Though certainly not up to relevant Western standards in the early twenty-first century, the treatment of religious minorities under classical Islam — specifically of Christians and Jews — was relatively good.
To choose one particularly clear example: Jews and Christians were subject to the jizya tax in Islamic Spain but, not uncommonly, held positions of leadership and prestige; following the Reconquista, however, triumphant Christian authorities offered Muslims and Jews the choice of conversion or expulsion.
The mistreatment of Jews in pre-modern Europe is memorialized in such famous pieces of English literature as Ivanhoe and The Merchant of Venice; Muslim communities in Europe were non-existent and, indeed, unthinkable.
And, of course, the legacy of European anti-Semitism culminated (we can and must hope) in the Nazi Holocaust, for which no event even remotely comparable exists in the Islamic world.
A couple of days ago, I mentioned the death of Pope Shenouda III, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest and most important Christian bodies of the Middle East, and I said that it leaves that church leaderless at a particularly inopportune time.
This little news item illustrates, yet again, that it’s a difficult period right now for Arab and Middle Eastern Christians.
Very sad. Sad for the Christians, of course, but, in my judgment, also a betrayal of Islam.