In school in Gaza, I learned hate, vengeance and retaliation.
Peace was never an option, as it was considered a sign of defeat and weakness. At school we sang songs with verses calling Jews “dogs” (in Arab culture, dogs are considered unclean).
Criticism and questioning were forbidden. When I did either of these, I was told: “Muslims cannot love the enemies of God, and those who do will get no mercy in hell.” As a young woman, I visited a Christian friend in Cairo during Friday prayers, and we both heard the verbal attacks on Christians and Jews from the loudspeakers outside the mosque. They said: “May God destroy the infidels and the Jews, the enemies of God. We are not to befriend them or make treaties with them.” We heard worshippers respond “Amen”.
My friend looked scared; I was ashamed. That was when I first realised that something was very wrong in the way my religion was taught and practised. Sadly, the way I was raised was not unique. Hundreds of millions of other Muslims also have been raised with the same hatred of the West and Israel as a way to distract from the failings of their leaders. Things have not changed since I was a little girl in the 1950s.