Thursday, July 14, 2005

What exactly did Ali Al Timimi say and when?


ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 13 - An influential Muslim scholar, whom prosecutors called a "purveyor of hate and war," was ordered on Wednesday to spend the rest of his life in prison for inciting his young followers in Northern Virginia to wage war against the United States in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The scholar, Ali al-Timimi, was defiant to the end, telling a federal judge as he was about to be sentenced that he considered himself a "prisoner of conscience" who was being persecuted for his strong Muslim beliefs.

"I will not admit guilt nor seek the court's mercy," Mr. Timimi told a hushed courtroom filled with more than two dozen Muslims who have rallied around him. "I do this simply because I am innocent."...

Mr. Timimi, an Iraqi-American cancer researcher who lectured at a mosque in Northern Virginia and circulated his religious writings on the Internet, is the most prominent Muslim prosecuted in connection with what federal prosecutors have labeled the Virginia jihad network.

Prosecutors portrayed Mr. Timimi as a spiritual and intellectual leader of the young men in the network, as they traveled to foreign training camps and prepared to wage a holy war in defense of Islam by playing paintball and gathering weapons and explosives.

Gordon Kromberg, the lead prosecutor in the case for the Justice Department, called Mr. Timimi "a purveyor of hate and war" in court on Wednesday.

"Al-Timimi hates the United States and calls for its destruction," Mr. Kromberg said in urging lifelong imprisonment. "He's allowed to do that in this country. He's not allowed to solicit treason. That's what he did. He deserves every day of the time he will serve."

At one dinner meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, Mr. Timimi told some of the men in the group that it was their Muslim duty to fight for Islam overseas and to defend the Taliban in Afghanistan against American forces, according to testimony at his trial. And in an Internet message in 2003, he described the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia as a "good omen" for Muslims in an apocalyptic conflict with the West.

I have not found the quotes the Feds used in their trial against him, and, in fact, I lean fairly heavily on the side of free speech. I tend to think the decisions making illegal only the advocacy of the violent overthrow the United States are wrongly decided (to actually engage in a conspiracy to take an action or to incite actual acts of violence are other matters entirely). But, this case is a good example of why religious intolerance can blow-back.

This guy does seem to be an Islamic version of the worst kind of Christian fundamentalist; he's a militant exclusivist, who did, in fact, recommend violence in defense of "muslim lands."

But I did find he seemed to have problems with the 9/11 hijacking, the Iran hostage taking, and the Egyptian tourist massacres. But geez, in reading the above, I'm most troubled by the fact that his thought processes lead him to this position only after trying to figure out what his scripture says about it. I mean, if this is not already in the marrow of one's being, there's a problem, whatever the religion, ideology or lack thereof. His thoughts against 9/11 seem to be somewhat akin to James Dobson's "condemnation" to the extent that there is any- by Christian terrorists like Kopp.

Here are some audio tapes of the guy, for anyone who has the time to kill to wade through it.

One of the odd things about al Timimi's lectures: the use of scripture quoting here is even more cumbersome than when, say, Jack van Impe does it; I think it's because of the back and forth from Arabic to English.

But, if you have the time and stomach for it, here, al Timimi in a rather meandering way, seems to be justifying the destruction of Buddhist "idols" in Afghanistan, and to advocate preventing the worship of anything other than Allah. (It seems he's also claiming that some statues are possessed by demons...really strange).

It's not surprising, then, in the wake of 9/11 that a guy like this might be targetted, fairly or unfairly according to the law, by the Feds. Quite simply: it's not his business, or his co-religionists what anybody else practices as a religion or how.

Also, he doesn't get that extremist iconoclasm is itself the antithesis of being an iconoclast.

I'm not sure the guy deserves a life sentence (again, I don't know the evidence the Feds used). And if this guy was actually aiding and abetting people who would act violently against Americans in a time of war, well, he's toast legally. But this shows what happens when somebody's stridency is perceived as going beyond the pale.

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