[Note: The following Islamophobic/Christophilic piece was written by the early 20th century missionary Samuel Zwemer and his wife Amy for Christian children. The overt Orientalism seen here through a virtually complete opposing of Arab Muslims to “civilized” American Christians is chilling; unfortunately it still resonates and not only with conservative Evangelicals intent on converting Muslims to their own brand of Christendom. I offer the following selection (the whole cloth is preserved at Project Gutenberg) as a reminder that the so-called “clash of civilizations” has deep roots. So on this Christmas Eve, as you count your blessings, consider also the many curses you can find in the following excerpt as a Muslim reader. A century or so after this book was written, a different kind of mission embroils Baghdad. On this Christmas Eve, for President Bush, mission not accomplished; for Samuel Zwemer, prayer not answered. For Iraqi Muslims the world has indeed been turned downside up. ]

The story of mission work in Arabia is not very long, but it is full of interest. From the day when Mohammed proclaimed himself an apostle in Mecca until about sixteen years ago when Ion Keith Falconer came to Aden as a missionary, all of Topsy-turvy Land lay in darkness as regards the gospel. For thirteen hundred years Mohammed had it all his own way in Arabia. Now his dominion over the hearts of men, is in dispute, and there is no doubt that the final, full victory will rest with Jesus the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.

Would you like to hear something, before we close this book about the missions that are now working in this country? There are three missions. The missionaries of the Church of England began work in Bagdad about the year 1882. Bagdad is not at all a small town. It has a population of one hundred and eighty thousand people, and it was once a very important city. You can read all about its ancient beauty and wealth and commerce in the Arabian Nights. Some of the palaces that Haroun er Rashid visited are still standing. In the city there are at present sixty-four mosques, six churches and twenty-two synagogues. One-third of the population are Jews, and there are over five thousand Christians. Most of the latter belong to the Roman Catholic faith, or to other twilight churches. The Roman Catholic cathedral, which you see in the picture, is the only church in all Northern Arabia that has a bell. Moslems do not like to hear church-bells, and they were forbidden by some rulers of the Moslem world long ago. The Protestant Christians meet for worship in a dwelling-house. The Bagdad mission has a large dispensary for the sick where thousands of Moslems and Jews and Christians come every year for treatment. Books are sold to the people, and there is a school for boys and girls which is also helping to turn down old prejudices and turn up the right side of child-life. The Moslem children are beginning to believe that the world is round and that Constantinople is not the capital of all Europe.

The British and Foreign Bible Society is also helping to turn this part of the world downside up. The gospel which has been buried under many superstitions and traditions so long, is again showing its power. Colporteurs are men who carry the Bible about, offer it to the people and read and explain it to those whose hearts are open. They have a hard task, but if it were not for them the “Little Missionaries” would not get along at all.

On the way from Bagdad to Busrah, we pass Amara, an enterprising village where the people once burned books and threw stones at the missionary, but where now the little Bible-shop of the American Mission shines unhindered,

“Like a little candle, burning in the night.”

At Busrah, Rev. James Cantine began mission work in 1891, and ever since that time he and others have been ploughing and sowing seed and waiting for the showers that come before the harvest. It was at Busrah that Kamil Abd el Messiah, the Moslem convert from Syria, died a witness for Christ. Have you read the wonderful story of his life? It is full of pathos and shows how in the heart and life of at least one Moslem the Holy Spirit made topsy-turvy things straight. There are others like Kamil in Arabia, but many of them are still following the Master afar off, because they fear the persecutions of men. At Busrah, there is also a dispensary, and here too the gospel is sold and preached and lived before the people.

Bahrein, you know, is a group of islands, and it is about six years ago that the people first saw a missionary. Nearly three-fourths of the population are pearl-merchants or pearl-fishers. Will you not pray that they may learn to value the Pearl of Great Price?

A visit any morning in the week to the dispensary at Bahrein, would soon convince you that here too the Arab world is slowly but surely turning downside up. Women learn to their delight that they have equal right to sympathy with men, and they need not wait until the men are helped first. The Arabs are very ignorant of medicine and their remedies are either foolish or cruel. To “let out the pain” in rheumatism, they burn the body with a hot iron. All their ideas are upside down, and very few know on which side of their body the liver is located. Now when our mission doctors perform miracles of surgery on the maimed, and miracles of mercy on the suffering, the result is to prepare their hearts for Christ’s message. To the fanatic Moslem a Christian is “an ignorant unbeliever.” But we may put a parody on Pope’s lines and say, in their case:

“A Christian is a monster of such frightful mien
That to be hated needs but to be seen.
But seen too oft familiar with his face
They first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Excerpt from Samuel M. Zwemer and Amy E. Zwemer, Topsy-Turvy Land: Arabia Pictured for Children (N.Y.: Fleming H. Revell, 1902)