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.” 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.
[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"