Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The 'Green Prince' speaks in Auburn, CA

Saturday night, Calvary Chapel Church in Auburn, CA hosted Mosab Hassan Yousef. Mosab, a Palestinian and son of a Hamas leader and founder, spied for the Israeli intelligence agency, Shin Bet, from 1997-2007. In March 2010, Mosab released a book titled, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices.

Mosab moved to the United States following his decade of serving as a double agent with Hamas and Shin Bet. Mosab decided to tell his story through his book and continues to tell his story and promote his book through speaking engagements.

Calvary Chapel is a Christian denomination founded in 1965, which is "doctrinally evangelical, dispensational, pretribulationist, and believes in the principle of Sola Scriptura," (Wikipedia). Calvary Chapel also believes that the Jews remain the people of God and that Israel will play a central role in the end times and the return of Christ (i.e. Christian Zionism).

The event on Saturday evening started with several Christian worship songs, which were followed by a taped broadcast from Israeli Channel 2 News, and concluded with an hour Q&A between Mosab and Greg Denham, the senior pastor of Auburn Calvary Chapel.

My reactions to the event were quite complex and multi-layered.

Mosab's conversion to Christianity seems quite genuine, as does his distaste for the way that Hamas operates, chooses to resist, and suppresses dissent within the Palestinian community. Mosab spoke from his own faith perspective, about how his feeling of Christ's presence and the words of the Bible have dramatically changed his life and his view of the world.

I take issues with no part of his faith journey or the barebones of his decision to leave Hamas and seek to prevent future suicide bombings and Hamas' use of torture.

But frankly, I don't want to spend my time recounting what Mosab presented to the hundreds of people (maybe one thousand) who were present. If you want to hear his story, read his book, or watch his interviews. I can't take issue with Mosab's story, because it is uniquely his story, which he has the right to tell. But I do disagree with much of his analysis of the political situation in Israel/Palestine and I vehemently disagree with his presentation of the Islamic faith. Additionally, Mosab attempted to represent more than his own voice and seemed to be speaking for all Muslims and all Palestinians. His opinion, perspective, and analysis was presented as fact. Sadly, I think many in the audience were hearing a Palestinian speak for the first time and were also hearing a Muslim (albeit a former Muslim who has now converted to Christian) speak for the first time.

For digestive purposes, we will move forward working with the two themes I have identified: political situation in Israel/Palestine and the presentation of Islam. I will provide excerpted quotes or near quotes from Mosab (except when another speaker is identified) with which I take issue, followed or not followed by my response to the speaker's statement. I don't know how to do this otherwise because I have far too many disconnected thoughts about this event. The speakers quotes (or paraphrased quotes) come first, my responses follow in italics.

Political Situation in Israel/Palestine
-There are tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, which terrorists used to smuggle weapons and arms into the Gaza Strip. --This may very well be true, but a more accurate portrayal of the Rafah tunnels are tunnels in which nearly every good finds it's way into the Gaza Strip. Food, medicine, cars, and generators also come in through the tunnels because many products (such as wood for building) are banned by Israel from entering Gaza through entry points or are so limitied in their quota allowance that additional quantities of the goods must be found.
-The Arabs in 1948 tried to throw the Jews into the sea. --There was violence by Jewish guerilla groups and there was also violence by Palestinian factions. The end result after the violence of 1948 was that 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes or fled as a result of the violence. None of those refugees have been permitted to return to their homes.
-The Arabs lost their offensive war of 1948. --That's disputable at best, that the war was an Arab offensive. Read the first two paragraphs of the Wikipedia article about the June War of 1967. Israel launched an surprise large-scale air strike in response to Egypt's closure of the Straits of Tiran, this was the beginning of the 1967 War.
-The occupation was not to blame for our suffering, our problems was bigger than foreign weapons and armies. --Not sure if he is speaking collectively for Palestinians, but I can say that the occupation is a huge part of daily suffering for the huge majority of Palestinians.
-If their [Palestinians] goal was to build a state and build peace instead of trying to destroy Israel, they would have a state and peace already (followed by grand applause from the crowd). --I simply disagree. Israel holds the cards. They have the power. They control borders, airspace, the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, what comes in/out of Gaza. They have resisted granting Palestinian statehood in terms that Palestinians would find exceptable. Israel will not come to the table of the basis of returning to the borders before the 1967 war, would would be the starting place according to international law. Both parties have made mistakes and miscalculations, but Palestinians haven't had the power to achieve statehood.

-The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a war between the God of Islam and the God of the Bible.
-The God of Islam wants all of the land, but the God of the Bible gave this land to his people. -- That's a particular reading of the Bible (not to mention a particular reading of the Quran) that I disagree with.
-While a photo of the Old City of Jerusalem, centered on the Dome of the Rock and the temple mount, was on the screen, Mosab recounted a passage from the Quran. The passage recounts a miracle where Mohammed ascends to the sky on a donkey, from the area around the Dome of the Rock. Mosab emphasized there were no witnesses, and joked that it was foolish to perform a miracle without witnesses. Who was Mohammed trying to impress, the donkey? --I found this quite distasteful, this is a sacred text according to 1.5 billion Muslims. Disrespecting someone else's faith and their sacred texts is...well, it's just not very nice, it's disrespectful.
-Mosab said he can't wait for the day that God will build his kingdom in Jerusalem instead of this ugly yellow building being present (referring the building built around the Dome of the Rock). --Distasteful. And, the dispensationalist and zionist theology was just oozing at this point. It's a theology that is so ubiquitous and ingrained into evangelical Christian theology, of which Calvary Chapel is part, that I am sure that many people didn't even recognize it as a theology that many Christians would disagree with.
-Quran says to kill Jews. Quran says Jews are sons of pigs and monkeys. --Most Quranic scholars would refute this and present a different reading or understanding of the text. In a similar vain, most Biblical scholars wouldn't say, "we are to kill women and children because in this passage God commanded his people to go into the land west of the Jordan River and kill and the women and children." Biblical scholars, or at least those scholars who have an ounce of a soul, will provide context and an alternative reading of the passage instead of telling Christians to go kill women and children in the land God gave them.
-It's in the DNA of Islam to kill the infidels. Most muslims are on the first rung of Islam, but the top of the ladder is to be a militant, a fighter for the cause of Islam. The top of the ladder isn't extremism, that is Islam.
-The more you follow Islam, the more you become a terrorist. Their God is a terrorist and their prophet is a terrorist. --That is simply fomenting the Islamaphobia and hatred of Muslims that is already present and snowballing in America. I know plenty of Muslims that claim to have increased their love and respect for other people as they become more connected with their Islamic faith.
-There are Islamic terrorists because they are following Islam. --Yep. Let's forget about stated reasons that many groups carry out terror attacks, such as Al Qaeda's stated opposition to the presence of US troops on the Arabian peninsula, Palestinian terrorist factions who explicitly act in opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip. Also, what about the fact that from 1980-2003, the majority of terrorist attacks were carried out by secular, athiest, and marxist groups (such as the Tamil Tigers). Are the Tamil Tigers secretly following Islam without knowing it? Marx said religion was the opiate of the people, but he was secretly inserting Islamic theology into his writings. That tricky devil.
-As a Muslim I believed Christ was a prophet, and I believed that Mohammed who raped, killed, and stole, is better than Christ.
-Islam is a religion of war. It's lies. It's a perfect lie wrapped in some truths, facts, and morals. The morals that are in Islam were stolen from Christianity and Judasim. --Stolen because those values belonged to Christianity and Judaism, and Christianity and Judaism invented them? I would tend to believe many of Christian-Judeo values predate the origin of the religion.
-We will defeat Islam. --I assume he means Christians will defeat Islam. Kinda scary, and no thanks, I want no part in forcibly defeating Islam.

Mosab told his story, fair, but he also spoke with authority and conviction about the political realities in Israel/Palestine and about the Islamic faith without ever once stating that this was his opinion or his particular perspective. He presented the things I have quoted above as facts, that the audience should accept, full stop. And sadly, it seemed like the audience bought it, hook, line and sinker. He is entitled to his opinion, and I am sure his tumultuous relationship with Hamas (an explicitly Islamic political movement) and also his split life between Israeli and Palestinian circles formed many of his opinions. He was also exposed to an especially radical form of Islam, that has gotten all wrapped up in an armed political resistance movement. Nonetheless, no one, not even the 'Green Prince', Mosab Hassan Yousef, can speak representing more than his own voice. He cannot be the Muslim voice, the Palestinian voice, the ex-Hamas voice, or the Muslim who converted to Christianity voice. He is the Mosab Hassan Yousef voice. In the same way I can speak with my own voice, as my own voice, not as the Auburn voice, the Christian voice, the human rights worker voice, nor as the American voice.

My fear is that a group of (primarily) evangelical Christians, some of which carry a degree of animosity towards Muslims (a recent poll reported that many Americans feel animosity towards Muslims), had their fears of Islam and their animosity towards Muslims confirmed and even accentuated. Even more, the palpable hatred towards Islam, Muslims, and mosques that has been especially prevelant as a result of the recent (2 blocks from) 'Ground Zero Mosque, may have been fomented last night. I also fear that the common evangelical Christian perspective that Israel is God's country, that Israel is a Jewish nation necessary for the coming of Christ, and that Israel is a poor victim of Palestinian terror was strengthened last night. Sadly these positions may have been strengthened last night, contrary to the facts of the political realities in the Middle East. Also, the Islamic faith, a faith sacred and beautiful for more than a billion people, was slandered last night, contrary to the most basic of rules: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


Sergio said...

It's true that his story/opinions is being latched onto by conservative/evangelical Christians as an "I told you so" about Islam. My ex-coworker that had part in taking him in here in SD and helping him get settled is a part of a conservative Southern Baptist church that "prays" on young people. Some of their beliefs on Islam (other things too) are just down right scary.

Anonymous said...

Your remarks are amateur at best!

Anonymous said...

Where does one even begin reading your silly comments. We need clear and accurate voices today, not childish propagandists such as yourself. Step up and identify how Islam was "slandered" ???

Anonymous said...

You write, "the dispensationalist and zionist theology was just oozing at this point. It's a theology that is so ubiquitous and ingrained into evangelical Christian theology, of which Calvary Chapel is part, that I am sure that many people didn't even recognize it as a theology that many Christians would disagree with."

So what? What's the alternative? To perpetuate the ridiculous idea that Mohammed was actually in Jerusalem! You believe this!? Get your head out of the closet of total ignorance.

Anonymous said...

You write, "Mosab told his story, fair, but he also spoke with authority and conviction about the political realities in Israel/Palestine and about the Islamic faith without ever once stating that this was his opinion or his particular perspective"


Samuel Nichols said...

First, identify yourself rather than remaining anonymous or I will delete your comments. Remaining anonymous on this forum isn't a way to have any kind of a dialogue.

Secondly, I elaborated in the section of the post entitled 'Islam' of the ways that Islam was slandered. Islam was presented during the event, in an objective manner (yet without facts) that Islam is a religion of war and violence. That's what I refer to as slandering the religion. No Muslim I have ever met would agree to that, nor would they believe that claim is substantiated in the Quran.

Thirdly, the alternative to dispensationalism is not a 'closet of ignorance', but is probably more widely accepted than dispensationalism, and it's called covenant theology. It's the theological strain that claims that the Church is the new Israel (i.e. the new people of God). We are not waiting for the restoration of Israel (because the links between the election of Abraham and his descendents and the modern nation of Israel is a stretch anyway), because the election of Israel has been broadened through Jesus (there is no longer jew nor gentile, we are all one in Christ). The covenant God made is for God's people, the Church. We aren't waiting for the kingdom of God to break through in the restoration of the modern state of Israel, but the kingdom is already breaking through in the Church, through Christ and the Spirit.

Fourthly, I have risen to the status of amateur blogger/journalist. Excellent. Thanks, anonymous.

Samuel Nichols said...

Posting anonymously is online blogger commenting cowardice. And typing in CAPS is just annoying. I am happy to respond to people, but please identify yourself, or I will delete your comments.

I think I need a comments policy on this blog.

jason kroening said...

Thanks for your comments Sam. It is so saddening that a presentation like this so informs the minds of hundreds of people who may never hear alternative ideas and stories. Must have felt a bit crippling. I'm not sure what the next step is in the face of Christian Zionism and growing Islamic intolerance. American views and statements worry me more now than they have with many other major dividing issues in the past several years. These views are different as they begin to blur the line toward racist hatred.

Anonymous said...

Jason, for someone who was in the audience, your good friend Samuel is the one who is perpetuating ignorance. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

Samuel, it's too bad you erased my comment not to be afraid of ideas. Let the ideas have the platform! Isn't that really the essence of Mosab's message and what he stands for at risk of his own life? Isn't he someone who is a conduit of ideas? A message? Again, I don't have a google account. thanks

Sergio Salgado said...

Jason, for someone who was in the audience, your good friend Samuel is the one who is perpetuating ignorance. It's sad.

Anonymous, it's great to hear from someone who was in the audience and has a different opinion. It's interesting that people who share the same experience can come away from something with very different outlooks. Our views, opinions and ideas are shaped by our past and current cultures, lifestyles and many other things.

With that said, I also have direct experience with the "Green Prince" and have had countless of in depth conversations with the people he has shaped (and have shaped him) right here in San Diego. Having heard their selective quoting of the Quran and selective arguments before, I feel that Sam's interpretation is probably accurate.

Jason, it's true that American views are quite amazing. We can take such giant leaps forward in this country and just as quickly go backwards. I think fear of what is outside this country's walls is getting bigger and bigger every day.

Samuel Nichols said...

There is an option of leaving a name and/or URL. It doesn't have you be your real name if you don't want it to. It's a way of distinguishing between a bunch of anonymouses, where I don't know you who is reposting or who is posting for the first time.

Also, under OpenID you can post with your AIM account, or with another blog log-in, if you have one.

Samuel Nichols said...

p.s. I didn't erase any comments yet. But if you keep not identifying youselves, like I already threatened, then I will erase your comments. Put a name, a fake name, a species of plant, whatever you want.

Samuel Nichols said...

You nailed it Sergio. Fear is a powerful force. It is often the motivation behind many of our biggest mistakes and the spark for many of history's greatest atrocities.

jason kroening said...

i just read an article about the florida pastor's plans to burn qurans on sept 11 with his congregation and the ensuing protests in afghanistan. it is sad that it takes protesting halfway around the world to bring such a hate-filled idea to mainstream media.

this is the dangerous hate that i am more and more worried about these days. i've heard it from all kinds of people, but in my experience it has often come from the church. perhaps it is out of fear, but i think also out of intolerance and narrow-mindedness-an unwillingness to accept ideas outside of one's own religion. and i've been on the other side so i know it is a real, deep-seeded belief that stems from their genuine faith. i get that. but it goes too far for me when basic human rights injustices are committed and moral compasses are thrown out the window.

i'm getting off topic from the original post but the church/faith angle interests me based on my past experience.

and nameless-one, why do you think sam is perpetrating ignorance? he is giving his opinion and reflection on comments made at a presentation he attended based on his experience and own biases which we all have. he's sharing his thoughts and ideas. when did this become ignorant? he isn't preventing anyone from realizing their rights and he isn't insulting anyone. so label ignorant whom you'd like to label, but understand that this is the sort of intolerance i am talking about that creates a world of hatred.

i think there is also this thing that happens when a person has a religious world-view that they feel applies to everyone (even if they don't "accept" it), they seem to have a difficult time understanding that not everyone believes the same way they do. that is why there are basic rights that exist outside of religious world-views. these must be respected, even if it may not further the cause or plan of that religion. i will clarify, this is my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Hey Samuel, please remove anonymous remarks. I don't want to be associated with your crap and give this blog any credibility. I can see that your twisted. thanks

Samuel Nichols said...

After all those times I asked you to leave a name instead of anonymous, and instructed you how to do that, and after I thoughtfully, and calmly replied to your caps lock, trolling definitely don't get the satisfaction of me deleting your comments.

Tune in next week.