Clio was the Greek muse whose job it was to watch over history. To suppress, destroy, rewrite, deny or otherwise mess with history is to commit cliocide. With respect to the history of the Middle East in particular, in the mass media of this country alone, acts of cliocide are perpetrated on a daily basis without let or hindrance. The perpetrators are liable to pop up anywhere, at any time, and despatch poor Clio in the most casual manner imaginable, even while engaged in the most relaxed conversation, and no one, not even their interlocutor, even blinks an eyelid. Scariest of all - even the perpetrator is generally completely unaware of what he's doing. A case in point:
In the context of an interview on ABC Radio National's Breakfast yesterday, the young Australian oud virtuoso, Joseph Tawadros, mentioned that his family were of Egyptian Coptic origin. Unfortunately, however, by way of explaining who the Copts are, he committed an act of cliocide. Today's Christian Copts, he said, are the "descendents of the ancient people of Egypt," the "original inhabitants" of the country. "The Arabs came later."
The implication being, I'm afraid, that Egypt's Muslim majority are one and all direct descendents of the Muslim Arab invaders who conquered Egypt in the 7th century AD, and therefore, not the descendents of the ancient Egyptians, not indigenous to the country, and so not real Egyptians like the Copts. This, of course, is complete rubbish and I'm blowing the whistle:
"Today there are more people in the tiny Nile delta than in the vast area of the Arabian peninsula. In the 7th century, the population of Egypt probably exceeded that of all the peninsula. Yet, as we have seen, the people of Arabia at that time were not only engaged in Egypt, but also, and simultaneously, in Persia, Iraq, Syria and Palestine. Soon they were to spread over North Africa also and up into Spain and France. Thus, at the time of the [Arab] conquest, the number of the inhabitants of Arabia were quite inadequate to effect much change in the population of a country like Egypt. Moreover, at that time the Arabs who migrated were almost entirely bedouin tribesmen, to whom the deep, muddy soil, innumerable water channels and damp enervating heat of Egypt were utterly uncongenial. Such tribes, in certain cases, turned southwards into the desert towards Sudan, or crossing the Nile, migrated westwards into Libya. The bedouin from Arabia today will find it difficult to understand the dialect of of the delta, but in Libya and the Northern Sudan will recognize many of the terms of speech in familiar use in his own tribe in the peninsula.
"The principal source of intermixture of Arab blood in Egypt after the conquest would doubtless arise from the garrison of Fustat. According to the social customs of the time, the Arab troops would acquire many Egyptian wives and concubines. The offspring of such unions would, of course, claim to be Arabs as their fathers were, but would themselves marry Egyptian wives in the like manner, so that even the descendants of the Prophet's Companions would, in a few generations, be very nearly pure Egyptians. In addition, however, the historians tell us that at the time of the ratification of the treaty concerning Alexandria , many Coptic Christians decided to adopt Islam, thereby not only securing a lighter system of taxation but also social equality with their formidable conquerors. Such as became Muslims tended to be regarded as Arabs, a confusion of thought between race and religion." (The Great Arab Conquests, John Bagot Glubb, 1963, pp 246-247)
I wish that were the end of it as far as Joseph is concerned, but it isn't. An ignorance of history can trip one up terribly. The same young oud player and composer, whose ignorance of 7th century Egyptian history seems to extend to modern Palestinian history, has reportedly fallen victim to a certain dodgy siren call, prompting the following letter from Australian Artists Against Apartheid:
"Dear Joseph Tawadros, We are writing in advance of your planned performance in the apartheid state of Israel, which we hope you will cancel. The Red Sea Winter Jazz Festival (RSWJF) is sponsored by the Israeli government, which additionally sponsors the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes, and many laws discriminating against 'non-Jews' in a segregated and undemocratic apartheid system. State-culture propaganda initiatives, such as the RSWJF, serve to brand Israel to the world as a 'vibrant cultural hub', while it continues its profitable human rights violations and colonialism on the ground. In response to decades of oppression under Israeli apartheid, coupled with the failure of international institutions to support their quest for equal rights and justice, the Palestinian people have called for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) until Israel is in compliance with international law and human rights conventions. Given Israel's extensive use of cultural propaganda, the BDS movement includes a campaign for cultural boycott. A multitude of artists, including renowned musicians such as Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, and Santana, have heeded the boycott call and cancelled planned performances in Israel. All international artists appearing at the RSWJF would violate two key criteria of the cultural boycott of Israel: (1) By performing at a state-sponsored event and (2) By performing at an apartheid venue in Israel. Please cancel your upcoming appearance at RSWJF and help to realise equal rights and justice in Palestine-Israel. By heeding the Palestinian call for international solidarity we can stop entertaining apartheid." (justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org, 29/12/10)