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Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies Table Our Journey Through the Middle East Hardcover – January 26, 2010
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"Narrator George Wilson has a deep, resonant voice, and he pronounces every word as if it were a cherished object." ---AudioFile --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Ted Dekker is the author of many nationally best-selling novels, including Bone Man’s Daughters, The Circle Series, Thr3e, and House. His unique style of storytelling has captured the attention of millions worldwide. Visit him at TedDekker.com and Facebook.com/TedDekker.
Carl Medearis is an international expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations. He acts as a catalyst for a number of current movements in the Middle East to promote peace-making and to promote cultural, political and religious dialog leading toward reconciliation. He is the author of the acclaimed book on these issues Muslims, Christians and Jesus. Visit him at www.carlmedearis.com.
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The book is set up as the story of the journey of New York Times best selling author Ted Dekker and the most official title you'll ever get out of Carl Medearis, which is "Mr. Carl." Carl is actually the most prominant Western White "Christian" (better referenced as a follower of Jesus) to ever build bridges and share the life and ministry of Jesus to the insides of the most dangerous places on earth for most Christians to go. The journey for these two is to go to those that are considered the enemies of the United States and sit down and try and show their humanity through "People Magazine" type questions and then ask them on their thoughts on Jesus' command for us to love our enemies. The idea was for them to see if they could find "the Good Samaritan" living today. The list of who they actually sit down with is quite astonishing (some names so high up that they had to be changed for safety reasons):
Abdul Fadeel Al Kusi (head of Al Azhar University in Egypt)
A colonel in the Saudi Arabian army
Hussein Shobokshi (an influential media personality Saudi Arabia)
Two of Osama bin Laden's brothers
Sheik Muhammad Yamani (minister of information in Saudi Arabia and in charge of making Islamic law)
Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah (regarded by many to be Hezbollah's spiritual leader)
A Bedouin Prince
Two Lebanese Hezbollah Fighters
Hezbollah Sheik Nabil Qaouk
Mufti Abdul Fattah Al Bizem (Damascus Mufti who significantly influences the interpretation of Islamic law throughout entire region)
Sheik Ekrima Sa'id Sabri (Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, appointed by Yasser Arafat)
Sami Awad (to most a modern day "Christian" Gandhi in Bethlehem)
A top leader in the Hamas.
The questions that were shown in the book were things like:
What makes you laugh?
What is your favorite joke?
When was the last time you cried?
What are Americans wrong perceptions of Muslims?
What are Muslims wrong perceptions of Americans?
What do you think of Jesus' teaching of loving our enemies?
and more, depending on the interview
Now, the reason I say that I was disappointed that much of the perspective of Carl Medearis wasn't given is that the depth of the conversation just wasn't there. The purpose of the book, however, was to put a face and personality with these people we call our enemies. For the most part, they are our enemies as a country and politics, but for my personal convictions, they are not my personal enemies in any way.
I believe if Medearis co-authored the book, we might have received more in depth information on the spiritual insights that were discussed. But, this doesn't mean the book was a wash, it just wasn't completely what I was expecting. Ted Dekker is a great author and this book was one that I read in three days as Dekker made it easy to connect to as he referenced his fears and troubling thoughts as he was embarking on these journeys to places where literally no Christian had been in years. Not only is the reader given insight to the conversations that took place, but Dekker puts together mini history lessons for each place and person that they are going to interview, which was very helpful in putting more than merely a name and "pin in a map" before going into the interview.
Overall I liked the book. I think it will be very helpful in breaking down some walls with those we consider our enemies. Our enemies' personalities are brought out so that we can grow to understand and love them and try to carry out the most rebellious command ever given to us: love, bless and pray for our enemies.
If one is hoping to get more in depth understanding of Islam, this book isn't for you. If one is hoping to see Muslims and Christians speak about Jesus, this book has very little to offer. For both of those I would highly recommend Medearis' book, "Muslims, Christians and Jesus" or Siljander's book, "A Deadly Misunderstanding." But, if you desire to learn more about those that the United States has on terrorist lists and you desire to love and pray for them, this is a great book to start with.
Also, the follow up event to this book called, "Why Do You Fear Me?" has their video up from the event, which I highly recommend to hear some amazing stories on what is happening around the Muslim world.
I highly Recommend this book.
A. An Abundance of Insipid Talk on Peace
Despite the book's hype on "nail-biting narrative" (front matter) of interviews with "figures whose names would launch the eyebrows of any agent in Homeland Security or the CIA into his hairline" (p. 231), the content is largely comprised of insipid, unexciting conversations on love and tolerance by peace-loving Muslims--"I love peace. It pleases God" (Sheik Nabil, p. 126); "I believe that we ought to love [man]" and live as "humanitarians" (Ayatollah Fadlallah, p. 81). Readers seeking a thriller filled with dangerous encounters will be sorely disappointed to find the only danger to be that imagined by the author, who likens himself to a "frightened little mouse" constantly questioning "the sanity of the whole trip" (p. 37). Readers expecting fiery rhetoric or reflections that shed light on the terrorist mind will similarly be disappointed. Rather, they will find love and compassion in leaders of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. One such leader gave a story of the Prophet Muhammad to demonstrate how Muslims should live: Muhammad had a Jewish neighbor who hated him and "took his garbage and put it on Muhammad's door." Muhammad said nothing and threw away the garbage. After learning that the Jewish neighbor was sick, Muhammad "went to visit him. Because our religion says to love everyone, even if they had hurt us in some way" (p. 208).
All of this testimony by peace-loving Muslims renders the book quite dull. It would have been far more interesting had the coauthors managed to bring the reader face to face with radical Jihadists, to understand what they are thinking, to get behind their psychology to better understand terrorism. But we only hear about such Jihadists indirectly through interviewees, who usually condemn them (e.g., Ayatollah Fadlallah's "I always feel sad when innocent people are victims of ... the extremists" on p. 81).
Readers like me who bought this book thinking that they would encounter terrorists who make theological justifications for their heinous acts will find none of it here. The closest that they will find is an interview with a Hezbollah fighter, but even he turns out to be a sympathetic character. He relates his difficult decision that "whoever shoots at us, we would shoot back. And this is the toughest decision I have ever made. This ... made me cry" (p. 122).
B. Responses to Jesus' Message of Loving One's Enemies
When asked what they thought of Jesus' teaching to love one's enemy, the responses, though quite varied, mostly ignored the question or changed the subject. A Syrian driver turned the interviewer's attention to the Prophet Muhammad: "Isa was a great prophet. The best prophet, who was without fault, as Muhammad has said. We should listen to the prophet Muhammad" (p. 153). Other respondents, while not ignoring the question entirely, did not answer it directly. Abdul Fadeel Al Kusi, one of the "most powerful men in all of Islam" (p. 27), when asked whether he was familiar with Jesus' teaching to "love your neighbor as yourself," turned to his two mottos: "Just love; love justice" and "Peace for all the world" (p. 29).
With all of this testimony by peace-loving Muslims, the reader is left wondering how to explain all of the fighting in the Middle East. Is it all really just America's fault? Perhaps the only response that can be reconciled with the fighting was that of a Hamas operative who on page 208 outright rejected Jesus' teaching: "[the Israelis] are killing us ... I will not turn my cheek. I will fight back."
The only respondent demonstrate that he was living the teaching of loving one's enemy was Sami Awad, a peace-activist and nonviolence advocate who frequently risked his life in building understanding between Jews and Arabs. Sami gave some well thought-out reflections on Jesus' teaching: "when Jesus talks about loving the enemy, he is talking about working to create something new. Creating a new identity through unity. When you have this new identity, the concept of `the other' is completely eliminated ... Their sorrows become your sorrows, their history becomes your history, and their future becomes your future" (p. 195). The reader will find Sami Awad to have transcended his own personal wants and desires through love, and his love does not discriminate between Christian, Muslim, and Jew.
C. The Book's True Objective: to Confront Readers' Prejudices
This book, through its interviews, seeks to bring readers to confront their prejudices against the Middle East. Unlike what the West has been conditioned to believe at the hands of the media, the Middle East is not ripe with hate-filled warmongers wishing death and destruction on Israel and the West. That they are the West's "enemies" is just a myth to be dispelled. This is admitted by coauthor Carl Medearis on Hezbollah TV. In explaining what the book's subtitle, "Sitting at the Enemies' Table," means, he states, "we say `enemies' only because people in America oftentimes think [those] of Hezbollah are our enemies. So we try to help dispel the myth of the Hezbollah and the Muslim world." It in part tries to achieve this objective by helping the reader see things from the other's perspective: "Over here Christians are known as much for violence as the next guy. Heck, the Christians are the ones pulverizing the terrorists and all those who happened to be nearby with shock and awe these days. That's' the way the world sees it, right? (p. 232).
Yet in some ways, the book is shortsighted and its conclusions drawn too quickly. The authors ignore a fundamental difference between Western forces fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, which seek to abide by international humanitarian law and lament collateral damage to civilians or civilian objects as the tragic and inevitable consequence of war, and terrorists, who knowingly and intentionally seek out civilian targets in order to meet their objectives, thus violating the laws of war of civilized nations. Although Western forces have in the past been guilty of grave or even reckless breaches of such norms, such breaches lead to investigations to bring justice to those responsible and apologies to victims. The military branches of the United States, for example, have their own legal corps responsible for investigating and prosecuting those responsible for such breaches.
Terrorist groups, on the other hand, never repent or try to avoid such acts; rather, they directly target innocent civilians in order to create an atmosphere of fear that paralyzes all potential opposition, from both governments as well as from civil society. This is precisely what makes terrorists criminals outside of the norms of civilized nations.
D. Overall Rating
This book is not strong material for those wishing to read about America's "enemies," though it is excellent as an engaging and thought-provoking primer on current conflicts in the Middle East and their historical and political contexts.