Hamas Leader's "Prodigal Son"
Israeli Journalist Avi Issacharoff, Arab affairs correspondent for the newspaper Haaretz, has an interesting article, "Prodigal son," in the July 31st issue of Haaretz Magazine.
The article, based on Issacharoff's interview of Masab Yousef, who is the son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, has an fascinating story to tell. It opens, somewhere in California, with this scene:
A moment before beginning his dinner, Masab, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, glances at the friend who has accompanied him to the restaurant where we met. They whisper a few words and then say grace, thanking God and Jesus for putting food on their plates.I read these words and wondered, "Shouldn't this be 'Allah' and 'Isa'? But why would a Muslim be thanking Isa for a meal? Is there some Sufi influence here? But that would seem unlikely for a Hamas leader's son, for Islamists, especially the Salafi sorts, usually try to purify their Islamic practices of rituals that Sufis might observe."
The next words, however, clarified the young man's puzzling actions:
It takes a few seconds to digest this sight: The son of a Hamas MP who is also the most popular figure in that extremist Islamic organization in the West Bank, a young man who assisted his father for years in his political activities, has become a rank-and-file Christian.Ah, that explains the prayer . . . but raises a host of other questions. In particular, how did he become a Christian?
"It began about eight years ago. I was in Jerusalem and I received an invitation to come and hear about Christianity. Out of curiosity I went. I was very enthusiastic about what I heard. I began to read the Bible every day and I continued with religion lessons. I did it in secret, of course. I used to travel to the Ramallah hills, to places like the Al Tira neighborhood, and to sit there quietly with the amazing landscape and read the Bible. A verse like "Love thine enemy" had a great influence on me. At this stage I was still a Muslim and I thought that I would remain one. But every day I saw the terrible things done in the name of religion by those who considered themselves 'great believers.' I studied Islam more thoroughly and found no answers there. I reexamined the Koran and the principals of the faith and found how it is mistaken and misleading. The Muslims borrowed rituals and traditions from all the surrounding religions."That's what Masab Yousef has to say directly about his conversion, but much of what he says in the interview expresses a long-held dissatisfaction with Islam even before converting from Islam to Christianity at age 26.
. . .
"I feel that Christianity has several aspects. It's not only a religion but a faith. I now see God through Jesus and can tell about him for days on end, whereas the Muslims won't be able to say anything about God. I consider Islam a big lie. The people who supposedly represent the religion admired Mohammed more than God, killed innocent people in the name of Islam, beat their wives and don't have any idea what God is. I have no doubt that they'll go to Hell. I have a message for them: There is only one way to Paradise -- the way of Jesus who sacrificed himself on the cross for all of us."
Four years ago, he decided to convert. He says that nobody in his family knew about it. "Only those Christians with whom I met and spent time knew about my decision. For years I helped my father, the Hamas leader, and he didn't know that I had converted, only that I had Christian friends."
Where in California is he living? For obvious reasons, the article does not say, but an inference is not so difficult:
He has a bachelor's degree in geography and history from the Al-Quds Open University in Ramallah, but in the United States he has difficulty finding work. He has plenty of free time, and participates in religion lessons and prayers in the church at least once a week. Every few days he plays football with friends from the church, and surfing is a must. This is California, after all.Surfing? That would be southern California -- the Los Angeles and San Diego area, most likely.
Despite his dissatisfaction with Islam and his disdain for the Islamist political organization Hamas, particularly for its encouragement of suicide terrorism, Masab Yousef cannot forget his home:
And yet, in spite of the criticism of the place he left, California can't make the longings disappear. "I miss Ramallah," he says. "People with an open mind. I liked to walk around among the buildings, the restaurants, the people, to feel the night life. I have many friends there whom I would like to see and I don't know whether I'll be able to do that at all. I mainly miss my mother, my brothers and sisters, but I know that it will be very difficult for me to return to Ramallah soon."By "very difficult," read "impossible" . . . unless he doesn't mind ending up dead. According to all four main Sunni schools of Islamic law, apostates from Islam must suffer the death penalty. So unless Masab Yousef is willing to accept the role of a different sort of 'suicide' martyr, he'd better stay far away from Ramallah -- and remain anonymous.
He speaks, however, as if he plans to 'hide in plain sight':
"I left behind a great deal of property in Ramallah in order to achieve true freedom. I wanted to get to quiet surroundings that would help me to open the eyes of the Muslims and reveal the truth to them about their religion and about Christianity, to take them out of the darkness and the prison of Islam. In that way they'll have an opportunity to correct their mistakes, to become better people and to bring a chance for peace in the Middle East. I don't give Islam a chance to survive for more than 25 years. In the past they scared people and in that way they prevented anti-religious publicity, but today, in the modern age, they won't be able to hide the truth any longer."And with those words, the interview concludes. The uproar among Hamas members, however, will surely be only beginning.
. . .
"Many people will hate me for this interview, but I'm telling them that I love all of them, even those who hate me. I invite all the people, including the terrorists among them, to open their hearts and believe. Now I'm trying to establish an international organization for young people that will teach about Christianity, love and peace in the territories, too. I would like to teach the young people how to love and forgive, because that's the only way the two nations can overcome the mistakes of the past and live in peace."