NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The son of a prominent leader in the Hamas terrorist organization has publicly declared his faith in Jesus Christ and warned that Israel can never be at peace with the “wicked and cruel” men who lead Hamas.
Masab Yousef, who now prefers to be known as “Joseph,” is the oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a political leader of the Hamas organization in the West Bank and one of the movement’s most popular public figures. He gave his life to Christ in 2004, four years after a friend invited him to a Bible study and he began to read the Christian scriptures for himself.
“At this stage I was still a Muslim and I thought that I would remain one. But every day I saw the terrible things done in the name of religion by those who considered themselves ‘great believers,’” Yousef told the Haaretz news organization. “I studied Islam more thoroughly and found no answers there. I re-examined the Koran and the principles of the faith and found how it is mistaken and misleading. The Muslims borrowed rituals and traditions from all the surrounding religions.”
His father, who is not involved with the military arm of Hamas, is a moderate who does not support the use of terror to further the cause of a Palestinian state, Yousef said. In fact, he takes some credit for his father’s advocacy of a “two-state solution” for Middle East peace.
“When I was with my father, I in effect pushed a moderate Hamas leader into making logical decisions, such as stopping the attacks and establishing two states alongside one another,” Yousef told Haaretz. “I felt responsible. It was better for me to be there rather than a gang of fools who would poison his mind.
“I tried to understand those people, their thoughts, in order to change them from inside by means of a strong person like my father, who admitted to me in the past that he does not support suicide attacks,” he added. “He thinks that harming innocent people gives the organization a bad name. The sheikh once said to me that when he sees an insect outside the house he is careful not to harm it, ‘so what can I say about harming civilians?'”
When he was arrested by the Israel Defense Force in 1996 at age 18 for being the head of a Hamas youth organization, Yousef was incarcerated at Megiddo Prison, where he had an opportunity to see that most Hamas leaders were not peaceful men like his father.
“I sat in Megiddo Prison and suddenly I understood who the real Hamas was,” Yousef told Haaretz. “These people have no morals, they have no integrity. But they aren’t as stupid as Fatah, which steals in broad daylight in front of everyone and is immediately suspected of corruption. [Hamas people] receive money in dishonest ways, invest it in secret places, and outwardly maintain a simple lifestyle.”
Yousef said the extremists’ deception extends to their representation of Islam itself.
“The people who supposedly represent the religion admired Mohammed more than God, killed innocent people in the name of Islam, beat their wives and don’t have any idea what God is,” he told Haaretz. “I have no doubt that they’ll go to hell. I have a message for them: There is only one way to Paradise — the way of Jesus who sacrificed Himself on the cross for all of us.”
Israelis and their friends should not be deceived into thinking that peace with Hamas is possible, Yousef said.
“You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews,” he told Haaretz. “They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death. They have to take revenge against anyone who did not agree to accept the Prophet Mohammed.”
Islam as a culture “sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists,” Yousef added. Hamas extremists “are blind and ignorant. It’s true, there are good and bad people everywhere, but Hamas supporters don’t understand that they are led by a wicked and cruel group that brainwashes the children and gets them to believe that if they carry out a suicide attack they’ll get to Paradise.”
Christian love and forgiveness hold the only hope for peace in the Middle East, Yousef said.
“Many people will hate me for this interview, but I’m telling them that I love all of them, even those who hate me. I invite all the people, including the terrorists among them, to open their hearts and believe,” he told Haaretz. “Now I’m trying to establish an international organization for young people that will teach about Christianity, love and peace in the territories, too. I would like to teach the young people how to love and forgive, because that’s the only way the two nations can overcome the mistakes of the past and live in peace.”
Compiled by Mark Kelly, an assistant editor with Baptist Press.