Following are excerpts from an interview with Mus'ab Hassan Yousef, the son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, which aired on Al-Hayat TV on August 19, 2008:
To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1839.
"I Hated the Occupation; I Hated Every Israeli Soldier Carrying a Gun, and Every Settler"
Mus'ab Hassan Yousef: "My name is Mus'ab Hassan Yousef. I am the eldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef. I was born in the village of Bir Zeit, near Ramallah.
"My father began his Islamic activity from the very beginning by founding the [Palestinian branch] of the Muslim Brotherhood, by preaching to join it, and by recruiting young Muslim men for the sake of Allah and Islam.
"To be honest, I hated the occupation. I hated every Israeli soldier carrying a gun, and every settler. I threw stones, and I participated in the Intifada in all its forms. Call it peaceful activity if you like, or call it violence, but I participated in the Intifada in most of its forms. This included throwing stones, burning tires, and so on – activities in which most of the youth took part. I was a child, not even a young man, in that period, which lasted six years. I used to go to the mosque all the time. When I was five, I fasted for the first time in the month of Ramadhan. Until my conversion to Christianity, I used to fast during the entire month of Ramadhan.
"I did not know that my father was one of the founders of Hamas. It was a secret, and I did not know anything about it. [...]"
"I Was Head of the Islamic Bloc at Ramallah High School"
"I never joined Hamas, but I loved the movement because of my love for my father. I started high school. During that period, due to my father, my knowledge of Islam and the Koran, and my personality, I became a leader of the Islamic bloc. I was head of the Islamic bloc at Ramallah high school. We were involved in the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, which has existed since Hamas was founded – internal struggles for power and for influence over the public.
"About 10 days before the end of final exams, I was arrested by the [Israeli] special forces. They gave me a brutal beating, and broke my jaw. They interrogated me for three months at the Russian Compound detention center, where I was held in solitary confinement.
"After three months of interrogation, I was transferred to a prison where Palestinian prisoners from all factions were held. Even though the prison is run by the Israelis, the prisoners manage affairs on their own. Each faction plays a role in the management of the prisoners' affairs. Hamas was the majority in the prison. This was not the case at the beginning of the Intifada, when Fatah was the majority, but later, Hamas became the majority and had control of the prison – especially over its own people, who were the majority. This was the beginning of my awakening. [...]"
"As A Child, I Believed That All Muslims Were Like My Father... But Then, [In Prison,] My Surprise Began"
"As a child, I believed that all Muslims are like my father. If you are brought up on Islamic values – how do you turn out? You will be like my father, who is my role model, and whom I love very much.
"But then, my surprise began. After three days or so, [I began witnessing] greed and avarice, prisoners stealing food from others, prisoners enjoying things that not all prisoners could enjoy, such as visits inside the wings, which were restricted to some leaders of the Islamic movement in the prison.
"Such things may happen. People may become greedy sometimes, and their faith weakens, and they eat more. This is not our business.
"But the problematic thing was the interrogation of people suspected of collaborating with Israel. That was one of the most serious things, which led to a fundamental change in my life – not just in my life, but in the lives of many. Beatings, floggings, needles under the fingernails, the melting of plastic on the body, days and weeks of sleep deprivation...
"Hamas – or to be more precise, the Hamas leadership in prison – all played a role in this. They all praised and applauded the Hamas security apparatus, and even backed them fully when they tortured prisoners. I don't want to mention names. The Palestinian people are unaware of this.
"To be honest, I am sorry that the Palestinian press, which is supposed to be free, has not shed light on what goes on in prison. These people have made sacrifices. Some of them have been in prison for 20 years. How can you interrogate them, accusing them of collaborating with the occupation? He made sacrifices, just like you and me, and is a human being, like you and me. How can you place yourself above these people, and torture them, flog them, and interrogate them? We are talking about brutal, violent torture. Imagine, all night long..."
Hamas Created "A Prison Within the Prison, and Inflict[ed] Torture in Addition to the [Israeli] Torture"
"I was only 18 years old, sleeping in my bed under conditions... In a prison of the occupation... But that was not enough – they had to create a prison within the prison, and inflict torture in addition to the [Israeli] torture. For a whole year, I would hear people being tortured screaming all night long. Sometime they interrogated three people at the same time, and they would torture them in the most brutal ways. In approximately three years, no fewer than 16 people were killed.
"I say to the people of my region, Ramallah, if they are watching this show – who killed brother Muhammad Abu Shakra? Outside prison, people believed Israel killed him, but in fact, it was Hamas. Later, Hamas paid 'blood money' as compensation for its crime.
"I call upon the Palestinian people to open its eyes and see what Hamas was doing, when it functioned as a mini-state within the prison, and was in control inside the prison. [...]"
"I Have Accepted Christ As My Personal Savior, But [For Muslims] Accepting Christ is Like an Elephant Passing Through the Eye of a Needle..."
"Usually, if you leave an Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Al-Tahrir Party, or Islam itself – you are considered an apostate. Some of them may feel sorry for you and try to talk to you, but if you are adamant and stick to your position, you are considered an enemy."
Interviewer: "What made you accept Christ as your savior, in an extremist Islamist environment?"
Yousef: "I have accepted Christ as my personal savior, but as far as Muslims are concerned, accepting Christ is like an elephant passing through the eye of a needle. What does this mean? That's what I've been trying to explain. The mentality with which Islam perceives Christ and God Himself is distorted.
"When I got to the U.S., I followed the news from Palestine closely, especially what was going on in the Gaza Strip. Without going into the anarchy over there, or the fact that Hamas was "forced" to reach a military resolution in Gaza, what was going on there was painful – assassinations, people being thrown from tall buildings... The world's reaction to this organization and its actions was very passive."