It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that a Sioux Indian chief living in South Dakota in the mid-1800’s would have a different perspective of “the Great American Move Westward” than a captain in the American Calvary. Or that the child of a Georgia plantation owner would see life differently than the son of one of the slaves.
Somehow, perhaps because I’m neither a brain surgeon nor a rocket scientist, that never crossed my mind when I studied Islamic history 30 years ago. We thought that the Copts in Egypt , whose church was founded by St. Mark and who have monasteries still vibrant after 1700 years, somehow welcomed the Arab invaders who came to “open” their land to Islam (the word “fataha” meaning “open” is used to describe these conquests). We weren’t told that the tongues of Egyptians heard speaking Coptic were cut out.
We were taught that the interaction of Arab traders with the local populations as they moved down the east and west coasts of Africa produced the new language of Swahili. Our professors forgot to mention they were slave traders. And we heard it was the magnitude of Islam that allowed the peoples living along the Silk Road to continue speaking their own languages rather than Arabic. We didn’t learn that the only reason Persians still speak Farsi and Turks Turkish is because they were strong enough to resist Arabization. They were more fortunate than the Berbers of North Africa whose original languages are now confined to mountainous regions and coastal enclaves. And we certainly didn’t learn what happened to the oldest Buddhist community in the world that had lived in Afghanistan since Alexander the Great. They vanished from history long before their statues were blown up by the Taliban a few years ago.
Not much has changed in the past thirty years. If you have Muslim professors or attend a university where the Islamic Studies Department is funded by Saudi princes and Gulf emirs, you are unfortunately probably still receiving the well-burnished view of Islamic history that I did back then. It would be well worth your investing a few dollars to purchase the Primary Doctrine Books published by the Center for the Study of Political Islam. It’s probably less expensive than the reading list for your Islamic History class. And you’ll at least learn what happened to the Buddhists in Afghanistan .