Oh boy…this is going to be a huge mess, SJ. No doubt you mean well, but that can only go so far.
As to your central question, there is this idea that just as Christianity went through very violent periods and there was also violence involved in some episodes or regions, so it is unfair to single out Islam for doing essentially what “we” did earlier, just because now it can be captured in real time and is fresh in many of our minds. While not completely off-base (in the sense that I would not pretend that Christianity hasn’t also had its own share of violence), I think that if asking about its essential character, this comparison between Islam and Christianity does not hold up so well. If we take, for instance, the first few decades of each faith as the best/purest examples (as I have met many Muslims who do, looking to the age of the “rightly-guided caliphs”, 632-661, as a sort of Islamic golden age when people really followed the Qur’an and the Sunnah), or even the first few centuries (to include the Umayyads for the Muslims, and the Early Church Fathers for us), we see a very different modus operandi among the Muslims than among the Christians. By 661 (the end of the Rashidun caliphate), the whole of what is now considered the “Middle East” had been conquered in the name of Islam by force. That is roughly thirty years after Muhammad’s death. By contrast, what was happening with Christianity roughly thirty years after Christ? St. Mark the Evangelist was being martyred in Egypt (68 AD), St. Peter in Rome (c.67 AD), etc. So one could look at this in a few different ways: The speed with which Muhammad’s immediate successors spread violence in the name of expanding their faith proves that Islam is inherently violent, or perhaps proves how quickly corrupted the original peaceful vision of Islam proved to be. (If I recall correctly from our friend Famdigy’s posts, Shia have a view closer to the latter, recognizing violence in early Islamic history to be the result of politicking on the part of the early Muslims, rather than something inherent to Islam as a thing.)
Anyway…being a member of a native Middle Eastern church, it is hard for me to find much good to say about Islam, in so far as it has interacted with populations and regions outside of its original Arabian homeland. But there are, of course, primary source documents from our bishops and other chroniclers of the early days of Islam in Egypt who are a bit more stoic about the whole thing, writing about the good that was done by the Islamic caliph, but without forgetting also the bad. From Pope St. Isaac of Rakoti (689-92), or rather the Life of Isaac written by Mina of Pshati to commemorate the good patriarch, we learn that 'Abd al-'Aziz built churches and monasteries for the monks around his city, but also that he used these to promote Islam:
He ordered the breaking of all the crosses which were in the land of Egypt, even the crosses of gold and silver. So the Christians in the country of Egypt became troubled. Then he wrote a number of notices and placed them on the doors of the churches in Misr and the Delta, saying in them: ‘Muhammad is the great messenger (al-rasul al-kabir) who is God’s, and Jesus too is the messenger of God. God does not beget and is not begotten.’ (Life of Isaac of Rakoti, 368)
So it has been at best a mix of peace and violence towards us. It makes sense if you think about it: The Qur’an affords us some very limited rights in exchange for our loyalty and possessions to be given over to the Muslims (of course, this is not a free exchange), so it behooves them to then treat us with the measure of good will that their religion allows them to show us. At the same time, however, actively helping us is discouraged (certainly things like building churches, as above, can be seen as a sort of “charm offensive”, somewhat outside of the bounds established by, say, the Pact of 'Umar, which does not permit us to build churches ourselves), as we only really exist in Islamic societies in order to serve the interests of Muslims, who would of course like to see our conversion to their way, so that one day our faith will disappear and the world will become Islamic as it was supposedly meant to be.
That is an attitude that portends violence, whether or not we see it in any given period of time or place. And that attitude is explicitly spelled out in the Qur’an, in verses such as 3:110: “You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah . If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.”
You see, we could have been as good as they are, but we’re not because we don’t believe in Muhammad’s religion… :ehh:
Anyway, if you are interested, here is a Coptic bishop’s take on the relation of Islam and Egypt, to give an idea of how people who have lived with Islam for basically all of its history see it.