Published at

October 10th, 2015

To Mosab Hassan Yousef


I grew up a fundamentalist as you did. A Christian fundamentalist in my case. Back then I believed the 9/11 was a muslim-orchestrated event, and when the US began the war against Afghanistan I taught my classmates and people in Sunday school that it was fair because as Cain killed Abel and all arabs are sons and daughters of Cain they should be killed in retaliation (yeah, they taught us at church that arabs not only descend from Ishmael, but originally from Cain). For strange reasons we Christians are taught to take verses and interpreted isolated from the rest of the Bible, so we forget that after Cain came Christ and what Christ did must “adjust” our interpretation of the whole Bible. The core message is sacrifice by love and for love, peace with justice, not peace alone.

I got the opportunity to study a Masters degree in religion so I‘m in diapers now on this issues,  much to learn ahead. I’m not a fundamentalist anymore (the magic of education!). After I got my degree, I tried for almost 2 years to change the literal way the Bible is interpreted at my church. I held some private discussions with my pastors during which I suggested a number of action plans regarding the role of youth. Since virtually none of my suggestions were even considered, I decided to make a study about why the millennials were leaving church and then published it in the congregation. Neither the leadership nor the majority of the congregation liked the study’s results and I was sidelined from all church activity. I’m Panamanian and my dad and my brother died while I was still young, 2002 and 2006 respectively. Church became family to my mother and I. I quit going to church because I felt there was nothing left for me, there was no space for me to work and share what I learned. Now I live 7 hours by plane away from home. I have no family now, except from my mom (who still attends the same church in Panama) and my husband. I failed.

I’ve been reading your book. Yesterday afternoon my husband got home and said: “I have a couple of movie options to watch tonight”. One of the options was the “Green Prince” documentary. I asked him to let me finish the book in the rest of the afternoon before watching it.

I have to say that from chapter 14 to 27 of the book I felt so angry with you and considered you a traitor to your people, to the struggles of Palestine, to the civilian children, woman and old people killed that weren’t involved in any movement against the occupation. I also felt mad at your one-sided interpretation of the Bible and how you referred to the Quran and Allah as a “God of war”. But in the last paragraph of the second part of the postscript where you write:

So if you meet me in the Street, please don’t ask me for advice of what I think this or that Scripture verse means, because you’re probably already way ahead of me. Instead of looking at me as a spiritual trophy, pray for me, that I will grow in my faith and that I wont step on too many toes as I learn to dance with the Bridegroom.”

…I understood that that was the only interpretation you can have growing up in an islamic fundamentalist environment. Religion is guilty of nothing, it’s people who teach religion in the wrong way.

I went to Palestine on 2012 and my view about muslims in particular and arabs in general changed in a good way. One guy in Jericho told me: “if you don’t want to see us as muslims see us a human beings”. I had a trip inside all the ocuppied territories, and saw with my own eyes the harsh reality of occupied Palestinians. I enjoyed they hospitality and felt powerless in giving them hope. The camels, the olive trees, the view of the big wall, the armed very young Israeli people, the difference between a jewish community and an arab community, was shocking to me. Lately in my life I’ve met muslims who practice islam and interpret the Quran with love, liberty and peace. It’s not the religion, it’s who teaches it.

I loved my father more than myself, he believed I could do and achieve anything I decided to. I suffered as deep as I could imagine when a heart condition took him away. He put me in one the best schools in my country because he was so concerned about me learning English. He said: “education is the most valuable thing I can leave you, it’s my only worth legacy to you”. I had no problems to be outstanding at school but my only reason to have good grades was to make my dad proud. I continue to ask myself what he saw on me.

One of the most beautiful parts of your book was the relationship you had with your father and the name Sabeela that sound so sweet to my ears. When you talked about your many brothers and sisters I envied you. I had only one and I lost him in a car accident. I was very hurt to read the grieving and mourning of your father when he knew you where a spy and a Christian. But I understood him in some way. I will pray from now on for your safety, for the family you’ll have the opportunity to raise in the US, for your family back in Palestine and for the forgiveness of your father and the rest of the people you love.

Your book also showed muslim men who helped in the house, who cook, who treat women respectfully. I believe that comes only from God, God is love and when a person of any religion is able to love it’s God acting through them. That is a good testimony for the common belief that all muslim men are women oppressors.

Becoming a christian fundamentalist after being a muslim fundamentalist is going backwards. I must recommend you, if you haven’t yet, to read a Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation by Reverend Naim Ateek and The Zealot by Reza Aslan. Also watch the documentary Occupation 101 (you can find it in youtube). The two books may orient you in a fair, responsible and healthy interpretation of the Bible. I also sympathize with Noam Chomsky with his opinions in the matter of the Israeli Palestine occupation. I know you had a deep and good experience with Loai, he stood up for you. But he does not represent the majority of the israeli intelligence members or the soldiers. Nobody is born terrorist, and Palestinian violence is an extreme response to an extremely hostile environment. It’s not good but is understandable psychologically speaking. As the Occupation 101 documentary taught me: You don’t say “How violent this population is” before asking what treatment is this population receiving to respond with such violence. I have to confess I struggle with all the compliments you have in your book for the Israelis like they are all good people. Zionism is just wrong in every way, and I agree the first thing we have to consider is that the land is not worth all the lives. But what we can never forget is Israel came from the outside to take out the powerless natives by force. And I want to make clear that is not Israel as a State or flag, a country, or nationality or religion has no face is specific people who play bad roles. There are good people in every country and religion, to generalize is unacceptable.

At some point I said to myself: “Maybe christianity was the key to be accepted in the United States, maybe that was the only way out of chaos and death because today being muslim in the US is not a good thing”. What almost all the news says versus reality (as Al Jazeera and other channels that spread the convenient news for the people with power and money and weapons) makes me doubt about everything and everyone but in order to live truly we must trust human race and I decided to believe that not everybody lies. I believe that you don’t lie. It’s the first time I read a book first and then watch the movie. Is the first time I write in English not thinking in my native Spanish. You are taking good things out of people. You represent hope. I pray for you to accomplish much more than you expect. Surely your heart and principles will get you beyond your imagination. Mossab, I wish you have access to education that will lead you to higher levels (I believe living in the Empire is the easiest way to get well educated). I guess you are called now the Son of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). I wish you the best.