Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices

Reading "Son of Hamas," I could not help but think of Alan Bates's "The King of Hearts," where, in the midst of the war portrayed in that classic film, the only "sane" folks are those who, as a result of the fighting, are able to leave the mental hospital where they have been detained. Mosab Hassan Yousef's story is such a tale--he was born into and reached adulthood in a world wracked by madness: Palestinians and Israelis killing one another, Palestinians killing each other, and, occasionally, Israeli fanatics killing other Israelis who reach out for a peace that, sadly, will, most likely, never come.

Yousef shows us the "good" people who, like his Hamas-founder father, nevertheless rationalize the indiscriminate slaughter. We meet others, whom Yousef also sees as "good," who actively participate in the killing and also recruit impressionable youngsters to wear the bomb-makers' vests. Such fury, such hatred, all founded on religions that their adherents proclaim as founts of peace.

It all reminds me of physics Nobel Laureate Stephen Weinberg's observation that with or without religion, good people will do good things and evil people will do evil things, but for "good" people to do evil things you need religion. Yousef gives us fascinating glimpses into the religious or quasi-religious fervor that either spurs or excuses the daily slaughter. He has apparently found peace in Christianity--I sense that if his early world was different he could have found peace in any religion, including the one into which he was born.

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices is a tightly written, sensitive, insightful book. As others have mentioned, it is impossible to put down. Perhaps some day there will be many young men in the middle east like Yousef; if so and they predominate, they may one day bring peace to the land that has birthed the religions that dominate our planet.

Finally, kudos to the publisher for not joining the mad rush to delay Kindle editions or to charge more than a reasonable price for a book that can be distributed without the costs of printing, shipping, storage, and returns.

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