From Jihad to Jesus

I deserved to be damned in hell, but God interfered.”—JOHN ALLEN


A Tale of Hatred


Hatred brewed in me on that peaceful day at the military front. I heard the church bells signaling worship and was incensed. Why shouldn’t I be? Didn’t the Christians spark the civil war in Lebanon, bent on the destruction of my people? Didn’t they slaughter my kindred? Weren’t they after our land?


My hatred was not passive; it shook the foundations of my existence and swept over me like a tidal wave. This hatred demanded action. It demanded blood sacrifices on its altar.


From my bunker, I could see a man tolling the bell a few hundred feet away from me. Without hesitation, I took my sniper rifle with a long scope and aimed it at him. I thought, Allah must be smiling on me. After a deep breath, with my heart pumping and my adrenaline rushing, I had his head in my crosshairs and fired.


I screeched in horror and disgust! I could snipe a standing AK47 bullet from two hundred feet with my collapsible assault rifle! However, this time my skilled marksmanship failed me. What luck this man had! I couldn’t believe that the bullet missed the man’s head and smoked the wall only inches above as he bent down with the pull of the bell, and then ran for his life. I was distraught; I had missed the opportunity of a lifetime.


This could have been the perfect conversation piece on my CB radio on quiet nights, I thought to myself. I would have bragged to the Christians on the other side that I was the one who blessed their church service on that peaceful Sunday. I could have warned them that this would be the fate of anyone who dared toll a church bell or enter a church. Now all was lost because of my reckless arrogance and miscalculation. I thought to myself, If only I had aimed at his body instead of his head, I would have shot him. Maybe Allah wasn’t smiling on me after all.


My “Battle-of-Nashville” Attitude


I was born in Liberia, West Africa, of Lebanese parents who were Druze Muslims. The Druze are a small monotheistic group that was founded out of the Ismaili branch of Shi’a Islam by Al Hakim, the sixth fatimid caliph (AD 996–1021).2 Even as a nominal Muslim, I grew up believing that my faith was the only way of salvation and that everyone not believing it was doomed to hell.


When I was a few years old, my parents decided that my mother should move us to Lebanon, our ancestral land, so my siblings and I could attend school there. I grew up in one of the most beautiful, yet the most explosive part of the world—the Middle East.


My father, however, stayed in Liberia to tend his business and visited us occasionally. I loved my father as much as one human being can love another. When he was around, I was his constant shadow. However, when I was eight years old, he died of cancer.


Since I was very young when my father died, my mother didn’t allow me to attend the funeral. As a result, I did not have closure at the time of his death. At first, I refused to believe that he was forever gone. I would rush to the door whenever I heard the doorbell ring for the next couple of years hoping that he might be at the door. The pain was so great; it was as if my heart was ripped out of my chest. It was as if I had died a thousand deaths. It was like pure darkness had penetrated my soul and left me chilled. The smallest memory of him would trigger an avalanche of tears. I missed him so much. I wished I could bring him back from death to life. It was pure agony. It was the essence of pain. And for many nights and for many years, I cried myself to sleep. I was angry with God. I asked Him, “Why did You take my father from me?”


My Physical Jihad


By the 1970s, tension was rising in Lebanon due to the failure of the dominant Christians to update the 1932 census—which was the basis for the allocation of power—in favor of faster-growing Muslims. To add to this tension, following its expulsion from Jordan in 1971, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), established itself in Lebanon as a powerful military force. The influx of this large Palestinian community with heavily armed commandos upset the relatively fragile political balance in Lebanon. On April 13, 1975, in response to a drive-by killing of four of their members by suspected Palestinians, Phalange militiamen (radical rightist Christian Party dominated by Maronite/Catholics) pulled over a bus full of twenty-seven Palestinian workers, and slit their throats in what became known as the Bus Massacre or Ayn Rummaneh Massacre.


Furthermore, on Saturday, December 6, 1975, in retaliation for the murder of another four of their members, the Phalange began an orgy of bloodshed against Muslims. The armed Phalange militias instituted checkpoints on major roads and intercepted passing cars and pedestrians in search of non-Christians. Since Lebanese identification cards showed religious affiliation, captured individuals were forced to show their identification cards. Any Muslims or Palestinians found were executed on the spot.


As refugees, Palestinians did not carry Lebanese ID cards, hence, hundreds of victims were slaughtered in the span of a few hours. That day became known as “Black Saturday.” It was the watershed event that kicked off the Lebanese civil war.


Once the leftist Lebanese National Movement (LNM –Muslim and Palestinian) coalition led by the Druze leader, Kamal Jumblatt, attacked Phalangist positions in response to this event. As a result, the Lebanese civil war, which was to last for fifteen years until 1990, was in full swing. Kamal Jumblatt was eventually killed in 1977 at the hands of Syrian agents.


More than 100,000 people were killed in this war and another 100,000 handicapped. Up to one-fifth of the prewar population, or about one million people, were displaced from their homes. Hundreds of thousands emigrated permanently. Most of the hostages taken, numbering in the tens of thousands, disappeared never to be heard from again. Thousands of land mines remain buried in the previously contested areas. Car bombs became a favored weapon of violent groups worldwide, following their frequent use during the Lebanese civil war. It isestimated that in the fifteen years of strife, there were at least 3,641car bombs that left 4,386 people dead and thousands more injured.


In 1975, the Lebanese civil war was in full swing. Our enemies in this war were the Phalange (Catholic militias) whom the Israelis funded, armed, and trained. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Maronite Christian militias, under the cover of and with the blessings of the Israelis, went into the Palestinian camps of the Sabra and Shateela and slaughtered every man, woman, and child. These same militias invaded the Lebanese mountains where my people lived in order to annihilate us and throw us into the sea.


The civil war in Lebanon was a war of survival for my people, and as it progressed, I became more angry, ruthless, and fearless. I bore arms in my Jihad to defend our people against the infidels. Physical Jihad in Islam is traditionally a holy war or the physical struggle on the battlefield against one’s enemies in order to ward off aggression.


My code name was Astro. I thought it was cool. I didn’t do drugs. Somehow, I knew that drugs were bad for me—that they killed. I had an addiction of a different kind, however. Frequently, it manifested itself in an AK47 assault rifle, and at other times with a B7 (RBG) antitank, above-shoulder missile or with a B10 mounted artillery. Sometimes it was a grenade and at other times a land mine. At other times, it was a sniper rifle with a long scope or a handgun. Whatever it was, it had gunpowder in it.


In order to know why I had such a vile addiction, you must walk in my shoes. I lost the father I loved at the age of eight. My schooling was constantly interrupted with a loud siren as Israeli airplanes invaded my country’s airspace to spy and bomb at will. My childhood came to a halt as a vicious civil war broke out. Tens of thousands were slaughtered. Death was everywhere. Buildings developed loads of cavities. Daily bombings and bomb shelters became an unpleasant fact. Nerves were on the edge. Hearts were racing. My enemy wanted me dead.


When I turned fifteen, I became a man. At least I thought I did. My enemy was still at the gate, and he wanted me dead. I trained to defend our land and existence. I had to kill or be killed. Gunpowder became my outlet, my escape, my addiction. When I was first baptized by fire in the heat of battle, I was gripped by fear for I knew that my life could be snuffed out in an instant.


Soon, I gained a taste, a hunger for gunpowder. It was no longer good enough for me to wait for the action, but I had to create and escalate it. I went to fronts when they were quiet to begin skirmishes. I would sit there in wait and snipe at my enemies to feed my addiction. I prided myself on my marksmanship, so when I was bored, I used phosphoric bullets and landed them inside enemy foxholes. I became like a heroine addict waiting for the next fix, the next injection to satisfy my adrenaline rush and animalistic urge.


Sometimes when I would begin a skirmish, I used B7 (RBG) to destroy my enemies’ armed vehicles. When I got more firepower back than what I bargained for, I would call for reinforcements and heavy artillery came to my aid. At times, these unprovoked encounters turned into serious battles that I regretted, especially when my company was outgunned. However, somehow I survived.


When it was quiet on the military fronts at night, we gathered around radio CBs to speak to Christians on the other side. We blasphemed each other and everything the other held sacred. The names constantly on my lips during these vulgar exchanges were those of Jesus, Mary, and the priests. At that time, I thought I believed in God and that He sanctioned hatred.


One day, while at central command, we got word that two mounted enemy vehicles had just passed the militarized zone and were coming toward us. When we saw them, we quickly took the drivers out and then concentrated our firepower on the mounted machine gunners. Less than a minute later, all of them had fallen, but the bullets continued flying. The beasts in us took over. We didn’t want this to end. Minutes later, two bodies were burning right in front of me. I heard the crackling of the flesh, smelled the burning tissue, and I was satisfied. The adrenaline was rushing.


Those pigs did not deserve to live, I thought to myself. I remember the malevolence of the moment as we poked fun at their burning bodies and hurled insults at them. My humanity later returned from its sabbatical. I realized the fragility of life. God had created those human beings. They had dreams, and they had mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and perhaps siblings, wives, and children… 



This highlight from chapter one of From Jihad to Jesus was used with permission.