A Skeptic's Guide to the Universe: Reading Son of Hamas offers a rare glimpse of clarity and sanity in the Middle East infowars
By Charlotte B. Cerminaro
In this age of instantaneous global information it's difficult to imagine a conflict of ideologies as far removed from media coverage as its origins are from modern geopolitics. It is a problem of historic depth, reflecting an animosity that is unthinkable to those who have never borne witness, and is fueled by the irresponsible lack of comprehension among key players. In his book, Son of Hamas, Mosab Hassan Yousef outlines the complex history of Arab-Israeli conflict, offering insight which has long eluded political experts – and possible answers that might just hold the key to peace in the Middle East.
Growing up in the West Bank, Mosab's father was a highly-respected Islamic leader of a grassroots religious revival. During the early 20th century the Muslim Brotherhood was formed for religious revival as well but it quickly grew increasingly political. Extremists were among its members, committing acts of violent revolution and recruiting religious leaders to lend credibility. A chance encounter with this group brought Mosab's father to an intersection – politics and religion – and a decision that would irrevocably alter the course of many lives. He was the stepping stone for a new extremist group called Hamas.
Like most young children, Mosab believed nearly everything he was told regardless of its source or soundness. His father was not a hateful or violent man but many of his followers were, and he never overtly denounced it. Mosab learned to hate all Israelis never having met one, and wanted to do violence for reasons that were vague and unclear. He witnessed those who were extremely adept, manipulating any unfortunate incident into a catalyst for violence. Being caught up in perpetual hatred seemed to simplify multi-faceted issues but it only created more problems, insoluble and incomprehensible. Hatred does indeed hold its captives in powerful blindness.
All of these beliefs gradually unraveled as Mosab began interacting with the "enemy". His ties to Hamas made him a possible security threat, but even when he was interrogated and briefly imprisoned he saw that the Israelis were not what he expected. As a nation they'd survived impossible odds, the vast majority of them now peacefully coexisting with their Arab neighbors. His reflexive hatred and institutionalized violence only served injustice, the products of an irrational and destructive ideology.
The religious implications were even more profound: Clearly the Judeo-Christian God does not call for jihad. Regardless of their flaws, most Israeli people value life, even the lives of their enemies. Mosab had been raised in a culture of death, arbitrarily devaluing and dehumanizing for the purpose of genocide.
Through years of studying, questioning and introspection Mosab ultimately found another path, another faith: Christianity. A solid grasp of history and intelligence have convinced him that the Middle East will never find an enduring peace by treading the same well-worn path. Brokering "land for peace" has only compromised security for everyone, inviting ever-more untenable demands.
An eternal animosity that began thousands of years ago between the two descendants of Abraham – Isaac and Ishmael – has continued through their own descendants, Israeli and Arab. They will find reconciliation only through the Messianic commandments: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are also given a promise, that anyone who earnestly seeks God will find Him.
Mosab firmly believes that he is a beneficiary of this promise, and that our worst problems occur when humans try to play god, seeking domination rather than decency, acting on hatred instead of love. Enemies are to be considered as neighbors because we do not know who will ultimately find redemption and reconciliation; only God knows. And only after we've learned to fully love God can we find true compassion for others. Mosab believes this is the only path to peace. For Muslims to set aside their own feelings of hate, their desire to kill and destroy, they would have to seek a higher truth, one that is not their own.
The subtle wisdom of an old testament Proverb sounds the depths of this truth – just as that still, small voice: It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; to search out a matter is the honor of kings.
Charlotte B. Cerminaro is a Juilliard-trained classical musician and recording artist. In her free time she enjoys writing and regularly contributes to Enter Stage Right and she attained a Bachelor's Degree in Molecular Biology.