people have media. If the father closes the door for his daughter not
to leave the house, she's going to go behind her computer and travel
the world. So people easily can get information, knowledge, searching
(sic) engines, so it's very, very available for everybody to study
about Islam, about other religions. Not from the Islam point of view,
but from other points of view.
So for the next 25 years this is for sure going to make huge change in the Muslim and the Arab world.
HUNT: You speak from a unique perspective, a man who grew up not just
in an Islamic family but as part of an organization seen by many people
around the world as an extreme force in Islam: Hamas. What is the reality of Islam? You say people don't see the reality; What is the reality of Islam?
HASSAN YOUSEF: There are two facts that Muslims don't understand ...
I'd say about more than 95 percent of Muslims don't understand their
own religion. It came with a much stronger language than the language
that they speak so they don't understand it ... they rely only on
religious people to get their knowledge about this religion.
they don't understand anything about other religions. Christian
communities live between Muslims and they're minority and they (would)
rather not to go speak out and tell people about Jesus because it's
dangerous for them.
all their ideas about other religions on earth are from Islamic
perspectives. So those two realities, most people don't understand.
people, if Muslims, start to understand their religion — first of all,
their religion — and see how awful stuff is in there, they'll start to
figure out, this can't (be) ... because most religious people focus on
certain points of Islam. They have many points that they are very
embarrassed to talk about.
JONATHAN HUNT: Such as?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Such as Muhammad's wives. You will never go to a mosque
and hear about anyone talking about Muhammad's wives, which is like
more than 50 wives — and nobody knows (this), by the way. If you ask
the majority of Muslims, they will not know this fact.
they're embarrassed to talk about this, but they talk about the glory
of Islam, they talk about the victory, the victories that Muhammad
made. So, when people just like look at themselves and see they're
defeated, they have ignorance, they're not educated, they're not
leading the world as they're expected to do. They’re think they want to
get back to that victory by doing the same, what Muhammad did, but
disregarding (sic) the timing. They forget that this happened 1,400
years ago and it's not going to happen again.
JONATHAN HUNT: Do they want to destroy Christianity?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Islam destroyed Christianity from the beginning and
Muslims don't recognize that they stabbed Christianity (in) its heart
when they said that Jesus wasn't killed on the cross. They think that
they honor him in this way.
any Christians understand that this way, (but Muslims) tell Jesus,
okay, we don't care, you didn't die for us. Someone sacrificed his life
for you, (but) you tell him, okay, you didn't do it!
is what Muslims are doing basically. But they don't understand that
this is the most important part of Christianity: the cross!
So, they are ignorant, they don't know what they are doing and it explains what an evil idea it is behind this Islam.
JONATHAN HUNT: What specific event or events began to change your mind about Islam?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Since I was a child I started to ask very difficult
questions, even my family was telling me all the time, 'You're a very
difficult person and we were having trouble answering your questions.
Why are you asking so many questions?' This was from the beginning, to
be honest with you.
I felt that everybody — and my father was a good example for me because
he was a very honest, humble person, very nice to my mother, to us, and
raised us on the principle of forgiveness, okay? I thought that
everybody in Islam was like this.
I was 18 years old, and I was arrested by the Israelis and was in an
Israeli jail under the Israeli administration, Hamas had control of its
members inside the jail and I saw their torture; (they were) torturing
people in a very, very bad way.
JONATHAN HUNT: Hamas members torturing other Hamas members?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Hamas leaders! Hamas leaders that we see on TV now, and
big leaders, responsible for torturing their own members. They didn't
torture me, but that was a shock for me, to see them torturing people:
putting needles under their nails, burning their bodies. And they
killed lots of them.
JONATHAN HUNT: Why were they torturing people?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Because they suspected that they had relations with the
Israelis and (were) co-operating with the Israeli occupation against
Hamas ... So hundreds of people were victims for this, and I was a
witness for about a year for this torture. So that was a huge change in
my life. I started to open my (eyes), but, the point (is) that I got
that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims. Good Muslims, such as my
father, and bad Muslims, like those Hamas members in the jail torturing
So that was the beginning of opening my eyes wide.
HUNT: You talk about the good Muslims, like your father, yet you still
now renounce the faith of your father. Could you have not been a good
YOUSEF: Now, here's the reality: after I studied Christianity — which I
had a big misunderstanding about, because I studied about Christianity
from Islam, which is, there is nothing true about Christianity when you
study it from Islam, and that was the only source.
I studied the Bible carefully verse by verse, I made sure that that was
the book of God, the word of God for sure, so I started to see things
in a different way, which was difficult for me, to say Islam is wrong.
is my father. I grew up for (one) father — 22 years for that father —
and another father came to me and told me, 'I'm sorry, I'm your
father.' And I was like, 'What are you talking about? Like, I have my
own father, and it's Islam!' And the father of Christianity told me,
'No, I'm your father. I was in jail, and this (Islam) is not your
this is what happened. It's not easy to believe this (Islam) is not
your father anymore. So I had to study Islam again from a different
point of view to figure out all the mistakes, the huge mistakes and its
effects, not only on Muslims — (of) which I hated the values ... I
didn't like all those traditions that make people's lives more
difficult — but its effects also on humanity. On humanity! People
killing each other (in) the name of God.
definitely I started to figure out the problem is Islam, not the
Muslims and those people — I can't hate them because God loved them
from the beginning. And God doesn't create junk. God created good
people that he loved, but they're sick, they have the wrong idea. I
don't hate those people anymore but I feel very sorry for them and the
only way for them to be changed (is) by knowing the word of God and the
real way to him.
HUNT: Does it worry you that in saying these things — and given your
background and your words carrying extra weight — there is a danger
that you will increase the difficulties, the hatred between Christians
and Muslims in the world right now?
HASSAN YOUSEF: This could happen if a Christian person will go talk to
them about the reality of Islam. They put Christians on the enemy list
anyway, before you talk to them about Islam. So if you go to them and
tell them, as a Christian, they will be offended immediately and they
will hate you and this will definitely increase the vacuum between both
religions — but what made someone like me change?
ago, years ago, when I was there, God opened my eyes, my mind also, and
I became a completely different person. So now, I can do this duty,
while you as Christians can help me do it, but maybe you wouldn't be
able to. (Muslims) have no excuse now.
HUNT: How difficult a process has this been for you to effectively walk
away from your family, leave your home behind? How difficult is that?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Taking your skin off your bones, that's what happened. I
love my family, they love me. And my little brothers, they’re like my
sons. I raised them. Basically, it was the biggest decision in my life.
left everything behind me, not only family. When you decide to convert
to Christianity or any other religion from Islam, it's not (enough) to
just say goodbye and leave, you know? It's not like that. You're saying
goodbye to culture, civilization, traditions, society, family,
religion, God — what you thought was God for so many years! So it's not
easy. It's very complicated. People think it's that easy, like it
doesn't matter. Now I'm here in the U.S. and I got my freedom and it's
great, but at the same time, nothing is like family, you know. To lose
your family —
JONATHAN HUNT: Have you lost your family?
HASSAN YOUSEF: My family is educated and it was very difficult for
them. They asked me many times, especially for the first two days, to
keep my faith to myself and not go to the media and announce it.
for me it was a duty from God to announce his name and praise him
(around) the world because my reward is going to be that he's going to
do the same for me. So I did it, basically, as a duty. I (wonder) how
many people can do what I can do today? I didn't find any.
I had to be strong about that. That was very challenging. That was the
most difficult decision in my life and I didn't do it for fun. I didn't
do it for anything from this world. I did it only for one reason: I
believed in it. People are suffering every day because of wrong ideas.
I can help them get out of this endless circle ... the track the devil
(laid) for them.
JONATHAN HUNT: Have you spoken to your father recently?
HASSAN YOUSEF: There is no chance to communicate with my father because
he's in jail now and there is (sic) no phones in the jail to
communicate with him.
JONATHAN HUNT: Have other members of your family told you how he's reacted?
HASSAN YOUSEF: They've visited him from time to time. Till this moment,
I don't know his reaction exactly but I'm sure he's very sad (over) a
decision like this. But at the same time, he's going to understand,
because he knows me and he knows that I don't make any decisions
without (believing strongly in them).
JONATHAN HUNT: Is it making his life more difficult among fellow Hamas members?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Definitely. My family, including my father, had to carry
this cross with me. It wasn't their choice. It was my choice, but they
had to carry this cross with me and I ask God — I pray for (my father),
all my brothers and my sisters here in this church, praying all the
time for them — 'God, open their eyes, their minds, to come to Christ.
And bless them because they had to carry this cross with me.'
HUNT: Tell me about Hamas and the way it works. Is Hamas a purely
Islamic religious organization as you see it, and that's where, in your
eyes, its faults lie, or are there other parts of it which are a
problem for you? Or is Hamas a good organization? What is Hamas to you?
HASSAN YOUSEF: If we talk about people, there are good people
everywhere. Everywhere. I mean, good people that God created.
they do their own things? Yes, they do their own things. I know people
who support Hamas but they never got involved in terrorist attacks, for
example ... They follow Hamas because they love God and they think that
Hamas represents God. They don’t have knowledge, they don't know the
real God and they never studied Christianity. But Hamas, as
representative for Islam, it's a big problem.
problem is not Hamas, the problem is not people. The root of the
problem is Islam itself as an idea, as an idea. And about Hamas as an
organization, of course, the Hamas leadership, including my father,
they're responsible; they're responsible for all the violence that
happened from the organization. I know they describe it as reaction to
Israeli aggression, but still, they are part of it and they had to make
decisions in those operations against Israel, (for) which there was the killing of many civilians.
JONATHAN HUNT: Do you believe Israel blameless in the conflict?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Occupation is bad. I can't say Israel — I'm not against
any nation. We can't say Israelis, we can't say Palestinians, we're
talking about ideas. Israel has the right to defend itself, nobody can
(argue) against this. But sometimes they use (too much) aggression
against civilians. Sometimes many civilians were killed because those
soldiers weren't responsible enough, how they treat people at the
even to the Israeli soldiers: at least treat people in a good way at
the checkpoints. You don't have to look really bad and it's not about
nations, it's about just wrong ideas on both sides and the only way for
two nations really to get out of the endless circle is to know the
principles that Jesus brought to this earth: grace, love, forgiveness.
Without this, they will never be able to move on, or break this endless
You've seen your father jailed, you've been in prison yourself. You've
seen Hamas carry out acts of terror against Israelis, and yet you say
everybody needs to rise above that?
MOSAB HASSAN YOUSEF: Definitely. This is the only choice. Nobody has magic power to do something for the Middle East.
No one. You can ask any politician here in the U.S., you can ask any
Palestinian politician or Arab politician, Israeli leaders; no one, no
one can do anything. Even if they believe in peace now: they're part of
of the trick. They can't, even if you find a brave person, like Rabin,
who was called by an Israeli to make peace with the Palestinians and
give them a state, no one, even if you find a strong leader, they can't
do this. You can't force an independent country to give another country
independence. (Especially when) the other country wants to destroy it.
is hurt. Israeli soldiers, they lost their friends. Palestinians, they
lost their children, their fathers. (There are) many people in prison
still, and many people were killed. Thousands. So everybody will never
forget this. If they want to keep looking to the past, they will never
get out of this circle. The only way to start (is just by) moving on.
They were born under the occupation as Palestinians.
last two generations, it's not their choice. The new generations from
Israel — if we say disregarding the existence of Israel is right or
wrong, what's the guilt of those people who were born in Israel and
they have no other country to go to? It's their country now, that's how
they see it. And they are going to keep their resistance and defense
against whomever. (They will) say, 'Get out of this land!' So the only
way is for both nations to start to understand the grace, love and
forgiveness of God, to be able to get out of this.
JONATHAN HUNT: Do you believe that Israel can ever strike a peace deal with Hamas?
HASSAN YOUSEF: There is no chance. Is there any chance for fire to
co-exist with the water? There is no chance. Hamas can play politics
for 10 years, 15 years; but ask any one of Hamas' leaders, 'Okay,
what's going to happen after that? Are you just going to live and
co-exist with Israel forever?' The answer is going to be no ... unless
they want to do something against the Koran. But it's their ideology
and they can't just say 'We're not going to do it.' So there is no
chance. It's not about Israel, it's not about Hamas: it's about both
ideologies. There is no chance.
HUNT: Aren't you terrified that somebody is going to try to kill you
for saying these things — which would be approved of according to parts
of the Koran?
HASSAN YOUSEF: They got to kill my ideas first, (and) that's it,
they're already out. So how are they going to kill my idea? How are
they going to kill the opinions that I have? ... They can kill my body,
but they can't kill my soul.
JONATHAN HUNT: You're not afraid?
HASSAN YOUSEF: As a human, you know, I can be very brave now, I'm not
thinking about it at this moment and I feel that God is on my side. But
if this will be the challenge, I ask God to give me enough strength.
JONATHAN HUNT: Have you been threatened?
HASSAN YOUSEF: No, not really. Honestly, most Muslims and Muslim
leaders here in the U.S. community, European communities, they are
trying to get ahold of me. They are calling my famiily, my mother, and
asking for my contacts. They are telling her, 'We want to help him.'
JONATHAN HUNT: They think you need help?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Yeah, they think that Christians took advantage of me,
and this is completely wrong. I've been a Christian for a long time
before they knew, or anyone knew. I love Jesus, I followed him for many
years now. It wasn't a secret for most of the time, and this time I
just did it to glorify the name of God and praise him.
not dealing with a regular Muslim. They know that I'm educated, they
know that I studied, they know that I studied Islam and Christianity.
When I made my decision, I didn't make it because someone did magic on
me or convinced me. It was completely my decision.
JONATHAN HUNT: Do you miss Ramallah?
HASSAN YOUSEF: Definitely. You've been there and you know how a
wonderful country (it is). Very, very beautiful. It's a very small spot
and it has everything — this is why people are fighting for that piece
of land. I definitely miss Ramallah. Jereusalem. The Old City.
JONATHAN HUNT: Do you believe you will ever be able to go back?
HASSAN YOUSEF: I think I belong to that land, and sooner or later I'm
going to go back, no matter what. If they want to kill me, they (will)
do whatever they want to do. I have a family there, they love me, they
completely support me now with my decisions. Maybe they don't want me
to talk to the media but they believe that I made a decision that I
completely believe in. So they support me, so I love my family. I'm
going to go back there again one day. I love my town.
JONATHAN HUNT: Do you think you'll ever go back to a Middle East living in peace?
HASSAN YOUSEF: There will be a 100-person peace when Jesus comes back,
when he judges everybody. His kingdom's going to be 1,000 years and
it's going to be completely peaceful and it's going to be the kingdom
JONATHAN HUNT: What is your basic message to any Muslim listening to this right now?
HASSAN YOUSEF: My message to them is, first of all, to open their
minds. They were born to Muslim families — this is how they got Islam
and this is just like ... any other religion, like growing up (in) a
Christian family, or growing up (in) a Jewish family.
my point is that I want those people to open their eyes, their minds,
to start to understand and imagine that they weren't born for a Muslim
famiily. And use their minds.
did God give them minds? Open their hearts. Read the Bible. Study their
religion. I want to open the gate for them, I want them to be free.
They will find a good life on earth just by following God — and they're
also going to guarantee the other life.