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.