On October 7, 2023, Hamas mounted a surprise attack against Israeli civilians. Hamas did not focus on military sites. Hamas embarked on a grand guignol torture tour. Elderly women, young women, babies, toddlers, men, the handicapped, a wheelchair-bound Holocaust survivor, were stripped, raped, paraded, mutilated, decapitated, stepped on, spat on, taunted, and burned alive. Bodies of the dead were dramatically desecrated. Women were raped next to the corpses of their friends and then executed.
Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro compiled video and photographic records of these atrocities against defenseless civilians. He was able to do so because the Hamas torturers were very proud of their accomplishments, and they posted video on social media. The Face of Absolute Evil can be viewed on YouTube here. If YouTube removes the video, you can see it at the Daily Wire site or at Rumble.
Westerners inculcated in the Judeo-Christian tradition were confused. They found all these features confusing: Hamas war crimes, those crimes’ extensive documentation by Hamas criminals, and Hamas war criminals proudly sharing evidence of their atrocities via the worldwide web. Hamas’ audiences, around the world, cheered these atrocities. They ululated, the sound Arab women make when celebrating. They chanted “Allahu akbar,” roughly translated as “Allah is greater than other gods.”
All these behaviors struck Western observers, not just as disgusting and evil, but also as irrational and self-destructive. The entire October 7 attack defied logic. Hamas knew it would not claim territory or achieve its stated goal, the “obliteration” of Israel. Hamas knew that Israel would strike back, with American and international support. Hamas knew that hundreds, if not thousands of Arab Muslims would perish in Israeli counterstrikes. Hamas knew that it might be inviting a nuclear war that would take the lives of millions of innocents, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Social media used the word “animals” to describe the Hamas attackers. In fact, of course, Hamas attackers are human beings, and all the war crimes they committed are acts that human beings commit. Non-human animals do not, typically, devote their time to torturing their fellows, and then bragging to others about that torture. Non-human animals have better things to do with their time.
I’m an American of Polish and Slovak descent. Americans have also committed war crimes, and I’m all too aware that a minority of Poles, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, became “szmalcownicy,” and, for financial gain, betrayed Jews to German occupiers. So, yes, alas, Hamas war criminals are human beings, and they committed crimes that members of all ethnicities and all religions have also committed.
There’s an important difference between Hamas war criminals and others, though. Americans or Poles who committed war crimes violated their national and religious ideals. These criminals are despised and denounced by their fellow nationals. They have often faced trials. We feel ashamed that members of our national or religious community committed disgusting crimes. We dedicate ourselves, through investigations, works of literature, conferences, school curricula, and religious rituals to understanding how people like us could commit atrocities. We strive to purge our community of any ideas that might support atrocity. We, as a society, attempt to compensate victims of crimes committed by our fellows.
When I watch the video evidence of recent Hamas atrocities in Israel, I cannot help but think of Nazis and Nazism. The Ivanhorod Einsatzgruppen photograph is a famous depiction of Nazi brutality. It depicts a Nazi soldier a few feet away from a young Jewish mother attempting to protect, with her maternal embrace, her toddler child. The uniformed soldier takes aim at her head and we know that shortly after this photo was taken, both the mother and child, like millions of others, were dead and buried in a mass grave. Someone attempted to mail this 1942 photograph to Nazi Germany. It never arrived. The Polish underground intercepted it and kept it as documentary proof of Nazi war crimes.
Many found Nazi crimes difficult to understand. Civilized young men are socialized to feel protective and respectful around mothers and children. Germany was one of the most civilized countries in the world. Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, Albert Einstein and Max Planck, Erich Maria Remarque and Thomas Mann were world leaders in culture and science. How could any human beings, and how could people famous for their high level of civilization, commit such hideous crimes?
Nazism was a perverse break in Germany’s cultural trajectory. Nazism demanded adherence to ideas that defied previous values. Children were brainwashed and turned into killing machines. In the post-war era, America was not satisfied with a battlefield defeat of Nazi Germany. America, while embracing the best in Germany, insisted on de-Nazification. It wasn’t enough to win this or that military battle. It was vital to win the war of ideas. De-Nazification programs became less stringent with the onset of the Cold War, but Germans understood. No one who publicly declared himself a Nazi, who quoted Mein Kampf, or who goose-stepped in a Nazi uniform could win official acceptance on the world stage.
Hamas war criminals are human beings, not animals, in the same sense that you and I are human beings. They have committed atrocities that members of our own groups have committed. Here’s the difference, and it is the same difference that illuminates Nazi crimes. Hamas war criminals have been brainwashed by an ideology that glorifies atrocity. Again, those enculturated in the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western values observe the October 7 Hamas attack and find it not just disgusting and vile but also irrational. Hamas, we feel, has achieved no positive goal. We think that way because we have not been brainwashed into the ideology that inspires Hamas’ actions.
Torturing defenseless Jewish civilians, including women and children, and then disseminating documentation of those war crimes is the very point of the Hamas attack. In one video, a Hamas criminal repeatedly steps on the face of a dead Jew. In another video, a screaming Hamas criminal attempts to decapitate, with a shovel, a Jew who already appears dead. Hamas criminals drive around displaying the naked body of a woman who appears to be dead. Clearly, desecrating what appear to be dead bodies is not a rational act. Hamas criminals are achieving a different satisfaction through these disgusting rituals.
Hamas knew it would not gain territory or a negotiating advantage. That’s not what Hamas wanted or expected. Hamas is following a different ideology, an ideology in which raping women, killing them, desecrating their bodies, recording and disseminating that desecration is the end goal. These acts are their Academy Awards, their Nobel Prizes, their Olympic gold medals. Hamas is satisfied. Even if Israel finds every Hamas criminal and executes him, he will die happy. He got what he wanted. What he wanted, more than life itself, more than the safety and prosperity of his fellow Arab Muslims, was to violate, torture, and murder Jews. Stepping on a Jew’s face – he lived for that moment. He will relive it with relish till the day he dies. Audiences will experience libidinous titillation watching that image over and over. Millions of Hamas’ fans, worldwide, are satisfied. They are watching these videos and cheering. They got what they wanted. They got what their founder taught them to value.
Recent scholarship questions whether or not Muhammad ever existed. Robert Spencer’s 2012 book Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins surveys scholarship that indicates that Muhammad may very well not have existed. Rather, during the Arab Conquest, Arabs fought against two empires, Christian Rome and Zoroastrian Persia. Arabs felt the need for their own religion and prophet to serve as an ideological underpinning to their conquest. Muhammad and the Quran, both cooked up from an amalgamation of warlord needs, desires, and proclivities, and pre-existing Jewish, Christian, and Pagan material, filled the gap.
Whether Muhammad ever existed or not, Muslims believe he existed, and they believed his biography. According to canonical Muslim history, Asma Bint Marwan was a mother of several children, one of whom she was still breastfeeding. She criticized Muhammad. He ordered her death. One of Muhammad’s followers stabbed her through her stomach while she slept with her children. Umm Qirfa was an elderly Arab woman. Muhammad’s followers tied her to two camels and drove the camels in opposite directions till they tore her body in half. Muhammad awards Umm Qirfa’s daughter, “one of the prettiest girls in Arabia,” as a “prize” to one of his followers who is “fascinated” by her. Muhammad ordered the torture of Jewish Arab Kinana al-Rabi. After torturing and murdering her husband Kinana, and also after killing her brother and her father, Muhammad took the beautiful Jewish Arab woman Safiyah bint Huyayy as his sexual booty. In another incident, Muhammad ordered that some Bedouins had their eyes gouged out with hot iron, and their hands and feet cut off. They were abandoned to their slow deaths. Muslims today accept these behaviors from their prophet as exemplary. Mohammed Hijab, a present-day Muslim apologist based in the UK, has repeatedly threatened to rape the wives of those who criticize Islam. He insists that women welcome rape from Muslim jihadis (see here.)
Of course there are millions of lovely people who are also Muslims. Paul Kujawsky has been sharing heart-breaking posts like this one, this one and this one from Israelis who have lost family members in the Hamas attack. But even in his desolation, Paul shared this post that salutes a Bedouin who rescued Jews from the Hamas massacre.
How can such good people be Muslims? Many very good people who are also Muslims have been spoon-fed a Muhammad who is not reflected in canonical sources. Nabeel Qureshi was one such Muslim. Qureshi was the brilliant scion of a highly successful Muslim American family. Qureshi was raised to believe that Muhammad was al-Insan al-Kamil, the perfect man, worthy of emulation. In other words, whatever Muhammad did was something he himself should do. Qureshi was taught a fairy tale version of Muhammad. In college, Qureshi met David Wood, an ex-con from a family of poor West Virginians. Wood knew more about Islam than Muslim-American princeling Nabeel Qureshi. When Qureshi discovered from Wood that Muhammad was in fact a rapist who ordered his men to rape and impregnate war captives in front of their husbands (see here), Qureshi came close to a nervous breakdown. He eventually converted to Christianity.
I’ve had the joy and the honor of teaching Muslim students, over the course of forty years. My Muslim students have come from the United States, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, the Middle East, Europe, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Malaysia. These locations span several thousand miles, all possible skin tones, cuisines, languages and cultures. I’ve loved these students and many have made warm and generous contributions to my life. One gave me a silk scarf and said I was like a “mother” to him. He was one of the best students I’ve ever had.
In spite of the wide diversity of cultures, many of my Muslim students shared a common trait. They harbored an intense, irrational hatred of Jews. They spoke of Jews as if they were speaking of a non-human, purely evil entity. Some of the sweetest young people I have ever met changed dramatically when the subject of Jews came up. Andrew Bostom’s 2008 book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History provides 766 pages of documentation of Jew-hatred in Islamic texts from across centuries and from around the Muslim world. Jew-hatred is in Islam’s foundational texts, the Quran, the hadith, and the daily prayers. Seventeen times daily, Muslims are required to repeat verses that accuse Jews of angering Allah. Muslim children in Canada have been required to practice decapitation of infidels; see here. Children were also trained in beheading in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; see here. These children are being indoctrinated in hate and violence no less than the Hitler Youth were indoctrinated.
We can’t take the same approach to Islam that we took to de-Nazification. Muslims are roughly a quarter of the world’s population. Americans, as part of de-Nazification, exercised so much power that they attempted to ban folktales by the Brothers Grimm in post-war Germany. We can’t ban anti-Semitism in the Muslim canon. We can, though, speak the truth, as do people like David Wood and Robert Spencer. When, on September 17, 2001, one week after 9-11, President George Bush appeared with CAIR’s Nihad Awad at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. and said, “Islam is peace,” President Bush, though he certainly meant well, was not doing anyone any favors. We can speak the truth about Islam to our Muslim brothers and sisters in a loving way. Pretending that Islam does not contain anti-Semitic material, and pretending that too many Muslims have not been misled by that material, is a fool’s errand. We need, simply, to speak the truth.
By the way, check out the Twitter feed of Nihad Awad, who stood behind President Bush as Bush spoke on 9/17. Awad condemned France for lighting the Eiffel Tower in the colors of the Israeli flag after the Hamas atrocities. Awad wrote, “No surprise! A colonial power supporting a settler colonial Apartheid state. .#GazaUnderAttack.” Clearly, Bush’s outreach to CAIR produced no worthy fruit.
We can also hold those we embrace and honor to higher standards. No one would invite to an official, presidential function a man wearing a swastika. Similarly, Nihad Awad has no place standing behind the president of the United States a week after 9-11.
Of course when non-Muslims like myself address Islam’s flaws, we can be written off as uninformed outsiders. In fact, though, there are countless former and even current Muslims who have worked to expose Islam. These include Ridvan Aydemir, Nabeel Qureshi, Yasmine Mohammed, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Armin Navabi, Maryam Namazie, Tawfik Hamid, Sarah Haider, The Christian Prince, Ibn Warraq, Mina Ahadi, Hamed Abdel-Samad, Al Fadi … and many, many others. One of the most remarkable ex-Muslims exposing Islam’s stumbling blocks and its anti-Semitism is Mosab Hassan Yousef.
The 2011 Tyndale Press book Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices is a fast-paced, sensational, heartbreaking read. Mosab Hassan Yousef’s story is unique and important, and he tells his story with frankness, tears, and outrage. He is the son of a founder of Hamas; he himself was once a little boy throwing stones at Israelis, a prisoner in an Israeli jail, an Israeli spy, and, eventually, a convert to Christianity. The book is an easy read; you can finish it in a couple of sittings. The book’s focus is on fast-paced espionage action.
The bulk of the book consists of journalistic accounts of this or that spy operation. Clever ways are devised for Yousef to meet with his Israeli handlers. Other clever ways are devised for Yousef to avoid being detected as a spy, even as he meets with top figures like the PLO’s Yasser Arafat. Yousef thwarts suicide bombings and tries to make sure that terrorists are imprisoned, rather than killed.
Yousef’s description of Hamas is scathing. The most memorable passages in the book describe Hamas members torturing other Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Yousef worked as the torturers’ scribe. He wrote their fastidious accounts of what the tortured inmate confessed to. These files read like pornography. Inmates confessed to unbelievable acts, acts that included cows and cameras. It was clear to Yousef that these victims were making up stories to satisfy their torturers’ twisted appetites, and to, thereby, make the torture stop.
The Hamas torturers focused on men who did not have outside protectors to avenge their torture. One poor soul, Akel, was targeted for torture because his only living relative outside prison was a sister who would not harm anyone in revenge for Hamas shoving needles under Akel’s fingernails. Too, Akel was a “simple farmer” “never accepted by the urban Hamas” who took advantage of him. Yousef describes a Palestinian prisoner throwing himself against a boundary of razor wire. An Israeli guard was about to shoot him. The man explained that he was not trying to escape the Israeli prison, but, rather, his fellow Palestinian inmates.
By chance, Yousef runs into some Christians and begins to discover Jesus in the pages of a gift Bible. Yousef left Islam and became a Christian. This made life completely impossible for him among his beloved home and family. He had to leave Israel for the US. Even that departure had to be orchestrated by Israeli intelligence.
The intense heartbreak Yousef has experienced in his life is suggested in this book, but never plumbed. I wonder if he’ll ever write a more probing, confessional book that will explore what must have been a very tough life. Yousef’s love for his father and his family is obvious. His family has disowned him; they have to. Islam mandates the death penalty for apostates. Yousef was born into an impossible situation for an ethical being. He loves his father; his father supports terror. He loves his family; his family must renounce him for leaving Islam. He loves his homeland and his people; too many of his people are committed to pointless violence and are rigid in their resistance to any alternative point of view. Many readers reading this book will be moved to pray for Yousef and his family. Readers will pray for his safety, of course, but also for peace for the many heartbreaks he has experienced, heartbreaks not of his own making.
Since publication of this book, Yousef has made memorable appearances, many of them available on YouTube. He is a fearless, blunt critique of Hamas, terrorism, and Islam. In a wide-ranging address here, Yousef acknowledges that American money poured into Arab Muslim coffers does no good whatsoever. It does not reach needy people. Rather, he says, it goes to what he calls a “political Mafia.” In a blistering critique here – you can see the shock on the faces of his Arab audience – Yousef insists that Arab leaders exploit Israel’s existence as a distraction to stir up their people while never meeting their people’s basic human needs. In this interview, Yousef is asked if he is a traitor. He replies that in the eyes of his father and his people, yes, he is a traitor. He goes on to say that when Israeli intelligence first recruited him, his goal was to be a double agent, that is, to pretend to work for Israel but to work for Hamas. When he was sent to prison and he witnessed Hamas’ “brutality” against Arab Muslims, when he saw Hamas torture the people it claimed to represent, his conversion began. The BBC interviewer attempts to force Yousef to say that Israelis are just as brutal as Hamas. Yousef refuses to do so. “Hamas drags Israel into war and uses innocent civilians as shields.”
“Islam is a religion of conquest and domination. It is a religion of war. All Muslim denominations agree in jihad by sword, killing by sword is justified,” Yousef says here. Allah is a “gangster,” he says here. “There are lots of tolerant Muslims but Islam is not a tolerant religion,” Yousef says here. In this video, Yousef compares Arab leaders to shepherds. The sheep think that the shepherd is their best friend; in fact he is leading them to slaughter. “As a child I was fed with hatred that Israel was our enemy and that Israel was the source of our suffering.” In fact, though, he explains, Arab leaders like Yasser Arafat were spending billions of dollars on themselves while they sent children to die. I was one of those children throwing stones at Israelis, Yousef says. “They used us. They sent us to the slaughterhouse. They wanted us to die. The shepherd thought, ‘How many sheep we will sacrifice today so maybe we get some more funds?’ … Hamas uses children and women as human shields in Gaza Strip.” CNN botches a heartbreaking interview with Yousef here. The interviewer appears to be incapable of exercising compassion toward a man feeling very understandable pain about his estrangement from his elderly mother.
Christians and Jews share belief in the concept of b’tzelem Elohim or imago dei. In Genesis we discover that humans are made in God’s image. The Hamas attackers were made in God’s image no less than their victims. Thus Christians and Jews recognize that human life is sacred and must be treated with respect. Islam, though it cribbed, and then distorted, much material from Christianity and Judaism, rejects the concept of imago dei. Hamas attackers had been brainwashed by an ideology that encourages them to regard those they violate as less than human.
Christians and Jews are challenged by the atrocities committed by Hamas attackers in a way that devout Muslims would not be challenged. Hamas attackers wanted to commit atrocities; they wanted the world to see those atrocities. Their supporters, worldwide, ululate and proclaim “Allahu akbar” when viewing those atrocities. The world will hold Israel to a different standard. Israel will be required to limit civilian casualties. Israel will hold itself to that standard.
I grew up among Muslims, in a New Jersey county with one of America’s highest Muslim populations. A school chum told me that when the time for jihad came, she would kill me if I didn’t convert to Islam. She was a lovely young woman, beautiful, quiet, and shy. Ideology brainwashed her. After 9-11, I hoped that the world would learn to tell the truth. I despaired when President Bush said “Islam is peace.” Former Muslims like Mosab Hassan Yousef have been telling the truth for quite a while. If one good thing comes out of the hell of the October 7 Hamas attack, perhaps it will be this. Perhaps we will finally begin, with charity, courage, and compassion for the souls lost to Islam, to tell the truth about jihad.
Danusha Goska is the author of God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.