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Son of Hamas

9 Mar 2011

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices by Mosab Hassan Yousef

At first glance I was cautiously optimistic about this book.  I read the Postscript, his dedication / letter to his family, and the first chapter.  There seemed to be a better spirit and a fairer presentation than is typically found in this genre of books (Muslim terrorist becomes Christian – e.g. Kamal Saleem (The Blood of Lambs), Walid Shoebat, Zachariah Anani (see, and Ergun Caner).

And in many ways, this is true.  Mosab criticizes both Israeilis (settlers, the government, the military) and Palestinians (the PLO, Hamas, and others).  While he shows love and appreciation for his father, he despairs over his father’s “failure to see” that “the problem is Islam”.  He portrays the torture and abuse of both sides, as well as the corruption, self-serving orientation, petty bickering, in-fighting, and just plain evil.

However, the group that is, by far, portrayed the best (though not perfect) is Israel’s Shin Bet.  They come off as basically good guys who are the only ones doing any significant good in the conflict.  Given the goals and methods of any counterintelligence / internal security organization in the world, it seems to me that Mosab does not seem sufficiently aware of how he was used by them or what they did to him psychologically. (Not to mention many other things that Shin Bet does that many would consider evil.)

Also, while I agree that the core problem is people’s sin (to use a  Christian word for a concept that most looking at the conflict would agree exists), and that the ultimate solution – reconciliation – is truly only found through repentance, forgiveness and restoration, I am disappointed by Mosab’s shallow application of Christian principles to the conflict. I don’t remember any significant reference to any Christians or Christian organizations working for peace.

I guess my biggest question is why does he write an exciting, tell-all, espionage tale – which comprises most of the book?  He could have made many of his observations; could have told much of his story; could have offered critical analysis of the Israeli government, the IDF, Hamas, Fatah, other organizations, self-serving leaders, Islam, even his critique of his father; could have held up Christian principles as the ultimate solution – all without the spy tale.  Yes, this was his story.  But he had to realize the impact of this – and how it would be seen – by all of the audiences he mentions – Palestinian Muslims, Israelis, Christians, Middle East experts and policy makers.  I would argue that he could have made his points more effectively without the spy tale.  This is illustrated in his phone conversations with his father at the end of the book.  His father still accepted him when he found out his son was a Christian.  Communication ceased when he told his father he had been a spy for the enemy. (p245-6)  Basically, Mosab’s stated goals (p 247) and methods do not seem to be a good match.

I am also concerned about Mosab’s blog,  It is a mix of proclaiming a “no such thing as moderate Islam” message where he sees his father as sincere but not realizing that “true Islam” is the problem – and American exceptionalism (using “we” and “us” to include himself with the Americans) – at least based on two of the articles on the front page of the blog today (7 Mar 2011).  Here are a couple excerpts:

“One of the biggest lies that has kept Islam alive is the belief that there is a difference between radical and moderate Islam. Islam is one, no matter where someone stands on the ladder between culture and jihad.

Another is the nature of Muhammad. Today, 1.5 billion Muslims follow a man they don’t know. Modern Muhammad is the creation of their imaginations. He bears no resemblance to the vile man who built a self-serving dynasty by oppressing his people and killing, in God’s name, everyone who opposed him.”

–part of Up the revolution! In ISLAM on February 24, 2011 at 05:05 – on

“But Mubarak is not the only object of Egyptian wrath. The United States is viewed as his co-conspirator, the muscle that enabled him to hold onto his dictatorship for 30 years.

The mobs hate him. They hate us.”

“Because the truth is that America is filled with good men and women. America is exceptional.”

–part of Middle East up for grabs In EGYPT on January 30, 2011 at 05:35 – on

Finally, I want to say that I have no idea of what Mosab has gone through, but I can see how his experiences could have strongly affected him.  I would love to see him less categorical in declaring an extremist interpretation of Islam as “true Islam”.  I am sure he has very useful insights and critiques of extremist / fundamentalist Islam (some of which appeared in the book).  Already, as I mentioned above, Mosab’s book is better than other books in this genre, but I wonder how much more of a hearing he could get with a less one-sided view of Islam.  I don’t want Mosab to stop pointing out the problems he sees in Islam – he is in a unique position to do that – I would like to see him do it in a way that could be received and really considered by more people.

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