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Convicting the "Paintball Sheikh" - Ali Al Timimi - American born Imam/professor goes to jail for Jihad recruitment

Freedom of speech does not include incitement to terrorism
May 2, 2005

MIM :Muslim American Society flyer for paintball event in Tampa last year boasts of "separating the guns from the toys".

Ali Al Timimi was part of what became known as the Virginia' paintball Jihad' . Several jailed paintball practioners who had gone abroad to change to 'guns from the toys' testified against Al Tamimi at his trial.

See article below: 'U.S. cleric being tried in nation's terror court '.(The article url is invalid).


Convicting the "Paintball Sheikh"

by Daniel Pipes
May 2, 2005

Which is "the federal government's greatest court victory against terrorism"? According to an article by Debra Erdley in yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that would be the conviction on April 26, 2005, of Ali al-Timimi.

Ali who? Well yes, with the exception of the Tribune-Review, which followed the Timimi case because of a Pittsburgh angle, the mainstream media stayed resolutely away from the case, with nearly everyone simply reprinting the identical Associated Press dispatch deep inside the newspaper. Television was apparently oblivious to the trial.

What is so momentous about the Timimi conviction, Erdley notes, is its being the first time since 9/11 that the U.S. government has put away a terrorist not for his deeds, such as raising money or blowing something up, but for his words.

The previous time this occurred was in 1995, when the feds convicted Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, for having incited the (aborted) "day of terror" planned in New York City for June 1993. As the lead prosecutor in the case, Andrew C. McCarthy, explained, what made the prosecution in this case unique, was the government's

stratagem to focus on the jihad organization behind the individuals carrying out this program: all the defendants were charged under the seditious conspiracy statute, which criminalizes agreements to wage war against the United States and to oppose government authority by force.

Included among the defendants was the blind and diabetic sheikh, someone who himself obviously could not take part in operations, but he is spending the rest of his life in a U.S. prison for his seditious words.

And now, Ali al-Timimi, also a sheikh, follows in Abdel Rahman's footsteps to jail because he tried to get a group of young Americans Muslims associated with a paintball group in northern Virginia, to go to Afghanistan and fight for the Taliban regime there. Erdley explains:

Al-Timimi trial witnesses, including several members of the Paintball Jihad, said that at a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, he advised the men to leave the country and take up arms for the Taliban in its coming war with the U.S. "There is definitely a line crossed where someone is not just expressing views about our country, but encouraging, directing and enabling individuals to act on those words," [Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney Paul] McNulty said.

"Some people still want to debate the issue of whether this constitutes speech. The essence of the case was, did these words have an effect on these individuals? Did they get solicited, induced, encouraged? Did they have an influence over the conduct of other people? The jury came back guilty on all counts," McNulty said.

This case, prosecuted by Gordon Kromberg and his team, is so important because it dealt with words and placed them in context. For example, the indictment of Timimi quotes a message he sent out on February 1, 2003, the day when the Columbia space shuttle crashed to earth, in which he – a born American citizen – stated that

There is no doubt that Muslims were overjoyed because of the adversity that befell their greatest enemy.

The Columbia crash made me feel, and God is the only One to know, that this is a strong signal that Western supremacy (especially that of America) that began 500 years ago is coming to a quick end, God Willing, as occurred to the shuttle.

God Willing, America will fall and disappear.

That the government is ready to take such sentiments into consideration when prosecuting a terrorism case is one more sign of its growing recognition that the current war is not against terrorism but against the ideas that lead to that terrorism, namely arising out of radical Islam.

That said, it is troubling to see the mainstream media so consistently seeming not to see the import of these developments. Rather, they tend to ignore a case like that of Ali al-Timimi – or, if they do notice it, focus on the wrong set of issues.

My guess is that, once again, the Internet has to make up for this failing.


U.S. cleric being tried in nation's terror court

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- On the surface, little distinguishes the federal courthouse here from its counterparts across the nation.

The scales of justice, the metal detectors, the federal marshals, even the courtrooms themselves could easily be transplanted into any of scores of U.S. cities.

It's the case docket here that makes the difference.

Over the last four years, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, once known for espionage cases, has become the nation's terror court.

From the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks through Dec. 31, 2003, the district, one of 90 regional federal court districts, handled one-fifth of all terrorism cases in the U.S., a study by a Syracuse University group showed.

The government since has ceased releasing records that allow for such comparisons, but recent events suggest the trend continues. Paul McNulty, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, estimated his office uses 25 to 30 percent of its resources on terror-related cases.

Now, in a case legal experts and civil libertarians are watching, prosecutors are asking a jury to convict Ali Al-Timimi, 41, an American Islamic scholar, of trying to help the Taliban. The defendant maintains his innocence, and his supporters argue the charges are clear evidence of an anti-Muslim bias by the government.

The case raises the issue of when free speech crosses the line and becomes aiding and abetting terrorist activities.

Al-Timimi was known in Muslim circles around the world for his lectures on tape and on the Internet. His supporters point to well-known lectures calling for peace in the wake of the first World Trade Centers attack in 1993.

Prosecutors say he had another side: He was the person immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, who encouraged a group of young Muslims in northern Virginia to go to Afghanistan to train with the Taliban for jihad -- Muslim holy war -- against the United States.

The Pittsburgh connection

Al-Timimi also was listed on the advisory board of Assirat Al-Mustaqueem, an Arabic language magazine published out of Pittsburgh from 1991 to 2000. The magazine called for holy war against Christians and Jews. It also lauded the international army Osama bin Laden assembled for the Taliban in Afghanistan and once praised Shamil Basayev, the Chechen rebel who took credit for last fall's bloody Beslen school massacre in which more than 300 people, many of them children, were killed.

At issue in the two-week case, which goes to the jury as soon as Monday, is whether his comments were simply sentiments of a religious leader exercising his First Amendment rights or a conscious attempt to ignite a homegrown holy war in the shadow of the nation's capital just days after Sept. 11. If convicted, Al-Timimi could face life in prison.

Al-Timimi, 41, of Fairfax, says he is innocent. His supporters argue the case is ridiculous, and for the government to even file charges is evidence of anti-Muslim bias.

The case before Judge Leonie M. Brinkema falls under a law that provides penalties for those who provide "material support" to designated terrorist organizations.

"It's primarily a tool the government uses to break up sleeper cells, to break up al-Qaida and al-Qaida-like organizations," said Jeffrey Addicott, of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

"Most of the cases have been against people who've gone to terrorist training camps or written checks to terrorist organizations. The gray area is: How far can you go with speech before it becomes material support?"

Government prosecutors contend Al-Timimi crossed the line.

The terrorism focus

Citing ongoing proceedings, McNulty was reluctant to comment specifically on the Al-Timimi case, but he isn't shy about his office's track record on terrorism.

His staff has increased by about 25 percent over the last three years. The bulk of that increase has gone toward a new terrorism and national security unit, McNulty said.

Although the group has handled its share of high-profile cases, McNulty said it has focused on shutting down financial support for terrorist organizations and prosecuting immigration fraud.

"We have cases involving millions of dollars going to the Middle East. ...We're trying to take that money out of the system," he said.

While cases such as Al-Timimi's were based on investigations in the Eastern District of Virginia, others were directed there by the Justice Department.


  • John Walker Lindh, the southern California man arrested with the Taliban in Afghanistan, was prosecuted here.
  • Zacharias Moussauoi, the French citizen suspected of being the 20th bomber in the Sept. 11 attacks, is expected to stand trial here late this year or early next.
  • Ahmed Omar Abu-Ali, who was detained in Saudi Arabia for two years before being returned to the U.S. and charged with plotting to launch an al-Qaida cell and assassinate President Bush, is being prosecuted here.
  • Lastly, the so-called "paintball jihad" case was prosecuted here, also before Judge Brinkema. It's that case that spurred the Al-Timimi prosecution. The "paintball jihad" case, concluded last year, involved charges against 11 Muslim men who met and talked about holy war and trained on target ranges and paintball fields in Virginia for that holy war. Nine ultimately were convicted, while two others were acquitted. In testimony, they pointed to Al-Timini as their spiritual leader.

    Why Alexandria?

    McNulty speculated several factors, including the Alexandria court's proximity to the nation's capital, entered into the decisions about where cases are prosecuted.

    "We have experienced judges, judges who've seen classified documents and know how to handle touchy issues," he said.

    But he conceded appellate court rulings for the government in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court, which covers the district, may be just as critical as the efficiency and experience of the trial court here.

    "I think when the government is looking at cases where they know there will be appellate issues, there is the added attraction here of being in a district where the appellate court is open to the government's position," McNulty said.

    Throughout his trial over the last two weeks, defense witnesses said Al-Timimi tried to dissuade the would-be jihadis after learning of their plans, but prosecutors argued otherwise, saying Al-Timimi's speeches, statements and published works promoted holy war.

    Prosecutors repeatedly played tapes of lectures in which Al-Timimi condemned the Mideast peace process as a plot to eliminate Islam. He called Christians "our enemy until the Day of Judgment."

    Defense attorney Edward MacMahon warned jurors at the start of the trial that some of his client's comments might constitute hate speech. He insisted, however, that those comments were protected under the First Amendment right of free speech and had nothing to do with anyone going to war against the U.S.

    Debra Erdley can be reached at or 412-320

  • --------------------------------------------


  • MIM: The making of an American Jihadi

  • Background of Al Timimi by The Muslim Link

    Doctor Ali Al-Timimi, one of a number of Islamic activists who have been targeted by the United States government in the "war on terror", faces trial for "inducing" Muslims to conspire to wage jihad. Doctor Al-Timimi is a well known lecturer, possesses a deep understanding of Islam, and enjoys a high standing among English speaking Muslims in the United States, Europe, and Australia. The Muslim Link presents here a biography of Doctor Al-Timimi.

    Dr. Ali Al-Timimi is one of a small group of highly educated, second generation immigrant Islamic activists who were born and raised in the United States. Highly knowledgeable in Islam, Dr. Al-Timimi recently completed a doctorate degree in Cancer Research from George Mason University and is a person who might be more comfortable among stacks of books than throngs of people. Quite and amiable, he is generous with his knowledge, having lectured throughout the area and around the world to mostly English speaking audiences. His CDs, tapes, and books are sold and freely distributed over the internet to thousands of people.

    Dr. Al-Timimi has been fighting spurious government charges against him for almost two years. In an 11 count indictment, Prosecutors portray Al-Timimi, 40, as the person who induced or motivated young men from the local area to join the Taliban. Such motivation constitutes 'material support' under the current 'anti-terror' laws. Dr. Al-Timimi was not indicted as a conspirator. However, he is facing serious charges that carry life sentence.

    Childhood life

    Dr. Al-Timimi was born in 1963 in Washington DC. He grew up in Washington D.C at a time when they were not many Muslims in the Washington DC area. The only Mosque in the entire metropolitan area and surrounding states was the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue. The Islamic Center in DC was not full during Friday prayer and not even on Eid prayers. Muslims used to drive from Pennsylvania and from far states, just to come for the Eid prayer.

    Ali's parents were working in the Iraqi embassy and the family lived in Washington DC in a predominantly Irish-Catholic neighborhood. Both of his parents were highly educated and education was crucial to them, so they sent him to a private Jewish Liberal school emphasizing strong academics. Ali grew up as a 'typical American kid' and his Islamic education was minimal. He never met an Arab Muslim peer during his childhood. When he was in middle school at the age of 12 or 13 a female classmate told him that she had to do a presentation about Islam and she asked him if it was true that Muslims face Makkah when they pray. Ali, not knowing the answer and afraid of being embarrassed ,made up an answer. "I didn't want to feel embarrassed in front of her by not knowing the answer. I thought about it for a few seconds and then told her ‘No, that was in the old days, they don't do that anymore!'," recounted Doctor Al-Timimi.

    Like many Muslims kids who did not get the chance to get proper Islamic education, all he knew about Islam was that Muslims do not worship Jesus, rather they consider him a Prophet. "Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) is our Prophet. Allah is the name for God in Arabic and that Christians have the Bible and Muslims' book is the Qur'an. Muslims do not eat pork, and do not drink alcohol. That's what I knew [about Islam]," Doctor Al-Timimi said.

    The first spark that led Doctor Al-Timimi's life long love to learning was a question posed by a non-Muslim summer camp counselor. She asked Ali about the Muslims' belief in the Day of Judgment. Ali went home and picked up the Qur'an translation from his father's library and looked in the index and started reading versus about the Day of Judgment. "I though 'Oh boy, this is very scary," remembered Al-Timimi.


    In 1978, when Ali was about 15 years old, his parents moved to Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom was not the modern state it is today. Since Ali did not speak Arabic, he attended a private school that was divided into two sections, Arabic and English. The students in the English Section were Muslims born in America or Europe whose parents were working in the Kingdom. Besides the secular education, students would memorize parts from the Quran, learn how to pray, how to fast and learn other Islamic teachings. The teachers were usually from Pakistan or India. Ali learned how to properly perform his prayer, memorized some of the Quran and absorbed a lot of basic Islamic information. In Ali's second year in the School in Riyadh, the school hired a man by the name of Bilal Philips to teach Islamic Studies in English. This was another turning point in Ali's life.

    The young Canadian Bilal Philips was a recent graduate of the Islamic University in Medina. Philips -- who would later become one of the most well known Islamic lecturers in the English speaking world -- taught his young students directly from his own university class notes. Philips stressed the importance of following the Sunna and not blindly following a personality or culture. He taught them the importance of supporting any Islamic arguments by evidences from Quran or Hadith. In a short period of time, the amount of knowledge the students amassed was massive. The Canadian teacher shared young Al-Timimi's western culture, and now passed on his Islamic knowledge and zeal for learning to Ali.

    College life in the US

    At the age of 17, Ali came back alone to the United States to start college. He went to George Washington University as a Pre-Med student and lived on-campus. By that time, Ali was consistent with his five daily prayers. Ali left America when Islam at best was a passing curiosity. However, when Ali came back to college, he found that Islam was the center of the news. The Al-Haram masjid in Makkah was taken over. The Iranian Revolution rocked the Middle East. The Russians invaded Afghanistan, and the Iran-Iraq war wasted millions of lives. Ali realized that people were taking positions against the Muslims. Growing up in America after the ‘70s, after the Civil Rights Movement, Ali thought people were supposed to be tolerant. However, he saw exactly the opposite. Professors at the university would attack Islam. Not only philosophy and religion professors attacked Islam, but also science professors.

    Quest for Knowledge

    In such a hostile environment, Ali found himself in a position where he had to understand the attack on Islam. The situation of attacking Islam moved Ali towards a path where he had to read more about Islam and prepare answers. Ali was the only American Muslim at the University. The other Muslim students were from other countries, and numbered a handful. Ali could not speak Arabic, so he felt an affinity to the African-American Muslims because they were Americans who were Muslims. The African Americans seemed very serious about Islam. Most of them were older than Ali, people who grew up in the Civil Rights Movement. Ali associated with them at the Islamic Center and started to share with them what he had learned.

    The Islamic Center was an area of conflict at that time. The congregation came from different countries and had different political views. Many people did not care about following the Quran and Sunnah, the gathering had much to do with political power and little to do with religion. After a brief exposure to the politics of the masjid, Ali turned away and delved into books on Islam. He was hungry for answers to the philosophical questions being posed at the University.

    Being a good and fast reader since childhood, Ali read every single book published about Islam in English (at the time) whether it was by Muslims or non-Muslims. However, he wanted to learn Islam from the original Arabic sources. Arabic language became an obstacle for him. Starting with small classical books, Ali translated every word with the help of a dictionary. He used to spend the whole night learning Arabic. Then he started listening to some religious lecture tapes recorded in Arabic. He would sometimes get the help of some of the Arab students. Reading an average of six hours per day, he built a strong Arabic vocabulary. His Arabic improved to a degree that when he applied to Medina University later on, he did not need to go through the Arabic program and he went straight to the college classes.

    As Muslim immigrants began to pour into the Washington metropolitan area, Muslim activities started moving away from the city toward Washington's growing suburbs. The Muslim Community Center (MCC) was being established in Silver Spring, Maryland to serve the Indo-Pakistani community, while Dar al-Hijra Islamic Center was being established in Falls Church, Virginia to serve the Arab community. The Iranians moved to the Islamic Educational Center in Potomac, Maryland. Ali stayed in Washington with the growing number of African-American Muslims.


    After completing his Biology degree at George Washington University, Ali went to Medina in 1987. Oddly, Doctor Al-Timimi is accused of being conspirator number one of what the government calls the ‘Virginia Jihad Network.' Belying the government's view of him is the fact that -- while tens of thousands of Muslim youth were leaving for Afghanistan to fight the Soviets -- Ali went to Medina to study at the college of Hadith. He also used to attend study circles in the Prophet's Mosque (al-Haram an-Nabawi). He benefited much from the scholars in the Mosque and from the University. For family issues, Ali had to return to America after spending only one year in Medina.

    Corporate America

    Coming home from Medina, Ali found that it was very difficult to get a job with a Biology degree. He decided to pursue another degree in Computer Science. Ali went to the University of Maryland at College Park and finished a second degree in Computer Sciences. Earning income by working as a computer trainer, Brother Ali Al-Timimi married and soon found the need for a higher income. He found a two-month contract job with the Department of Transportation. People at the Department liked him very much and assigned him to help the Secretary of Transportation himself. Ali built his computer programming skills and grew in his Computer Sciences career until the late ‘90s where he was a manager at one of the major IT companies in the Washington Area making a six figure salary.

    Dr. Al-Timimi, The Scientist

    Ali had a very serious car accident in 1997 where he almost died. He described the life-changing scene. "My car fell down straight into a lake and I went unconscious for a moment. When I woke up the car was filling up with water. Alhumdulillah I was able to break a window and climb up on top of the roof [of the car] until I was rescued," remembered Al-Timimi. After that accident, he was not able to go back to work and became unemployed for a period of time.

    He later on got a job working for a research firm to do some scientific mathematic research supporting the Navy. Ali knew that the research company was downsizing and started looking for other research jobs. He came through the term ‘Computational Biology.' That term came up because of the Human Genome Project. It sounded very interesting to him. He was strong in genetics as an undergraduate and he already proved himself in Computer Science and Mathematics. The combination of these three subjects is rarely found in a single person. Ali enrolled in a Computational Biology program at George Mason University. He worked at the University and at the same time he pursued his PhD. In a very short time, he published and co-author more than 12 scientific papers in the fields of computer science, genetics and cancer. He also made several presentations at major scientific conferences, coauthored a chapter in a scientific book, and was invited to speak at national and international research events. Finally, in December 2004 despite all the charges he is facing and all the stress, and just days after he as arrested and released on bond under the current indictment, he was able to earn his doctorate in computational biology on the topic of "Chaos and Complexity in Cancer." In his research, he used a complexity approach to measured and analyze 16,000 to 20,000 genes in 16 different types of cancers.

    Al-Timimi, The Muslim Scholar

    Dr. Al-Timimi is a unique person. He seeks to be the best in all aspects of his life. At work, other employees think of him as the most productive employee or the ideal manager. His classmates at the University and his professors would think that he was a full time student and that his researches were the only concern for him in his life. People who attend and listen to his Islamic lectures would think that all he does is teaching Islam. Al-Timimi's lecture are very well prepared; students comment that each lecture sounds like a research paper. He has a very deep knowledge based on Quran and Sunnah.

    A book lover, there are about 4000 books in Doctor Al-Timimi's personal library. Most of his lectures and seminars deal with Aqeedah (Islamic Creed), amounting to over 500 hours of recorded tapes. Some of his lectures include: Explanation of Aqeedah Wasitiya (6 tapes), The Sciences of the Qur'an (6 tapes), The Qur'an Reasons with Man (2 tapes), The Regulations of Worship (12 tapes), and many others. Last month, The Muslim Link published a transcript of his lecture ‘Muslims in American in the Face of Terrorism.' He is also a co-author of a widely distributed da'wa booklet, "A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam." The book took a scientific and rational approach to explain Islam. There are tens of thousands of people who listened and benefited from Al-Timimi's preaching.

    His influence on People

    Giving all those lectures certainly had inspired many people to learn more about their religion. Not only that, the life of Al-Timimi itself has inspired many people to change their own life style. In his lectures, you usually hear him encouraging people to be the best in all fields of life. He often reminds Muslims of the verse in Quran "And I am commanded to be the first of those who submit (who are Muslims)" Ali often tells people that a person should strive to be the first in every field of life. He also often quote the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, "Allah loves that if one of you does a job he perfects it."

    That why you find people like Abu Bilal saying: "Ali Timimi has been an inspiration to me and my family. Over the years I have listened to his lectures and they have no doubt assisted my Islamic endeavors." Another person wrote to Al-Timimi, in a letter published on "O beloved Sheikh, your beautiful preaching has brought tears to my eyes, space to my heart, and peace to my mind. Indeed, I wish to meet you. I pray to Allah that he will deliver you soon from the clutches of the enemies of Islam. Wallahil Adheem, I swear by Allah the greatest, if my body could be cut into pieces, and that of my whole family be cut to pieces, and that would deliver you from the fitnah which you are facing now (in reality which the dawah in America is facing), then I would gladly offer myself and my family in your ransom."

    A colleague of Al-Timimi wrote "Ali has been a great source of knowledge for me; we at work referred to him as "Super Man" the man who knew it all. I personally have not worked with anyone who has touched my life so much. He is a man who didn't hesitate to help anyone with any sort of issues may those be personal or work related."

    Al-Timimi the Activist

    Al-Timimi was very busy at his work and in giving lectures in the weekends. At the same time, he follows current events and inspires others to be active. In the early 1990's, Al-Timimi heard in the news about the coming UN 4th World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing, China. He quickly contacted the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), and was able to convince them to participate in the conference to represent the Islamic point of view. IANA assigned a delegation led by Al-Timimi. His visionary abilities were used to the fullest. Al-Timimi contacted Sheikh Abdel Rahaman Abdel Khaliq, who wrote a book about women in Islam. Al-Timimi translated that book into English and secured translators for German, French, Swahili, and Chinese translations. In Beijing with a small staff of five persons, Al-Timimi was able to direct the focus on the Muslim participation to his own group. They used to fax press releases daily in Arabic and English from Beijing to the IANA office in the US. The press group in the US would then fax it to over 500 masajid, leading personalities, and the Arabic press.

    After September 11, everyone within Islamic leadership circles realized that the war that was declared against terrorism was expanding to include everything Islamic. This new environment prompted Al-Timimi to call for a bold new initiative. Following a series of discussions with prominent Saudi scholars, Al-Timimi put together a white paper entitled, "There has to be an initiative." The white paper suggested positive and productive measures for change and was circulated among more than two hundred Muslim decision-makers, academics and activists. The central issue was to avoid any ‘clash of civilizations.'

    The war on Iraq was about to start and Al-Timimi had a great deal of uneasiness regarding the march to war on Iraq. He was concerned that if war was to occur we might end up having crossed the point of no return and head for total civilizational conflict. He had hoped that the Congress might do something about it. Since he was unknown, he thought that it would be better if a letter was sent to the Congress from a well known Muslim Scholar.

    Al-Timimi worked with a prominent Saudi scholar, Shiekh Safar Al-Hawali, in drafting a letter to the Congress, and then oversaw the hand delivery of the letter to each Congress member. The letter received substantial media attention in the Arab and Muslim world as a sign of Muslims attempting to avoid conflict with the United States. Unfortunately, this effort by Al-Timimi placed him on the radar screen of law enforcement agencies, noted for their attraction to popular activists gaining access to political leaders and the media. His contact with Safar al-Hawali could not have gone unnoticed. Al-Hawali is very well known for his objections to American policies in the Middle East and he was against the Saudi government's reliance on American forces during the first Gulf War. Among the scholars that Al-Timimi knew, Sheikh Safar seems to be more open to understanding the West. He was interested in finding common grounds and fostering mutual understanding for the purpose of peaceful coexistence.

    Multiple Qualities In One Person

    In The Washington Post Article, Aug 2003, about Al-Timimi titled "Muslim lecturer fits easily in two worlds" Caryle Murphy stated that "Timimi, 39, moves easily from the modern high-tech world of science to the ancient spiritual world of early Islam." This might seem strange for people of other religions where there is a contradiction between religion and science and history of fighting between religious leaders and scientists. However, It was totally the opposite in the Islamic history. All famous Muslim scientists were at the same time religious scholars. Most of the famous Muslims scholars were well versed in the advanced sciences of their time. It is only in modern history where Muslim scientists are not knowledgeable in their religion and the scholars of Islam are not well versed in modern science. However, there is still no animosity between them. Al-Timimi is one of the Muslims who are reviving the legacy of our famous Muslim scholars and scientists. He was able to excel in both endeavors and to be the first as he always preached.

    Between being an Islamic lecturer, an ‘A' student, a successful manager, and a scientist did not come without cost. Lack of sleep affected Ali's health. Being around books more than around people affected his social life.

    The FBI raided Al-Timimi's house in March of 2003. The government mentioned him in the Paintball indictment as co-conspirator number one. As a result of the media attention Al-Timimi lost his job and was not able to find another job. After a long waiting period, the government indicted Al-Timimi in September 2004, almost one and half years after they raided his house. Last month, and after several motion hearings, the government issued a superseding indictment with more counts. In the superseding indictment the word co-conspirator was dropped. However, they added the term ‘Inducing others to conspire' and Inducing others to do so and so.

  • MIM: Ten years before his arrest Al Tamimi gave this ironically themed lecture:

    Muslims in America in the Face of Accusations of "Fundamentalism" and "Terrorism"

    Dr. Ali Al-Timimi
    Islamic Awareness Week
    Delivered at Purdue University, October 20, 1993

  • All praise belongs to God and may His blessings and peace be upon the Messenger.

    The topic that I have been asked to address is of immense personal interest. For it pains me to see Muslims en masse, without any qualification, vilified with labels of "terrorist" or "fundamentalist," as is so often the manner of our portrayal in today's media. It pains me even more when Muslims commit in the name of their religion acts which Islam condemns. Before addressing these two labels, terrorist and fundamentalist, I would like to preface my remarks begin with a brief historical introduction to the portrayal of Islam as violent.

    The spread of Islam by the sword

    First we need to recognize that there is a certain historical context that has caused much of the confusion regarding the Islamic religion. This historical context is centered on the notion that Islam was spread by the sword.[1] Initially, this allegation was employed by certain European Christian authors in their polemical works against the Islamic religion. Their argument was that Islam could not be a true religion since it was spread by the sword and further how could the prophet Muhammad truly be God's prophet while his message contains warfare or jihad? I am amazed to see such an argument while in the Gospel of Matthew ‘Isa ibn Maryam, Jesus the son of Mary, is reported to have said:

    Think not that I have come to send peace on earth, I have come not to send peace, but a sword.

    So even with such a clear statement where Jesus Christ describes himself that he has not "come to send peace on earth, but a sword," that is war; these authors conveniently overlooked this to lay a charge against Muslims because there are certain Islamic rulings regarding warfare or jihad; and they then further argued from this that Islam is a false religion and that the prophet Muhammad is a false prophet not truly sent by God.

    Validity of the prophet Muhammad's claim

    As I have remarked in an earlier lecture that entire validity of Islam centers upon the claim that Muhammad was truly sent by God for humanity's guidance. This is true irrespective if we are investigating Islam's beliefs, practices, manner of dealing with others, moral code, view on women, or whatever. There would be no validity to any of Islam's positions regarding these or other issues unless we accept that Muhammad was God's messenger. If we reject such a claim then in reality Islam is no longer worthy of our investigation, as the foundation for its teachings would be inherently false.

    For this reason, any debate or discussion regarding the validity of Islam's view regarding a particular topic should be preceded with a discussion on the validity of the prophethood of the Muhammad. Was he, as he claimed, truly a prophet sent by God for the guidance of all of humanity? Thus implying that anything he said and did true? Or was he not a prophet sent by God, but merely an imposter? And if the latter then whatever is attributed to the Islamic religion can be have little value at best.

    Europe's "enlightenment"

    The second factor in this historical context is what occurred in Europe during what was known as the age of enlightenment. This period followed the Renaissance when Europe shed what it viewed as the yoke of an oppressive church. As an alternative to religious teaching, a philosophy developed in Europe known as humanism which in turn had a certain political ramification known as secularism.

    Now since the Islamic world, or we should say at least as how it should be, according to its teachings makes no distinction between personal religious belief and societal practice. For Muslims believe humans have been created to worship God and further they believe that this worship of God extends to all spheres of life. Hence modern Western authors, who tend to look at the Islamic world from the backdrop of their civilization, find it something medieval, backwards, oppressive. They derive such ideas from their civilizational experiences with the Catholic Church and what subsequently happened during the Protestant reformation and the age of Enlightenment.

    Thus with Western civilizational embrace of humanism and secularism, in addition to old religious prejudices that stemmed from the historical conflict between the Islamic world and Europe; certain perceptions of Islam are found in the modern West as these societies are still Christian in nature or at least have their roots in Christianity. It is not uncommon therefore for certain individuals nowadays to employ certain expressions to describe Muslims. Among these are the labels of fundamentalist or terrorist. However, before I address these two terms specifically, it would be instructive to first see how Muslims look toward unbelievers.

    Viewing ‘the other': classification of non-Muslims under Islamic law

    Obviously when a Muslim looks at the world he will see coreligionists who embrace the central tenet of Islamic faith by their recognizing that only God is to be worshipped and none other besides Him neither prophet like Jesus Christ or the prophet Muhammad or anyone or thing else. These individuals will also believe in the finality of the prophethood with the sending of the prophet Muhammad. A Muslim will also recognize that there are individuals outside of his community. There are people who adhere to other religions whether those religions Muslims would believe were originally rooted in the revelation sent by God, and subsequently corrupted only like Judaism and Christianity; or they believe that these religions have no basis from God and were invented by their peoples like the various pagan religions.

    These non-Muslims according to Islamic law fall into two major categories: (1.) unbelievers with whom Muslims are at war, and (2.) unbelievers with whom Muslims have a treaty.[2]

    Unbelievers with whom Muslims are at war

    The first category of unbelievers, we said, are those non-Muslims with whom Muslims are in a formal war setting. For example, let us imagine two countries at war: one Muslim and the other non-Muslim. These non-Muslim combatants are referred to in the books of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) as al-harbiyun (combatants). With regards to these specific individuals, clearly Muslims would not show them gentleness, as they are enemy combatants during a war.

    Muhammad is the messenger of God. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. (The Qur'an, 48:29)

    Non-combatants during war

    Yet at the same, it must be emphasized that Islam has prohibited under all circumstances the intentional taking of the lives of non-combatants. The Prophet has instructed:

    Do not kill a decript old man, or a young infant, or a woman.[3]

    Based on this and similar statements by the Prophet, the Muslim scholars are in agreement that it is forbidden to kill the children and womenfolk of the unbelievers so long as they themselves do not participate in the war.[4]

    Thus innocents, like women, children, elderly men who are incapable of participating in warfare, and likewise by the prophet Muhammad's instructions, those religious monks who are typically pacifists and hence do not engage in warfare; regarding all these people, the prophet Muhammad has forbidden us under any circumstance to deliberately take any of their lives. On one occasion during the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, the Muslims attacked an inhabitation and during the heat of battle entered into a household and killed some women and children. When the Prophet came to know of this, he became angered and remarked that God has not sent us to kill the likes of these persons.

    The application of weapons of mass destruction upon civilian populations

    Also if you look at the books of fiqh written in earlier centuries a question appeared concerning the use of catapults and cannons against civilian populations. As at the time of the sending of the prophet Muhammad, the weapons employed in Arabia were simple sword, javelin, arrows, and so forth. It was only much later that the use of the catapult and the cannon became prevalent in warfare. The Muslim scholars writing at that time were in agreement that it was impermissible to use the catapult or the cannon against civilian populations. Their reasoning was that when laying siege to a city and you bombard it with catapults and cannons, this would necessarily result in the death of non-combatants. So therefore the Muslim army when laying siege to a city of a country to which they were at war, they should not use these weapons that in the modern times we would equate with weapons of mass destruction.

    Such attitudes show how Islam values the sanctity of life and only permits the taking of the lives of those specific individuals who are actually engaged in warfare on the battlefield.

    The rules of war

    The point here is that the rules of war have been unambiguously laid down in Islam. Among these rules, as we have mentioned, is that Islam does not permit the taking of innocent life even when you are at war. Interestingly, some researchers into the code of conduct during war have shown that a large part of the modern rules of engagement were actually adopted by West from the very rules of engagement applied by the Muslims during the wars between the two civilizations in the Middle Ages.

    Unbelievers with whom Muslims have a treaty

    Islamic law recognizes three forms of treaties with the unbelievers.[5]

    1. A treaty for protective status, or, ‘aqd adh-dhimma

    2. A treaty for cessation of hostilities, or ‘aqd al-hudna

    3. And a treaty for safe passage, or ‘aqd aman

    Let us separately investigate each one of these three treaties.

    Unbelievers under protective status

    The first form of treaty regards unbelievers, who are known as ahl adh-dhimma. They have been given a covenant that God's judgment and that of His messenger will be applied to them in perpetuity as they have decided to live on a permanent basis in a land governed by Islamic law. They are allowed to remain upon their religion and in return they pay a tax that is known as the jizya.

    Unbelievers under a treaty of cessation of hostilities

    The second type of treaty covers unbelievers who have agreed to refrain from warring against the Muslims. They are referred to as either ahl al-‘ahd, or ahl as-sulh, or ahl al-hudna. They differ from the previous group, ahl adh-dhimma, as they reside in their own lands. Hence Islamic law does not extend to them. The main stipulation for this treaty is that they will refrain from in engaging in any act of warfare against the Muslims. With these unbelievers, God instructs us in the Qur'an with the following:

    So long as they are true to you, be true to them. (The Qur'an 9:7)

    In other words, so long as these unbelievers observe their part of the treaty, observe your part of the treaty. The verse then concludes with the following exhortation:

    Lo! God loveth those who keep their duty.

    So here in this verse, God teaches us that God loves for the Muslims to uphold their treaties with the unbelievers and that so long as the unbelievers uphold their treaty with us, we are obliged to uphold our treaty with them.

    Unbelievers under a treaty of safe passage

    The final treaty covers unbelievers who find themselves in an Islamic land for a short period of time. Here Islamic law recognizes four groups of unbelievers who would fall under this treaty, namely: (1.) emissaries; (2.) traders; (3.) individuals seeking shelter; (4.) and finally individuals in need.

    In all these cases, these individuals known as al-musta'minun have come to an Islamic land without seeking permanent residence.

    Again these individuals have asked for safe passage through Islamic lands because they are traders, or members of a diplomatic delegation, or merely just individuals who need to pass through a Muslim land as they seek to go from one end of the earth to another. Regarding these individuals God has very clearly stated:

    And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the word of God, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. (The Qur'an 9:6)

    In other words afford him the opportunity to be invited to the religion of Islam, and then deliver him to wherever he has asked you to take him. This is a very clear verse in the Qur'an.

    Based upon this, it is clearly forbidden for Muslims to take the lives of diplomatic embassies, businessmen, individuals passing through Muslim lands, and likewise people in transit that are going from one point of the earth to another point and are required to pass through an Islamic land.

    Acts of violence perpetuated by Muslims

    So these are the categories of unbelievers as viewed by Islamic law. If you consider this, then we can frankly say that certain acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims against non-combatant unbelievers over the last ten or fifteen years clearly contradict Islam. It is exceedingly important that Muslims are the first and foremost to condemn and reject such actions.

    Violence against diplomatic missions

    Among the directives given by the Prophet was his prohibition that emissaries be killed.[6] The Prophet, likewise, forbade that emissaries be imprisoned.[7]

    Thus the taking hostage of the US diplomatic mission to Iran some fourteen years ago[8] is an act that the Prophet himself forbade. Unfortunately, it was perhaps this specific act that perhaps began the recent cycle of labeling Muslims as terrorists.

    All diplomatic missions are considered by the Islamic law to fall under the category of those individuals who have come to the Muslim world under a guarantee of safety, or an aman. Hence they are given safe passage and permitted to remain in a Muslim land for some temporary period of time without fear of any harm to their persons or property.

    Violence against tourists

    Similar to the prohibition of violence against diplomatic missions would be violence against tourists as is with the recent events in Egypt. Like diplomats, these people have entered the lands of the Muslims assuming that they will be unharmed. Now whether certain forms of tourism are approved by Islam or not is not the issue here. The issue is that these individuals have come to a Muslim land under the assumption that while in these lands both their person and property will be unharmed. Therefore to take their lives is a breach on our part of that agreement.

    Hijacking of airplanes

    Individuals in transit, like passengers on an airplane that either originates in a Muslim land or happens to stop in a Muslim land, also fall under the category of al-musta'minun. We are required to provide them all assistance they require while they are in transit from one point to another. Consequently, hijacking passenger airplanes is forbidden according to the religion of Islam. If this is the case with merely hijacking an airplane and diverting it from its course, then how much greater would the prohibition be if the hijacking entailed blowing up the airplane resulting in loss to either person and/or property.

    Deliberate killing of non-combatants

    To intentionally kill non-combatants (like innocent women and children) would be under any circumstance forbidden irrespective if those women and children are citizens of a country with which Muslims are at war with the Muslims or not and irrespective if there exists an actual formal declaration of war or not.

    When we witness any of these or similar acts perpetrated by some Muslims, we must condemn these acts. It is very sad to see Muslims ignorant of their religion and not adopting the guidance of the prophet Muhammad. Due to their ignorance they commit these acts assuming they have religious sanction justifying such acts. They therefore smear the religion of Islam by their ignorance. In no way are we trying to be apologetic for our beliefs, however when we find something that our religion forbids we must clearly declare that it is forbidden without any hesitation. These acts when perpetrated by Muslims have led to the perception of Muslims as terrorists in addition to the prejudices that were derived from the historical context to which I alluded.

    Muslims living in non-Muslim countries

    The next matter I would like to discuss is with regards to Muslims living under non-Muslim rule. This is the case with Muslims currently residing in the United States, Europe, Australia, or for that matter anywhere in the world where Muslims reside in a non-Muslim country. First it should be pointed out that according to Islamic law, Muslims in general should not seek to live among non-Muslims. This is the ruling of Islamic law even though many Muslims seeking to better their economic fortunes have become lax with regards to this ruling and have chosen to permanently reside among non-Muslims. And yes of course, there are those Muslims, like students, persons seeking medical care, and the like who are in non-Muslim lands only on a temporary basis. These individuals among others would be exempted from the prohibition of residing among non-Muslims.

    Nevertheless whether Muslims find themselves in a non-Muslim land on a permanent or temporary basis they are required by Islamic law under all circumstances to uphold their contracts with the unbelievers. When God instructs us by saying:

    O ye who believe! Fulfill your contracts! (The Qur'an 5:1)

    This means with everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

    So therefore any Muslim who, for instance, comes to the United States and then in order to facilitate his entrance lies, then that individual would be sinful for breaching his contract. Similar in sinfulness to the Muslim who comes to this country on a false pretense, would be, for example, that Muslim who stays in this country illegally after he has given his word that he will remain only for that specific duration allotted to him and then subsequently leave. So if only by such minor breaches of contract a Muslim would be considered sinful, then how much more sinful would a Muslim be if he not only commits such acts but then further proceeds to takes lives that are inviolable by Islamic law.

    Regarding the taking of any innocent life of an unbeliever, the Prophet has said:

    Whoever kills an unbeliever protected by a treaty (mu‘ahad) that person would not smell the scent of paradise even though its scent will be smelt from a distance of forty years.[9]

    This means such individuals who unjustly kill non-Muslims will face the threat of a great punishment on the Day of Judgment of being barred from paradise.

    I hope this clears up the accusation that Islam condones, let alone promotes, terrorism. Muslims categorically say that what is done by our fellow Muslims from acts of terrorism is indisputably contrary to our religion.

    The World Trade Center bombing

    I remember that when I was told that some Muslims were implicated in the World Trade Center bombing.[10] I was very saddened. At that moment, I jotted down on these two sheets of paper some thoughts that came to my mind that illustrate that this act is forbidden in Islam.

    The first point I wrote was that this act of bombing the World Trade Center, if Muslims did do so, would be counted among the great sins[11] and falls under the category corruption upon earth that God has forbidden.

    Those who break the covenant of God after ratifying it, and sever that which God has ordered to be joined, and (who) cause corruption on earth: Those are they who are the losers. (The Qur'an 2:27)

    That was my first point. I also wrote nine other points that are perhaps not directly relevant to our topic. What I would like to emphasize is that according to Islamic law, this act perpetrated by those Muslims is forbidden. It is exceedingly important that we Muslims have no hesitation in declaring that. Yes we should be strict with our religion. And yes we should hold firm to it. But at the same time, when a Muslim does something criminal we Muslims will all say that it is immoral without any uneasiness on our part to assert that.


    The next matter that I will discuss concerns the accusation of fundamentalism. The question of fundamentalism really stems from an issue that it is significant to Protestant theology. Specifically, that following the period referred to as the Enlightenment a debate arose in European Protestant circles as to whether the Bible should be viewed as the literal word of God? In other words, are the events mentioned in the Bible, and in particular those found in the Old Testament, like the creation of Adam or the flood of Noah, are these stories to be taken literally? Or are these stories simply a reflection of the ideas held by the individuals who authored these books. On this matter, Protestant theologians basically divided into two groups: those who accepted these stores as literal and those who did not accept them as literal. The former came to be known as fundamentalists in opposition to those who were more liberal in their views.[12]

    However, if we were to adopt this original definition of fundamentalism and then attempt to apply it to Muslims, we would find it to be completely without foundation. Why? Because all Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the literal word of God; meaning Muslims believe that God actually spoke the words of the Qur'an to the angel Gabriel who then transmitted it to the prophet Muhammad who in turn proclaimed those very words to all humanity.

    So since Muslims hold the Qur'an to be God's literal words, every Muslim would be by the very definition of fundamentalism a fundamentalist! And hence to say "Muslim fundamentalist" is a misnomer as the term fundamentalist in its original context is not really applicable as the question of the validity of the text of the Qur'an is inapplicable.

    So any Muslim by virtue of being a Muslim is a fundamentalist. You can see that this misconception that there are certain Muslims who are fundamentalist, and therefore necessarily backward in their views, and other vulgar portrayals, is really a problem dealing with their doubts regarding the validity of their own religious beliefs. These doubts that they harbor have caused them this bias against religion as a whole and specifically their own religion. They have then reassigned these biases to the Muslim faith. Again the issue of fundamentalist vs. non-fundamentalist Muslim should not be an issue that needs to be addressed for as we have said every Muslim is a fundamentalist in the sense that he believes the Qur'an to be God's literal word. This is a stipulation for faith regarding which there is no difference of opinion.[13]

    Now if the charge of fundamentalist is used to describe how certain Muslims deal with the modern world, as opposed to another group of Muslims who are referred to as modernist; then in actuality, those Muslims who are labeled as fundamentalist often do not differ greatly from what would be considered as proper conduct for change by secular norms. For example, the Algerians who sought to reform their society did so via elections and what would be called here in the US as the democratic process, irrespective if secular democracy is permissible by Islamic law or not. When the military junta in Algeria decided to cancel the elections, usurp the process and further imprison, and then torture the leaders of the FIS there was no uproar or condemnation by anyone in the "Democtratic" West. Unfortunately where the media emphasis is upon is on that minority who commit acts outside the law.

    In summary, we may say these accusations of terrorism and fundamentalism have an historical context: ancient Christian intolerance against Islam that was then amplified after the period known as the European enlightenment due to the West's subsequent adoption of humanism as its philosophy and secularism as its political system. It is in this light, that the West continues to look at the Islamic world. These prejudices have been compounded by acts of certain Muslims who regrettably adopt as a method for effecting political change in their society the guidance of Marx rather than that of Muhammad These Muslims engage in activities that are very clearly according to Islamic law– again this is not just one interpretation of some Muslim scholars – against Islam as those acts entail the taking of life forbidden under these circumstances.

    With this I will conclude my remarks and open the floor for questions and comments.

    [1] The Qur'an is clear on this subject: There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. (The Qur'an 2:256) The biographical works on the life of the prophet Muhammad, or sira works, provide us with a background to the revelation of this verse namely that when some of the companions of the Prophet became Muslim they then attempted to force their new faith upon their children. God revealed the instructions that there can be no compulsion in religion.

    [2] Ibn al-Qayyim (died 751 A.H.), Ahkam Ahl adh-Dhimma, Vol. 2, p. 475.

    [3] Reported by Abu Dawud.

    [4] Ibn Rushd (died 595 A.H.), Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 1, p. 383.

    [5] Ibn al-Qayyim, Vol. 2, p. 475.

    [6] Reported by Abu Dawud and Ahmad. See Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. 2, p. 847. Ibn Jama‘ah (died 733 A.H.) remarks that in addition to the Prophet's specific prohibition, the general welfare prohibits such acts. See Tahrir al-Ahkam fi Tadbir Ahl al-Islam, p. 184. Within Islamic law we find a strong tradition of what we would today refer to today as diplomatic immunity. This practice traces back to the direct instructions of the Prophet. These prophetic directives form a nucleus for the rules governing diplomatic missions that were subsequently elaborated upon by scholarly works and the conduct of Muslim rulers during war and peace.

    [7] Reported by Abu Dawud. See Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. 2, p. 847.

    [8] The embassy takeover occurred in November 1979.

    [9] Reported by Al-Bukkhari.

    [10] The World Trade Center bombing occurred in March 1993.

    [11] Sins in Islam are two categories: greater and lesser. Adh-Dhahabi (died 748 A.H.) does not distinguish between murdering a believer and murdering an unbeliever protected by treaty in his book on majors sins. See al-Kaba'ir, p. 43.

    [12] In his work Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, George M, Mardsen (1991) writes on the origin of the term fundamentalist: "The vast cultural changes of the era from the 1870s to the 1920s created a major crisis within [the] evangelical coalition. On the one hand were theological liberals who, in order to maintain better credibility in the modern age, were willing to modify some central evangelical doctrines, such as the reliability of the Bible or the necessity of salvation only through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. On the other hand were conservatives who continued to believe the traditionally essential evangelical doctrines. By the 1920s a militant wing of conservatives emerged and took the name fundamentalist."

    [13] It should be noted that in addition to the Qur'an, Muslims also view the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad as authoritative.

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