The recent Arab Spring, in North Africa and the Middle East, was not the first, according to a Deborah Amos report on NPR. The first was the conflict of culture between the Byzantine Empire and the new Islamic religion in the seventh century to the ninth centuries.
The clash is chronicled by a new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York entitled Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition. Curator Helen Evans says, "It's not just on Monday there was a Christian-Judaic classical world, and on Tuesday [Muslims] came and destroyed all of that. They came and absorbed learning and science and are more woven into it, more than we think."