But...never mind, it is after all an almost irrelevant digression.
Almost, but for the words of Holy Elders like St. Cosmas the Aetolian
, who viewed the Turk as "God's hound" and the Muslim yoke as punishment for the sins of the Orthodox.
This was a common (apocalyptic) understanding in early Syriac Christianity, too -- the Syriacs being naturally the first people to encounter Islam and Muslims. See Sydney Griffith's "Syriac Writers on Muslims and the Religious Challenge of Islam" (St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute, Kottayam 1994). As such, it took a little while for apologetics against Islam to appear in Syriac (rather than just apocalyptic literature painting Muslims/Islam as punishers for Christian sin or laxity). The most famous of this initial wave is probably the earliest (8th century): the disputation between the Monk of Bet Hale and the Arab notable (or, variously, "emir"), which is partially reproduced in the above-mentioned work. It is written elsewhere (in Suha Rassam's 2005 history Christianity in Iraq
) that when the Nestorians/East Syrians lost all of their territories in the Arabian Peninsula proper (in which there used to be many dioceses and churches in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, etc.) to the Muslim invaders, they did not even blame the Muslims themselves, but rather supposed laxity among their own priests.
Yet I don't see this early tradition as reason enough to continue treating today's Islamic oppression as a continuation of the same phenomenon. After all, plenty of early Christian treatments of Islam viewed it essentially as a Christian heresy, but with increased exposure to Islamic doctrine that view has been challenged quite successfully in some ways. And besides, what have today's Syriac, Byzantine, Coptic, and other native Eastern Christians done? Most have held on to their faith quite tightly, all things considered. Should they be "punished", too, and take the fatalistic view that all the horrors inflicted upon them are divine retribution for...something or other? Did they move to Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands, America, etc. only to have their persecutors hound them there, too? I don't think so...and I've already heard the stories told to me by Coptic friends in the Netherlands that local Muslims would come to their homes on Friday (since I guess Arabic-speakers would cluster together, to some degree), telling them in a threatening manner that it's time to go to the mosque (according to the person who told me this, that behavior only stopped when the father of the family physically threatened the coarse dawah agent with a punch in the face...Copts are
peaceful people, but come on). Is that divine retribution, too?
Not to say anything about every individual Muslim on the face of the planet or anything, but I think the much more simple explanation that some people really are just jerks and/or psychopaths acting under the influence of Satan works better than to say that everybody who kills your family members, burns down your house, destroys your monasteries, etc. is acting as the rod of God's anger. (Besides, that
honor goes to the Assyrians, who have been Christian to some degree ever since King Abgar corresponded with Jesus Christ our Lord personally
; Muslims are nothing but late-comers, hangers on, LARPers, etc.)