Dr. Mark Christian grew up in Egypt the son of a Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, physician and military officer, with all the privileges and pressures that came with that elite status.
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By the age of 12 he'd memorized more than 70 percent of the Quran. He was a child imam who studied in Cairo's best madrasas and was being groomed for his own career in medicine.
He idolized his father and earned his trust by studying the Quran day and night. He attended mosque regularly and soon found himself answering religious questions from men more than twice his age.
Snaking through the vast stacks of Quranic knowledge stored up in the boy's mind was the asp of anti-Semitism, the idea that Jews were a festering problem, a hindrance to Allah and Islam. To Mark, as with his father, Israel was a cancer in the Middle East that needed to be removed.
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"We saw them as less than human," Christian said of the Jewish people. "Everything I learned growing up from my father was that Jews were evil, 100 percent."
In June 1967, four years before he was born, his father had a direct confrontation with the enemy.
To avoid a government crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood activists, his father had joined the Egyptian military. He was stationed at a small airbase on the Suez Canal when Israeli jets attacked with lightning speed.
"They leveled the entire air base in the first couple hours of the war. They were very smart in the way they conducted the attack, taking out all the airbases first," Christian said. "My dad was one of only two men at his base to survive that attack."
Israel emerged victorious from what would later be called the Six Day War, seizing the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
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"So I grew up very interested in Israel in every way," he says. "The Arab-Israeli conflict had been very personal for me from day one. They tried to kill my dad, so I wanted to learn more about this fight. I wanted to know facts. I hated them for multiple reasons."
His father fought again in Egypt's 1973 war with Israel. Then, in the early 1980s he and his father watched with glee as the Israelis pulled out of the occupied Sinai Peninsula.
A new man with a new vision of the world
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Now, at age 43, he finds himself on the other side of the conflict. He is now a former Muslim, having converted to Christianity almost 10 years ago and living under a fatwa punishable by death. Instead of celebrating retreating Israelis he is now celebrating the birth 67 years ago of the very nation he was taught to hate.
On March 19, Christian, founder of the Global Faith Institute, will be throwing a big party in celebration of Israel. It's called the "Israel in the Heartland" event to be held in his adopted home of Omaha, Nebraska. Details are at his website.
He will bring in several Holocaust survivors, serve Kosher food and even let people experience some Jewish song and dance. He has invited the local Jewish community, as well as Christian churches and, yes, even Muslims will be welcomed to share in the fellowship.
"People ask me 'why are you doing this?' And I think also because of my background and putting on an event like this there are Jews who will look at this with a very suspicious eye, wondering 'I don't know if this is true.'"
Christian said he visited the local Jewish Federation and was questioned about his motives.
"They looked at me and said 'are you Jewish? I say no, I am Egyptian and they say 'why are you doing this?' I said because we need to be united and we need to celebrate Israel."
Christian said he is concerned about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide, especially in Europe. He sees the birth of Israel in 1948 as a miracle, but that birth is not fully completed (forgive him if he talks in "birthing" metaphors as he is a practicing Ob/Gyn).
"One thing that jumps into my mind, this is not a war that has been won. It is ongoing. No way would it have happened in the first place without the miracle of God," he said. "In 1948 you had a group of Jews coming from the Holocaust, using weapons that were World War II castoffs from Yugoslavia and other parts of Eastern Europe, just scraps, to fight Arab forces from six countries. How is that even possible?"
"So people ask, and it has nothing to do with me. It is about Israel," he said. "It's about the Holocaust survivors and it's about the Jewish people and the Jewish heritage that I have come to admire. This is not about me whatsoever."
He admits he will not win any popularity contests in Nebraska.
"There is a reason why we never had a pro-Israel event here in Nebraska," he said. "Obviously it's not a very popular idea. I think there is more of people minding their own business, people don’t want conflict. And a big number of people with very liberal ideas and just the idea of 'let people live and don't worry about what's going on.'"
Christian has also made some enemies by taking a vocal stand against an interfaith movement in Omaha called the Tri-Faith Initiative. He is not against building interfaith bridges with Muslims, but says the Tri-Faith Initiative, which seeks to build a church, a mosque and a synagogue on the same plot of real estate, is cooperating with radical elements tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. These elements are not representative of the overall Muslim community in Omaha, he has argued on local talk radio.
Countering jhadist propaganda in Nebraska
The Muslim Brotherhood has formed dozens of front groups in the U.S., and two of the most active are the Islamic Society of North America or ISNA and the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR, both of which have documented ties to Hamas that were brought out in 2008 during the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism financing trial ever conducted in the U.S. These groups are involved in most interfaith dialogue in the U.S. including the Tri-Faith Initiative, which has the financial backing of some of Omaha's wealthiest families including Susie Buffet, daughter of billionaire investor Warren Buffet.
The Muslim Brotherhood is at the forefront of pushing for Islamic jihad around the world, whether violent jihad as it wages through Hamas in Israel, or civilizational jihad as they wage in America, Christian said.
Christian has taken heat in the local media for exposing the Muslim Brotherhood ties to the Tri-Faith Initiative but he is not alone in his assessment of the Brotherhood's influence over government, law enforcement, education and religious institutions in America.
John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and counter-terrorism specialist, recently said that ISNA, along with the Islamic Circle of North America, control almost all interfaith dialogue involving U.S. Muslims.
Those two Muslim Brotherhood front groups "pretty much run every ecumenical council with outreach to the Muslim community," Guandolo said at a recent conference at Colorado Christian University. "So even if you are interested in reaching out to your average Muslim you're not doing it when you do it as a part of that ecumenical outreach. You're dealing with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood."
CAIR, ISNA and the rest of the front groups immediately brand anybody who exposes their documented ties to the Islamic jihad-supporting Muslim Brotherhood as "racist" and "haters."
In the Middle East, one thing unites everybody, Christian says, and that is hatred for Israel and the Jew. He believes the Brotherhood is trying to bring that mindset to America, little by little.
Worst of all, Christian says this type of hatred is seeping into America's churches. Some, such as the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA have joined the international boycott against Israel.
The United Church of Christ has also issued a declaration of solidarity with the Palestinians that is stridently anti-Israel. Not surprisingly, the Omaha church that is planning to represent the Christian wing of the Tri-Faith Initiative is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
Disdain for the Jew is ingrained in the Quran and the Hadiths, Christian said. Yet, some mega-church pastors have been inviting imams into their pulpits to teach from the Quran, claiming Islam is a religion of peace. Some verses are peaceful but they can be canceled out by later verses that are contradictory according to the Islamic doctrine of abrogation, he said.
When Muhammad moved to Medina the city was about half Jewish. About three years later, they were all gone. They were murdered, enslaved and deported. A large portion of the Quran written while Muhammad was in Medina reflects this hatred of Jews, canceling out earlier verses that seemed more tolerant. The imams will not tell their captive church audiences about the doctrine of abrogation.
Christian said he was taught by his father that Allah hated the Jews and the final judgment day would not come until Muslims had eradicated every last one of them from the earth. He was teaching straight from the Hadiths, Christian said, citing the following examples.
Sahih Bukhari Hadith Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176: Narrated by Abdullah bin Umar: Allah's apostle said, "You (Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.'"
Sahih Bukhari Hadith Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177: Narrated by Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him."
"On his deathbed Muhammad said two things," Christian said. "One was that this land (of Arabia) should not have any Jews or Christians or any of their houses of worship on it, and this is why Saudi Arabia to this day will not allow any churches or synagogues."
Sadly, Christians in the Middle East, while peaceful compared to the Muslims, also harbor attitudes of resentment toward Jews, Christian said.
If all else fails, 'blame the Jews'
"Even Christians in Syria, in Jordan, in Egypt, they still hate the Jews and cannot say anything good about Israel. They blame Israel and America for creating ISIS. You can blame Jews for everything. I am not joking," he said. "But it's true. I grew up with that."
This has become a cultural phenomenon passed down through the generations, he said.
"The old saying is, "If a couple is fighting with each other and they get a divorce they can blame the Jews!"
Anti-Semitism among American Christians tends to be more subtle, taking the form of anti-Zionism, especially among younger people on college campuses, and that is something Christian wishes to confront.
"There are some Christian sects that hate Israel and are blaming everything on Israel right now," he said. "It is the MSA (Muslim Student Association) that is inciting that on college campuses."
The MSA, another offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has chapters on more than 600 college campuses in America and is also active in influencing what goes into school textbooks about the Islamic faith.
"They are the ones that are helping and fueling in every way to corrupt the minds of the youth in the United States," Christian said.
He said he began questioning what he had learned about Israel when he started meeting actual Jews around the age of 19, at resorts in Sinai.
"I was still a Muslim at that time but I was living for myself, for the good times, and I found them some of the most fun people to be around," he said. "I still didn't trust them, but it made me want to learn more facts."
Curious by nature, he started studying the history of Arab-Israeli relations. He found that most of what he had learned came from "a very biased perspective."
Guests of honor
So now he wants to share his love for the country he once hated with the state of Nebraska.
Two Holocaust survivors, Morton Klein and Eugene Lebovitz, will speak at the event, along with a Philadelphia rabbi whose family fled Egypt after the 1967 Six Day War.
"Rabbi Albert Gabbai will speak about anti-Semitism in the Middle East and how his family was kicked out," Christian said. "They left and lost everything after the war. There were a lot of Jewish families in Egypt, very successful, prior to the war. He was a kid in Egypt in 1967, and he was put in jail and was about to die in jail a couple of times. He eventually came to America."
Gabbai became the rabbi of one of the oldest synagogues in the United States, Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia.
Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, was born in a refugee camp in Gunzberg, Germany, to Holocaust survivors. He is an economist who served in the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations.
Lebovitz is a retired Israeli military officer born in 1928 in Czechoslovakia. Both his parents were murdered by the Nazis and he survived the infamous death march in the middle of winter in 1945. He commanded five units in Israel's 1948 war of independence and led the conquest of the city of Haifa.
After his conversion, Christian said he learned the truth about the battles his father described to him as a child, and found that Israel was not the aggressor, but defended itself against an imminent attack from Muslim Arabs "fueled by notions of Islamic supremacism."
"Over the years, I have developed a deep respect for the Jewish people and the successful nation they have built in their ancestral home," he said. "I have come to know the truth about their struggles over the centuries, and the raw brutality of the Holocaust.
"So we'll have kosher food and singing and we're going to make it as much a Jewish celebration as we can," Christian added. "I want to have a taste of Israel here in the Midwest so their hearts can change about the ideology and all the things we have learned. I want people to love Israel the way I love Israel right now."