The Palestinian, Mosab Hassan Yousef describes himself as “a son of that region and of that conflict … a child of Islam and the son of an accused terrorist … a follower of Jesus.” A native of West Bank region of Israel, memories of the massive graveyard in his town and his father’s devotion to Islam tug at his thoughts. Politics and violence entered the fray. To fight Israeli occupation and to establish some kind of order in their chaotic Palestinian society, in 1986, when Yousef was eight years old, his father and six others formed the radical Islamic group Hamas.
As a youth, Yousef threw rocks to establish himself as the son of a Hamas leader, yet he later kept himself from the battle, witnessing firsthand the struggles of his family. He saw the ascent and arming of Hamas, and the subsequent clashes and battles that ensued. His writing looms with a heavy frustration and grief at the difficulty of life in the Palestinian territories. His eyes saw the pointlessness of the Hamas organization. He writes, “In short, we were becoming our own worst enemies.”
At eighteen years old, Yousef was arrested. He describes in details his prison time and the injustices he witnessed. Hoping for pardon, he agreed to become an agent for Shin Bet, the Israeli security service. Initially his plan was to turn on the Israelis at his first opportunity. However, after witnessing the cruelty of his own Hamas cohorts toward each other behind razor-wire fencing, he began to rethink his position. When he was released from prison he went undercover, rising in the ranks of Hamas while collecting intelligence to help bring it to an end. He prevented assassinations, stopped suicide attacks and provided information leading to the arrests or killings of many terrorists. It was during this time (from 1997-2007), that he remarkably met Jesus.
God saw to it that in 1999 he had a encounter with a British visitor who invited Yousef to learn about the Christianity. Yousef took this opportunity and was blown away by the difference between Jesus Christ and Mohammed, between the Christian faith and the Islam of his people. In the months that followed he slowly converted to Christianity and was baptized.
Son of Hamas is extremely helpful in creating empathy. Yousef honestly speaks about his early hatred of Israel, something that would naturally occur in the tornado of cultural violence and poverty. However now spending time with Israeli Jews in the form of the Shin Bet, and the change of heart that comes from meeting Jesus, he saw that these enemies of his were actually just people like him. What we in the West may think of as a “good guy/bad guy” conflict, through mysterious headlines and statistics, becomes men and women struggling not against one another, but against ideology. Yousef articulates it to his Israeli security friends: “‘We’re fighting a war that can’t be won with arrests, interrogations, and assassinations. Our enemies are ideas, and ideas don’t care about incursions and curfews. We can’t blow up an idea with a [tank]. You are not our problem, and we are not yours. We’re all like rats trapped in a maze.'”
In this turmoil and complexity Yoused was being drawn by God. Providentially God saw to it that a New Testament made it into his hand. While he still deeply respects and loves his father, and loves his people, he ultimately discovered that Jesus is the Truth; thus he left father and people to stand with Christ.
What he discovered was ultimately where peace will be found, ““Freedom, a deep longing for freedom, is really at the heart of my story. It is my greatest hope that, in telling my own story, I will show my own people—Palestinian followers of Islam who have been used by corrupt regimes for hundreds of years—that the truth can set them free.”
Eventually Yousef grew weary of his double life and convinced the Israelis to release him from his clandestine life. Reluctantly they agreed and Yousef moved to the United States where still lives to date. Son of Hamas is the story of his life, “A gripping account of terror, betrayal, political intrigue, and unthinkable choices,” according to the subtitle.
I really appreciated the following about Son of Hamas:
1. It shows the Israelis not as the good guys but as the less-bad guys. He grows in respect for them when he sees that they are fighting for their lives against nations determined to destroy them. However, even though there is a good cause, one sees how on the ground that often translates to torture and killing. In the end, in war, even the supposed ‘good-guys’ are sinners.
2. I loved the description of the process of turmoil and complexity that Yousef went through during his conversion to Christ. Only after much heart-work was he able to see Jesus Christ not just as a prophet but as the Son of God who died for the sin of the world
3. This book made me rejoice again at election. God’s Word accomplishes what He sent it to do. What an unlikely convert. But God reached in and saved the son of the founder of an Islamic terrorist group.
This book is well worth reading. Get a copy and wonder at God’s grace. Rejoice as you see how God woos and draws a man through the circumstances of life.