Hour by hour we are bombarded with news about outbreaks of terror in our own country and around the world. For many of us, it makes no sense and tests our theology as well.
Opening the pages of The Mind of Terror by Tass Saada goes beyond the headlines into the Middle East through the eyes and heart of a onetime sniper with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah government who at 42, experiences a transformed life through the power of the gospel.
Few individuals can likely give such a unique view as Tass Saada. Born to a Muslim family in 1951 in the Gaza Strip, he grew up in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Tass meets Osama bin Laden in his father’s auto body repair shop at the age of nine and later as a teen fights with al-Fatah, Yasser Arafat’s militia. But God had a different plan for Tass’s life.
After immigrating to the United States, he becomes a Christian in Kansas City, Missouri. Sharing with his family in Qatar what has happened results in an onslaught of rejection and threats by his family who remind him he has brought dishonor to them all.
When terrorists slam planes into the New York towers on 9/11, Tass comes under scrutiny from the FBI because of his background. After carefully checking out his story, the agency acknowledges Tass is okay. Even so, it is clear the world has changed greatly as terrorism explodes across the world in the years following.
After giving facts and an overview of the list of the ten richest terrorist organizations, their geographic location, and their money sources, Tass begins by introducing his readers to the key principle we need to understand if we are to delve into the minds of those who adhere to terror. The principle is that of “honor” and “shame”.
The book opens a window into the collectivistic culture of the Middle East as well as many other nations outside of the West’s individualistic culture. This window immediately adjusts a westerner’s understanding.
“If a member of my group has been treated badly, it is my duty to honor him or her by taking action in his or her defense. If someone in my group has shown disloyalty, I must shame them in the strongest way possible.”
“Group honor is a higher priority than an individual life.”
If we delve deeper into our Bible, we actually discover, there is much that reflects this cultural principle as it arises out of a Middle East environment.
If you know nothing else that Tass goes on to share, this alone can be hard for those of us in the West to fully grasp. He explains that to insult one Muslim is to insult them all and that the West is seen as having intentionally humiliated and shamed them throughout history.
That belief is one reason young Muslims resort to terror in order to regain honor.
The book outlines six key motivations for becoming a terrorist:
- “You are in anguish over the violent loss of an innocent loved one, friend, or group member.
- You firmly believe your opponent’s faith is wrong or at least corrupted.
- You are sickened and disgusted by all of Western society’s decadence.
- You want your homeland back.
- You grow weary of day-in, day-out discrimination and maltreatment.
- You can’t stomach the United States’ rock-solid backing of modern Israel.”
Tass then goes on to look at the solutions that have not worked and are likely not to work as well as the origins of this deep conflict. That takes us into the Old Testament when Sarah gives her maid to Abraham to father a child for them. Isaac displaces that child, Ishmael, when Sarah bears a son despite her skepticism at such an advanced age. I would guess you know the story.
If so, you also know that God looks at Hagar and her son without food or water in the desert and blesses them, promising 12 sons who will become leaders of 12 tribes or nations. This is really where the origin of the conflict we see today was birthed.
There is much more shared by Tass about the complex relationships between the culture of the Middle East and the culture of the West, but he also goes on to share the news we never hear.
Tass and his family feel God’s call to be agents of love and peace in this most troubled of regions, the Middle East. They spend much of every year in ministries they have established to reach the children of this region whether they are Christian, Jewish, or Arabic.
Their goal: “to help raise little Arabs and Jews to care about each other, to play soccer with each other instead of using machine guns on each other.”
To that end, Little Hearts Preschool in East Jerusalem not far from the Damascus Gate opens its doors to children of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. Established in 2011, 65 children are nurtured there and receive instruction in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. All who come know it is a Christian organization even though it is not advertised as such and children from three months to five or six years old will hear Bible stories, but the preschool’s focus is love and a respect for all.
They have also founded Seeds of Hope in the West Bank in the historic town of Jericho. There is no Biblical instruction at Seeds of Hope, but the message of harmony in daily living, caring and respecting one another is taught. The staff does not deny being Christian, but rather seek to “take what the Bible says and demonstrate it to the children. And the result over time is a changed child who knows love is better than hatred, peace is better than war.”
This book will challenge your thinking, cause you to reconsider your assumptions, and most certainly call you to prayer.
In exchange for my review, Tyndale through the Blog Network, provided this book, published by Tyndale House. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”