A video of a young Kuwaiti man speaking in Hebrew has sparked a debate online after he announced that he had converted to Judaism, a controversial decision in his faith and his country.
Yousef Al-Mhanna, 25, who now goes by Naftali Ben Yahuda is currently living in London where he's temporarily residing after his conversion.
In a BBC Arabic program, Naftali talked about living in Kuwait as convert while having to keep his Jewish faith a secret, especially coming from a family of devout Muslims.
He also expressed his hopes of moving to Israel once he finishes what he described as the legal process of becoming a Jewish man.
Many Kuwaiti social media users expressed their shock, as it is very unusual for Muslims to convert to Judaism.
هذا الفتى مجرد دعاية سياسية، قد يكون تحول إلى إسرائيلي ولكن لن يصبح يهودي مهما فعل.— Mansour (@iEng_Mans) December 16, 2019
Translation: "This guy is nothing but propaganda. Maybe he has converted to becoming Israeli but there is no way he can become Jewish".
However, there was also an unexpected level of support and acceptance for his decision from within the Arab community, with a number of people highlighting that freedom of belief and religion is a right.
حريته الشخصية— قاسم حمود الريس (@Qhasem7mod) December 17, 2019
Translation: "It is his personal choice".
#يوسف_المهنا— سيَّد الغُربآء .! 🇸🇦 (@FawazAL3abdly) December 18, 2019
مسلم صغير بالسن ، يعتنق اليهودية يقول في حواره مع قناة أخبارية : اعتناقي لليهودية ليس اعجاباً بل اقتنعت أن التوراة كتاب أُنزِلَ من الله !
ولنفهم عقلية من يغيّر دينه يجب أن نراعي كل الجوانب العاطفية والاجتماعية والمادية لنفس الشخص ...
Translation: "A young Muslim converts to Judaism and says in an interview with a news channel: My conversion to Judaism is not because I like it, rather it's because of my belief that the Torah is a divine book. We need to understand the mentality of converts, and have to consider all emotional, social and material aspects of that person..."
A Kuwaiti young man 🇰🇼, converted to Judaism, taught himself Hebrew, and is now part of the people of Israel.— Mark Halawa - مارك حلاوه (@HalawaMark) December 15, 2019
Much respect and appreciation for your courage, brother Naftali.
Welcome home. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 https://t.co/sO8uu1byU8
Among the support, some social media users couldn't ignore the underlying politics of an Arab Muslim man choosing to pursue life in Israel as a Jewish person.
يوسف قريبي ولعبا مع بعض وحنا يهال! والولد ذكي.— فاطِمه | تُرمق ولاتصدق. (@LaTuto_) December 16, 2019
و فعلاً اهو يبحث عن نفسه و موغلط. بس الله يهدي لو مو داخل بدين مُسيس لي هذي الدرجه لكانت وطأة الموضوع اقل ..
و اتمني من الناس يستوعبون ان ورا اهل.
Translation: "Yousef is my relative and we use to play together when we were young. He's a smart guy. Effectively he's searching for himself and that's not wrong. But with God's guidance, if only he hadn't chose to convert to a religion that's politicized to this extent, it wouldn't have been such a big deal."
There was some speculation that Nafatali was disguising his true intentions of wanting to move to Israeli.
But in the same TV interview, he denied the allegations that he's trying to seek asylum, pointing out that he led a well-off life back in Kuwait.
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