Hassan Abu Hamza wanted to be called Paul, in memory of the saint who, like him, is of Syrian origin. He intends to retrace his footsteps of tolerance after being a fierce persecutor. Online there are those who accuse him of having betrayed Islam. Others think it is a "Daesh attempt to infiltrate" fighters in Europe.
Berlin (AsiaNews) – For the past three days, Arab and Islamic media and social networks have been a buzz with photos of the baptism and the news of conversion to Christianity of Hassan Abu Hamza for the past three days.
The former Sharia judge of al-Fath's Islamic extremist army was also a member of al Qaeda and commander of the military arm of the Nusra Front. The repentant Islamic terrorist chose the name of another convert to Christianity: St. Paul. And like Saint Paul, he wants to become a great example of tolerance after being one of the most fierce persecutors of Eastern Christians.
Appearing in a popular YouTube video from Germany (click here), Paul Hassan Abu Haza wanted to challenge those who had advised him to stay in the shadows, out of fear he would be killed in retaliation. He spoke of his singular experience, with the same coldness towards death that had characterized his work among jihadist groups. These include some of the most brutal movements to emerge in recent years in the Middle East, from al Qaeda to Nusra, passing through Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State].
"I am the son of a Muslim family," says the former jihadist, "and I was born in Syria. Ever since childhood I had decided to follow the oath of jihad [holy war] for Islam. " Paul began his jihadist journey in Iraq at the age of 19, becoming one of the founders of al Qaeda of Mesopotamia. Returning to Syria, he ended up in the suspect network and was therefore arrested. A year later he left the jail, thus beginning the founding of the Salafite terrorist organization. In short, he became one of the first fighters to establish a regime of Islamic power in Syria well before the start of the war.
Arrested a second time, he spent seven years in jail. Throughout this time, Paul experienced the same dreams he actually called nightmares: "I was in the middle of an empty church - he says - in front of the crucifix, I was convinced that it was the work of the devil who was tempting me" . Released from Hassan prison, he became a military emir [jihadist commander] and a judge of the "Caliphate" in the Sharia Islamic tribunal during the Syrian Revolution.
The vicissitudes of the war in Syria lead him to Istanbul, where he began to think that Allah cannot be a God of blood. Thus began a period of Gnosticism and of seeking meaning to life. He migrated with the flows of refugees to Austria, then Germany. It was in Austria, during his illegal journey towards Germany, that he saw the exterior of a church on a hill: the same church he had seen from outside in its "nightmares" during his seven years of imprisonment. In Hannover on the second day of his arrival at the refugee camp, "for the first time in my life" he went to a church. The interior of the building and the crucifix in it were the same he had seen when he was in prison in his tormented dreams. He therefore decided to go to a Protestant church in Berlin, where he continued to draw near to Christianity. "The tenderness of the Lord and Jesus Christ - he said - gave me brothers of faith with clear messages."
Meanwhile, the controversy on social media is ceaseless: from the Islamic side, there are those who see in the conversion of the former emir a betrayal worthy of death because he is a traitor. "In addition to betraying his country, becoming involved in the revolution in Syria, he now betrays his maker and his faith. " On the other hand there are those who, among the Christians of the East, express skepticism about a "criminal who seeks impunity for mistakes committed by abusing our naivety." Finally, there are also those who thank God "for having saved a soul immersed in blood and suffocated by hatred from hell".
One girl, on the other hand, even wrote "to the Christian brothers in Europe to be careful" and to be "distrustful" of his type, while for another it is "Daesh's attempt to infiltrate the European world with a Christian mask."
Beyond all controversy, the riddle of a former jihadist emir who spent his entire life struggling for the Islamization of his own land and who, today, has decided to embrace Christianity while seeking asylum in Europe remains.