With passion, conviction and even a little humor, anti-Israel-terrorist-turned-Christian Walid Shoehat supported Israel and criticized what he described as the violent nature of Islam in a speech Thursday night.
Speaking in front of approximately 75 students and faculty members inside the Communication and Information Sciences building, Shoehat told the story of how he transformed himself from a Jew-hating terrorist to a Christian who loves and tolerates all religions.
He began his speech describing his childhood, which he spent in Jordan, and said young Muslims are taught anti-Semitism at a very young age. He recited a song they would sing in elementary school that went, “Arabs are beloved, Jews are dogs.”
And when it came to the Holocaust, young Muslims were told it was a fabrication.
“We would chew on popcorn and giggle as we watched the footage,” he said. “And we would wonder, ‘Where did they find all these skinny, bony actors?'”
As a young child, Shoehat said he, along with many other children, nearly killed an Israeli soldier.
“(The soldier) came looking for a child that threw a stone at him,” Shoehat said. “We jumped on him. My friend had a club with a nail in the end of it and was stabbing the soldier in the head, repeatedly, trying to kill him. And I was clubbing him in the head, trying to kill him as well, and the club broke in half. Then I just started beating him (with my fists). It was something out of a horror movie.”
Shoehat’s hatred of Jews continued until he reached adulthood. Still a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, he moved to Chicago in the early 1990s. Then, after investigating Jews and their culture out of curiosity, Shoehat said he began to question all that he had been taught. When he read the Bible, he became fascinated with it.
“I fell in love with it,” he said.
Shortly thereafter he converted to Christianity, which caused a rift inside his family that caused him to lose family land that had been entitled to him.
After the speech, one student asked how he could just “flip the switch” from hatred to tolerance.
“Hatred, terrorism, is a drug,” Shoehat responded. “I had to go through detoxification.”
He also compared fundamentalists of different religions.
“Yes, I am a Christian fundamentalist, and I’m sure I give people headaches,” he said. “But the Muslim fundamentalist will take the whole head off. There’s quite a difference there, isn’t there?”
Shoehat repeated many times that Israeli’s occupation of Palestine, which ended in the early 1990s, was “not about land.” He said the real occupation was the occupation of the hearts and minds of Muslim children.
“We have to cut the snake’s head off,” he said. “We have to stop the mosques with the filthy hate messages. We have to stop it, there is no other way.”