Leaving Islam




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The Monophysites before the Islamic invasion had endured a devastating twenty year war between the Byzantines and the Iranian Sassanids, with so much suffering, death and misery, would a broken people have the stomach for a fight? I don’t think so!  


One of the most silent chapters of early Islamic history was the rebellion of Christians in the next few decades after initial Islamic occupation. YES! The Christians who welcomed the Muslims as enemies of their enemy (the Byzantines) and liberators were the same Christians who REBELLED against Muslim rule.  


As Bat Ye’or pointed in her book “The Decline of Eastern Christainity”, the Christians under Islamic rule were treated as second class citizens. Imagine that, a majority people who, in their own homeland, were treated as second class citizens! Under this “tolerant” second class treatment, Christians were subjected to demoralizing humiliations that were a constant reminder of the inferiority of their religion. This included paying an extra tax called the JIZYA tax; restrictions on religious buildings (cannot be repaired and no new buildings); the appropriation of churches for conversions into mosques. Mind you, these conditions were agreed upon from the very first Islamic conquest so it is not something that was imposed later.  

Interestingly enough, the Christians who are cited as the ones rebelling against Islamic rule were the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Just like today, their ancestors were sick and tired of being abused as a “tolerated” religion. In their long history, there have been specific episodes of the Copts applying the principle “my enemy’s enemies are my friends” against the hated Muslim rulers. One example is the Muslim siege on Byzantine Constantinople in AD 717. Disgruntled Egyptian Christians who were forced into slavery to row Muslim ships deserted en masse when the Byzantine Emperor engineered an escape for them. The irony is that their former Byzantine masters were now considered their friends! There is evidence of Monophysites resettling in Byzantine territory after escaping Muslim rule to form a vibrant community in the empire to the extent that Byzantine religious authorities were shocked at such tolerance of formerly hated heretics!  

It was possible for significant Coptic rebellions in the past because of their sheer numbers. Sadly, the formerly 9 million strong Coptic population has been reduced to a pitiable 700,000 or so people.  


Any tolerance for them by Islam? Alas, no such thing! They were not listed in the “People of the Book”. Therefore, no tolerance, if it existed at all!  


By now some Muslims will have salivated at the prospect of my omission of the Jews. They would ask me to explain Byzantine oppression of Jews from one religion to another as opposed to the treatment of Islam regarding the Jews as more tolerant and more benevolent.  

My reply?  

It’s a draw! Yes, the Byzantines were vicious in their treatment of Jews. But so was Islam (to a lesser but no more better extent)! The conditions of Jizya applied to the Jews, as was the restriction of repairing and constructing religious buildings. The Jews didn’t rebel because of their smaller numbers and vulnerability (until the rise of the Jewish Khazar Khaganate who resisted and fought the Islamic empire of the Ummayads and Abbasids)  


Realism more than religious ideology has defined the “myth” of tolerance. It wasn’t Muslim initiative to be tolerant and benevolent as has been claimed by apologists, but rather, other extraneous conditions that ‘apparently” created this façade of tolerance. The 7th century Muslims used the sectarian rivalry of their new Christian subjects to ease their occupation by employing them to run their empire. After all, an infidel is preferable to a heretic right? Can you imagine the ferocity of violence, intolerance and bigotry if their Christian subjects were seen as Islamic heretics? They would be no better than the Byzantines, of whom, they use as a consistent example to highlight their résumé of “tolerance”!  








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