Is Muslim persecution of Christians something new or the continuation of an old pattern and Islamic tradition?

Marshall: There has nearly always been discrimination, and often violence, but we are now seeing an upsurge of persecution in the Islamic world.

Bat Ye'or: It is certainly not new. Jews and Christians ('People of the Book') in Muslim countries shared a same destiny: that of dhimmis, - native populations conquered and subjected to the laws of jihad. Islamic laws regulating their status were the same, whereas other native populations like the Zoroastrians in Persia were more discriminated against. The oppression of Christians started from the beginning of the Muslim conquest of their lands. It is attested in the narratives before these rules became codified in laws from the 8th century. It covers all aspect of life and imposes vilification and insecurity. It has often included slavery, deportations, forced conversions and mass killings, although Christians like Jews are 'protected' by Islamic law providing their submit to their inferior and humiliating status. Those rules are inscribed in the shariah, and with the re-Islamization of the Muslim state, the traditional thirteen-century-old pattern is being reactivated, after its suppression by the European colonization of Muslim countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Christians are persecuted also because they are secularists and oppose the return of the shariah.

Phares: First let's understand that there is a battle over this History. While many Muslim historians and a number of sympathetic historians in the West affirm that persecution has never (or almost never) existed, most Middle East Christian Historians and a growing number of Muslim humanist intellectuals affirm clearly that this oppression has existed since the 7th century. But facts from the history of the Middle East are difficult to deny. One, there is a whole debate about the real attitude of the theology of Islam towards the infidels (or Kafir).

The answer varies between moderates and radicals. It will remain a debate in the realm of theology and linguistics till a reform occurs. On the other hand, historical accounts of persecution are undeniable. Since the establishment of the Dhimmi status as of the 7th century AD/CE the Caliphate and the various other Islamic states have discriminated against Christians and Jews. Other powers -including Christians- throughout history have been discriminatory as well but later on, future generations have admitted this behavior. The problem nowadays lies in the fact that most mainstream historians of Islamic Politics still deny the past -and worse the present-existence of these discriminations.

Malik: Ever since the earliest Islamic conquests dating back to the 7th century AD when Invading Muslim armies overran neighboring communities, many of them Christian, there has been systematic persecution of Christians. Setting aside the anecdotes of tolerance that adorn so much of the specialized (and romanticized) literature on Islamic history, the real story is a sordid one of the systematic reduction of vanquished peoples and members of other religions to second-class status at best—mainly reserved for Christians and Jews—and physical elimination at worst. So this is quite an old story indeed.