How important, really, is history to current affairs?Â Do events from the 7thÂ centuryâ€”or, more importantly, how we understand themâ€”have any influence on U.S. foreign policy today?
By way of answer, consider some parallels between academia’s portrayal of the historic Islamic jihads and the U.S. government’s and media’s portrayal of contemporary Islamic jihads.
“Muslim freedom fighters” accompanies this picture appearing on a UK Standard report on Syria, rehashing an old but false motif
While any objective appraisal of the 7thÂ century Muslim conquests proves that they were just thatâ€”conquests, with all the bloodshed and rapine that that entailsâ€”the historical revisionism of modern academia, especially within Arab and Islamic studies departments, has led to some portrayals of the Muslim conquerors as “freedom-fighters” trying to “liberate” the Mideast from tyrants and autocrats. (Beginning to sound familiar?)
Today’s approachÂ to teaching the history of the Muslim conquests of the 7thÂ century is something as follows: Yes, the Mideast was Christian, but local Christians helped Arab Muslims invade and subjugate their countries in preference to Christian Byzantine rule, which was oppressive due to doctrinal disagreements over the nature of Christ.Â Hence, the Muslim conquerors were actually “liberators.”
This perspective, as with many modern Western perspectives concerning Islam, is a product of modern day epistemic distortions, chief among them: 1) repackaged narratives of the “noble savage” mythâ€”yes, 7thÂ century Muslim invaders were coarse, but had elevated ideals, including a fierce love for freedom and religious tolerance in comparison to Christians of the time (not to mention now); and 2) entrenched political correction that seeks toÂ whitewash the true history of IslamÂ followed by the uncritical acceptance of Islamic apologetics,Â some of which border on the absurd.
Of course, before the Islamic “liberator” thesis had become mainstream, historians such as Alfred Butler, author ofÂ The Arab Conquest of Egypt, had this to say about it:
Even in the most recent historians it will be found that the outline of the story [of the 7thÂ century conquest of Egypt] is something as follows: …. that the Copts generally hailed them [Muslims] as deliverers and rendered them every assistance; and that Alexandria after a long siege, full of romantic episodes, was captured by storm.Â Such is the received account.Â It may seem presumptuous to say thatÂ it is untrue from beginning to end, but to me no other conclusion is possible. [emphasis added; pgs. iv-v]
In fact, one of the major themes throughout Butler’sÂ Arab Conquest of Egyptâ€”which, published in 1902, is heavily based on primary sources, Arabic and Coptic,Â unlike more modern secondary worksÂ that promote the Islamic “liberator” thesisâ€”is that “there is not a word to show that any section of the Egyptian nation viewed the advent of the Muslims with any other feeling than terror” (p. 236).
Butler and other politically incorrect historians were and are aware of the savage and atrocity-laden nature of the Islamic conquests.Â The Coptic chronicler, John of Nikiu, a contemporary of the Arab conquest of Egypt and possibly an eyewitness, wrote:
Then the Muslims arrived in Nikiu [along the Nile]… seized the town and slaughtered everyone they met in the street and in the churchesâ€”men, women, and children, sparing nobody.Â Then they went to other places, pillaged and killed all the inhabitants they found….Â But let us say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed…”
Nonetheless, today’s accepted narratives do not come from antiquated historians or primary historical texts; they come from theÂ Saudi-funded ivy leagueâ€”Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, etc.â€”all of which peddle pro-Islamic propaganda (I personally had direct experience at Georgetown), including the “freedom loving jihadis” vs. “oppressive tyrants” thesis.
Percolating out of liberal academia to liberal mass media, the effects of this well-entrenched but false narrative have taken their toll, ultimately helping to create a disastrous U.S. foreign policy.
Put differently, the Islamic terrorists waging jihad against autocratic (but secular, religiously tolerant) governmentsâ€”most notably in Syria todayâ€”are easily portrayed in the West as “freedom fighters” against oppressive tyrants and thus deserving of U.S. support in great part because this motif has permeated the social consciousness of America, molded as it is byHollywoodÂ and theÂ news rooms,Â and based on academic distortions of events that took place nearly fourteen centuries ago.
That is the only unwavering constant in this sad story.
One more thing: