “liberating” fellow Muslims. Soliman’s evidence is that the Arian sect, which rejected the claim that Jesus was coequal with God, was present in 4th century Egypt. Therefore, according to Soliman, the indigenous Egyptians were practicing Islam hundreds of years before it was founded in the 7th century.

As with much of modern academia’s approach to Islam, this thesis is based on pure fiction. While the Arians were pronounced heretics at the Council of Nicea (325) for their interpretation of the Trinity, they nonetheless accepted all of Christianity’s core tenets—including original sin, crucifixion, resurrection, and salvation—all of which directly contradict Islam’s teachings. What an imaginative stretch, then, for Soliman to portray the Arians as prototypical Muslims, simply because they did not believe Jesus was coequal with God (a standard that would make many people today “Muslims”).

Needless to say, no historian has ever suggested that Muslims invaded Egypt to liberate “proto-Muslims.” Rather, the Muslim historians who wrote our primary sources on Islam, candidly and refreshingly present the conquests as they were—conquests, for the glory and empowerment of Islam and its followers at the expense of unbelieving infidels.

Of course, with the weakening of Islam in the modern era, embarrassed Muslims began to euphemize their imperialistic history, portraying jihad as “defensive,” “spiritual,” etc.—culminating with Soliman’s fairy tale. Even the unapologetic Sayyid Qutb, the sheikh of “radical Islam,” interpreted jihad and the conquests as “altruistic” endeavors to “liberate” mankind.

Such sophistry is inevitable; for the Muslim conquests pose a thorny problem for Muslims. As David Cook writes in Understanding Jihad, p.167:

[T]he conquests were seen from the beginning as one of the incontrovertible proofs of Islam. To disavow them or to examine them critically—which has yet to happen in the Muslim world—will be very painful for Muslims especially Arabic-speaking Muslims. At every point… when Muslims have tried to abandon militant jihad for the internal, spiritual jihad… the memory of the conquests and the need to rationalize them have defeated this effort. The problem may lie in the unwillingness to confront the fact that the conquests were basically unjustified. They were not a “liberation” and they were not desired by the non-Muslim peoples; they were endured and finally accepted.

Fadel Soliman, Islam expert and "bridge-builder

The question remains: Are Islam’s apologists disingenuous or deluded? When it comes to “bridge-building” Soliman—who provides “sensitivity training” to the FBI and Pentagon—one is inclined to answer in the former: his book contains academic crimes, including flagrant mistranslations to support his thesis and wild, but undocumented, assertions (for example, that the Arians, like the Muslims, used to proclaim “There is no god but Allah and Jesus is his prophet”).

That said, Muslim self-deception—typified by the impulsive need to always exonerate Islam—is a very real and widespread phenomenon. I am reminded of an Arabic op-ed I read last year in Al-Masry Al-Youm, which opened bluntly by saying: “We Muslims have an inferiority complex…and feel that our Islamic religion needs constant, daily affirmation from Europeans and Americans… What rapturous joy takes us when one of them converts—as if to reassure us that our religion is ‘okay.’” Discussing how the Arab world exulted when it erroneously thought that Muslim critic Henryk Broder had accepted Islam—based on sarcastic remarks he had made—the author wrote “but we are a people who do not understand sarcasm, since it is subtle and requires a bit of thinking and intellectualizing; rather, we read quickly, with a hopeful eye, not an eye for truth and reality.”

Considering Islam’s lax views on deception, this comes as no surprise. After all, whether Muslims consciously deceive infidels or unconsciously deceive themselves, the goal has long been one: empowering Islam and its adherents—reality be damned.

 

  • PAthena

    If the Egyptian Christians (Copts) were really Mohammedans before the 640 A.D, before the conquest by the Arabs, then why are Egyptian Mohammedans now persecuting Copts?

  • Malcolm

    One should also point out that the Copts were not, nor are they, Arians. They are Monophysites; which is a totally different thing. Arianism spread throughout much of Christendom, not just in Egypt, but it never became a majority viewpoint anywhere – least of all in Egypt.

  • fmobler

    Thanks Malcolm for the reminder that this is nothing less libel against the Copts. Monophysites (among them Copts) deny that Christ possesses a human nature. He is wholly divine. In other words, this theology is antithetical to Islam. The lie that is could be proto-Islamic is another example of Islam's inability to deal with its history honestly.

  • Laura Latini

    fmobler, actually the word "Monophysite" is regarded by Copts as an insult, and they deny that they see no human nature in Christ. The whole issue is very complicated, but clearly we are talking about a variant of Christianity, with the only issue being to what an extent God as Jesus was also human. Incidentally, the Coptic Church has released common statements on faith and Christology with both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.
    The last Arians before the Jehova's Witnesses resurrected the heresy were some of the Teutonic barbarians of Europe – in particular, Goths, Vandals, Burgundians and Lombards. Apart from the Vandals, who were destroyed in war, all the others, one by one, peacefully converted to Catholicism. The Lombards, who were the last, were all Catholic by 680 BC/

    • Laura Latini

      WHOOOOOOOPS!!
      680 AD, of course. "When I make a mistake, it's a whopper."

  • Laura Latini

    God Jesus, what a pack of lies!

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