Converted from Islam to Jesus – A Testimony of a former friend of Hamas
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 Christian. A few seconds later, he is savouring his meal, explaining that he hasn’t been eating much recently because of financial problems. During the past week he has been living with the friend, a Christian he met at church. ‘Without him,’ he says, ‘I would have become homeless.’
The younger Yousef is well aware of the implications of this interview, and how likely it is to offend his family.
‘I know that I’m endangering my life and am liable to lose my father, but I hope that he’ll understand this and that God will give him and my family the patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah together with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God.’
We met for the first time about four years ago, outside the military prison at the Ofer Camp, only about half a kilometre from the family home in the town of Bitunia, near Ramallah. His father was not a member of the Palestinian Parliament at the time. He was, however, one of the founders of Hamas in the West Bank and one of the prisoners’ leaders, soon to be released after several years’ imprisonment for membership in the organization. I wanted to interview him and, to arrange an interview, had to speak to his eldest son, Masab. Masab was expected to take an active part in running his father’s political affairs in the future.
When we met in the prison parking lot, I was surprised by his unusual appearance, which deviated from the dress code expected of relatives of senior Hamas leaders – beardless and sporting a Western haircut, jeans and a motorcyclist’s leather jacket. But the media uproar that accompanied his father’s appearance made me forget his ‘improper’ apparel. He has hardly changed. He is 30 years old and lost several kilos (‘because I don’t eat much’), his hair is short; he is tanned and looks like just a young Israeli in California.
‘As a child I was brought up in a very religious family; hatred of Israelis was my daily bread. The first time I encountered them was at about the age of 10, when soldiers entered our home and arrested my father. Until then I had never been separated from him. We didn’t know anything about the circumstances of his arrest. His membership in Hamas was secret, and we didn’t think he was one of its founders. I didn’t understand anything about politics or religion. I only knew that the Israeli army had arrested my father repeatedly. For me, father was everything: a good, loving man who would do anything for me. He took care of us, bought us gifts, gave of himself. Then the soldiers entered our house and took him away from me.
‘In high school I studied Islamic law. In 1996, when I was 18, I was arrested by the Israel Defense Forces because I was the head of the Islamic Society in my high school. It’s a kind of youth movement of the organization. My process of awakening began.
‘Until then I knew Hamas through my father, who lived a very modest and loving life. At first I admired the organization, primarily because I admired my father so much. But, during the 16 months in prison I was exposed to the true face of Hamas. It’s a negative organization. As simple as that. A fundamentally bad organization. I sat in Megiddo Prison and discovered who the real Hamas was. Their leaders in prison were treated better than the other prisoners. They received the best food, were allowed more family visits and towels for the shower. They have no morals, they have no integrity. But they aren’t as stupid as Fatah, which steals in broad daylight in front of everyone and is immediately suspected of corruption. [Hamas activists] receive money in dishonest ways, invest it in secret places, and outwardly maintain a simple lifestyle. Sooner or later they use this money and manipulate the people.
‘Nobody knows them and how they operate as well as I do. For example, I remember how the family of Saleh Talahmeh, a member of the military arm of Hamas who was assassinated by Israel, was treated. Saleh was forced to beg for financial assistance because the family was left with nothing after his death. Hamas abandoned that family and those of other shaheeds [martyrs], while the senior members of the organization abroad wasted tens of thousand of dollars a month on securing their own comfortable living.
‘My father is a nice, friendly man. But I discovered how evil his colleagues are. After my release I lost faith in those who ostensibly represented Islam.’
Were you tortured? ‘No. I enjoyed immunity because of my father’s status.’
‘Jesus Loves Me’
‘You’ll see, this interview will open many people’s eyes, it will shake Islam from the roots, and I’m not exaggerating. What other case do you know where a son of a Hamas leader, who was raised on the tenets of extremist Islam, comes out against it? Although I was never a terrorist, I was a part of them, surrounded by them all the time.’
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