Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: Son of Hamas

The Middle East is a place like no other. It's hard to know if anyone truly knows what is going on in the conflict. Despite some attempts to make comparisons between the Northern Ireland peace process and the search for peace in Israel and Palestine; indeed, with many in Northern Ireland lining up to take sides based on questionable alliances and allegiances, it's probably best to admit ignorance of the entire thing.

On holiday, one of the books I read was Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef. You've probably heard of Hamas, but who is it, what does it do, and what are they trying to achieve? Yousef has a 'most unique perspective... I am a son of that region and of that conflict. I am a child of Islam and the son of an accused terrorist. I am also a follower of Jesus.'

Yousef shares his family history, as well as his own story. His father was one of the founders of Hamas, passionate for returning people to the teaching of the Qur'an. Yet in the situation of Palestine and the conflict over territory and religion, Hamas felt that something had to be done. 'Hamas was largely animated by religious fervour and the theology of jihad, while the PLO was driven by nationalism and the ideology of power.'

Yousef's personal story is remarkable, being under surveillance by the Israeli authorities and the American special forces, being arrested, and all that follows in prison. I can't really say much more without spoiling it for you if you're going to read it, but let's just say that it's a white knuckle ride through times of trouble and terror.

As has already been mentioned, Yousef is now a Christian, having been invited to a Bible study in Jerusalem, and through the book we see how he is transformed in his words, thoughts, and actions. If anything, it's slightly disappointing in how little he talks of his conversion and how he explains it, and yet, his analysis of Islam is perceptive and illuminating:

'...the other side of Islam. Islamic life is like a ladder, with prayer and praising Allah as the bottom rung. The higher rungs represent helping the poor and needy... the highest rung is jihad... few look up to see what is at the top... A moderate Muslim is actually more dangerous than a fundamentalist, however because he appears to be harmless, and you can never tell when he has taken that next step toward the top.'

This is a fascinating and tense insider account of the turbulent times of the recent middle East. The story commands your attention, and helps to explain what is really going on, and what is needed for a true and lasting peace in the region.

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