Sunday, March 14, 2010

Christiane Amanpour and Mosab Yousef (Son of Hamas)

Christiane Amanpour described her interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of the founders of Hamas, as "fascinating", and her follow-up interview with a team of individuals the following day as "in-depth analysis". I thought a much more fascinating and in-depth discussion was the one held a few days later between Mosab and host Rashid on the Arabic program "Daring Question".

There are several reasons for this. One is that in the first interview Mosab was not using his native tongue. Although he speaks English commendably for one who learned the language as a young adult and was not educated in English-speaking schools, he is still not as fluent as other Arabs who have been speaking English extensively for many years. A second reason is that Mosab was definitely on the hot seat in the interview with Rashid. With Christiane, he was facing an interviewer curious to know why he chose to work with Shin Bet against Hamas. With Rashid he was forced to defend himself against a hostile Arabic-speaking audience that largely, whether Palestinian Christian, Palestinian Muslim, or non-Palestinian Arab, saw him as the worst of all people - a traitor, an agent, a collaborater with the hated Zionist enemy.

But there is a third, and much more significant, reason why Christiane's interview with Mosab seemed shallow in comparison to the one with Rashid. The seminal event in Musab's life, a journey that took six years, was his conclusion that Muhammad is not a prophet of God and the Quran is not a book from God. As with many ex-Muslims, Musab's first step in this journey was confronting the reality of the violence and cruelty of his own people, and realizing they were following the example of their Prophet and his God. The next step was meeting and speaking with Israelis - Jews, the worst of all creatures according to the Quran, the inveterate enemies of God and offspring of monkeys and pigs - and discovering they were people, human beings with values, aspirations, and hopes. The final step was finding  an alternative way to think and live. Mosab discovered that the command of Jesus to "love your enemy and do good to those who hate you" was not a weak surrender to injustice but instead the most powerful form of resistance against injustice.

This, unfortunately, was what Christiane was not interested in discussing. When he told her that the "biggest gangster in the world is the god of Islam, the god of the Quran", she could have probed a lot deeper, but she didn't. She only said, "I'm not going to debate Islam with you, but as you know many Muslims say that is not written in the book and it's a matter of interpretation. But in any case, thank you for joining us."

Her unwillingness to engage him in his understanding of Islam, to even consider the reality that he might be right, is shared by every single journalist I watch or read. Without exception they consider themselves innovative, bold, and challenging, but they aren't willing to go beyond the taboos of our media and political culture and find out what people like Mosab really think about the faith with which they grew up. It's much easier to just ask more questions about what it was like working for Shin Bet.

Rashid wasn't like that. He was willing to push harder, and find out what really motivated Mosab. When confronted with the fact that many of his own people now consider him a traitor, Mosab replied, "I am not doing what my people want, but I am doing what they need." Mosab went on to express his hope that a new generation of young Palestinians will begin to see that humanizing the enemy, even learning to love the enemy while not accepting injustice, is a new way forward. Indeed, it is the only way.


Cyril Lucar said...

And if Christiane had been interviewing an ex-white supremist or even an ex-Catholic priest who was now denouncing his religion, would she have listened and probed further? I guess yes. And what is it that makes Western liberals so committed to protecting Islam? Do they fear Muslim violence against their own persons? Is is a latent suicidal urge hidden in their egos? Are they impelled by by a Dark Spirit to defend a system which would oppress and imprison them? I don't get it.

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