.- Masab-Joseph Yousef, a son of prominent West Bank MP Sheikh Hassan Yousef, has discussed his conversion to Christianity in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Praying that his family will âopen their eyes to Jesus,â he expressed love for his enemies and claimed Muslimsâ conversion to Christianity is the only way to have a chance for peace in the Holy Land.
Yousef, 30, said his first exposure to Christianity came in Jerusalem about eight years ago, when he was invited to learn about the faith. He converted four years ago, but did not tell his father.
âFor years I helped my father, the Hamas leader, and he didn't know that I had converted, only that I had Christian friends,â he said to Haaretz.
His father, Sheikh Yousef, was a founder of the extremist group Hamas in the West Bank and was imprisoned for several years for his membership in the organization.
Masab-Joseph Yousef, the oldest of eight siblings, was expected to take an active role assisting in the political work of his father, whom he claimed is opposed to killing civilians. He characterized the Israelisâ arrests of his father as very influential events in his life.
âI only knew that the Israeli army had arrested my father repeatedly, and for me he was everything: a good, loving man who would do anything for me. He took care of us, bought us gifts, gave of himself, whereas the soldiers entered our house and took him away from me.â
Arrested at the age of 18 for his leadership role in his high school Islamic society, Yousef told Haaretz he discovered in prison that most Hamas members were not as admirable as his father.
âTheir leaders in prison received better conditions, such as the best food, as well as more family visits and towels for the shower. These people have no morals, they have no integrity,â he said, alleging Hamas leaders also embezzle money meant for widowed families.
Yousef, who now lives in California, described how an invitation to learn more about Christianity led him to convert.
âI was very enthusiastic about what I heard. I began to read the Bible every day and I continued with religion lessons. I did it in secret, of course. I used to travel to the Ramallah hills, to places like the Al Tira neighborhood, and to sit there quietly with the amazing landscape and read the Bible.â
âA verse like âLove thine enemyâ had a great influence on me,â he continued. âAt 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.'â
He explained that further study of Islam did not satisfy him.
âI feel that Christianity has several aspects. It's not only a religion but a faith,â Yousef continued. âI now see God through Jesus and can tell about him for days on end, whereas the Muslims won't be able to say anything about God.â
Yousef said he now considers Islam to be a âbig lie,â alleging that people who supposedly represent Islam âadmired Mohammed more than God, killed innocent people in the name of Islam, beat their wives and don't have any idea what God is.â He said he had no doubt such people would go to Hell, and proclaimed that âthe way of Jesusâ is the âone way to Paradise.â
Yousef expressed hopes for his familyâs conversion and his own future return to the Holy Land.
âI know that I'm endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he'll understand this and that God will give him and my family the patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I'll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah together with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God,â he told Haaretz.
He said he was trying to start an organization to teach the occupied territories in Palestine about Christianity. He also appealed for the conversion of his former co-religionists so that âthey'll have an opportunity to correct their mistakes, to become better people and to bring a chance for peace in the Middle East.â
âMany people will hate me for this interview, but I'm telling them that I love all of them, even those who hate me,â he commented. âI invite all the people, including the terrorists among them, to open their hearts and believe.â