Daniel Solera's Reviews > Son of Hamas

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef
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's review
Jun 01, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: biography-memoir, current-events, religion

Son of Hamas was an interesting read. I bought it because its combination of memoir with the Middle East crisis intrigued me. Author Mosam Hassan Yousef’s father was one of the founding members of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and with this genealogy comes a life that few of us can imagine. His memoir of the last twenty years transcends religious thought and political ideology to give readers a compassionate view of the conflict in the Middle East. Many wrenches are thrown in the gears, resulting in a story that could be made into a Ridley Scott film – family conflicts, secrecy and betrayal all come together to make his story truly unique.

This all sounds like it would make a great read, right? The truth is, the story is fantastic. Yousef gets involved with many high-level individuals from various conflicting organizations and at his most involved, he is the main player in a very provocative spy story. However, the work is hurt by one element and irreparably broken by another. Let’s deal with the first of these two: the style.

Yousef wrote his memoir with journalist and Middle East expert Ron Brackin. One or both of these men is responsible for the simple, storybook style that narrates Yousef’s tale. I assume that Yousef did not learn English early in his life and recruited Brackin to assist in the writing process. Perhaps Brackin only took a backseat in the writing process and allowed Yousef to write in his own words. Maybe he felt it necessary to keep the verbosity down to reflect Yousef’s proficiency in English. Regardless of their purpose, the book was written with an overly simple lexicon that felt too childish for its source. Many times, Yousef himself would sound like a child, using words like “superdangerous” (yes, as one word).

But having a simple style won’t kill my opinion of a book. The element that shoots this work down in its tracks is Yousef’s conversion to Christianity. Before anyone rolls their eyes at me, let me explain. At one particular point in his story, Yousef begins to read the Bible and starts to grow fond of the teachings of Jesus. He eventually becomes an apostate to his family and culture by abandoning Islam and embracing the Trinity. I can ignore my hard line atheism and concede that it’s an overall good thing when the son of a Hamas leader can dodge a life of internecine martyrdom to preach the Gospel. My problem is his inexplicable rationale.

Yousef attempts to show how the conflict in the region is irreconcilable because it is fought between religious principles that are themselves irreconcilable. However, he then postulates that the reason everyone is still fighting in the Middle East is because they haven’t found the true god yet. And he says this without a shred of irony. Not once does he mention the fact that perhaps putting so much faith in higher powers is a dangerous thing, regardless of which book made them up. He is very confident in condemning Allah and his Qu’ran for his offenses but stops short of doing the same for the equally mendacious Bible.

I am being serious when I say this last element almost ruins the whole book for me, even though his proselytizing doesn’t take up much page space. The last few chapters are basically a flyer for Christ, without which the book would have been a compelling story about the reluctant heir of a terrorist group thrust between warring paramilitary groups.
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Andy Hi Daniel,

I found your review very interesting. I just read this book a couple months ago.

I don't find a double standard in Yousef citing religious intolerances for the conflicts in the Middle East (and he also explains that it is much more complicated than that). The greatest double standard he himself identified came from with his father: His father personally had no problem with Jews and he was an otherwise kind and intelligent man, but his faith states that Jews are his enemy, and so he blindly approved when others killed them for this very reason.

Yousef identified with Christ because Christ taught to love your enemies, and this was contradictory to everything he had been told his entire life. Recall how toward the end of the book, Yousef pleaded with the Shin Bet to spare top targets because it conflicted with his newfound beliefs.

I have never been to the Middle East and I admit to knowing little about its complicated history, but it seems to me (and Yousef supports this claim) that much of the turmoil can be attributed to the centuries of systematic retribution from which the region suffers. I'm surprised you didn't mention how even the Palestinian factions are at war within themselves, even to the point of torturing one another in camps! I'm reminded of that line from the movie The Princess Bride: "You killed my father; prepare to die," except in the Middle East one could say, "Your father's father father father father father father father killed my....etc., prepare to die." The glaring question the whole world asks then, is: When does it end? When will revenge no longer be the top priority on everyone's agenda?

There is no double standard in Yousef blaming others for not acknowledging the true God simply because nowhere did he state that there isn't a true God. You found a double standard within yourself when considering this concept because you mentioned being an atheist, but this is not the author's viewpoint. You are grouping all religions together, as if they are essentially the same and can all lead to dangerous consequences, whereas Yousef realized and embodied how Christ can soften a man's heart and help him rise above any ethnic, political, or even religious disputes.

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