Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina -
These thoughts emerge from a location I consider among the highest intellectual points of contemporary Islam: from within the walls of the Gazi Husrevbeg Medresa in Sarajevo
. It is therefore a message from inside the Islamic umma
, or world community, to the umma
, and above all to American Muslims.
I have written and spoken in the past of Wahhabism, the Saudi state cult, as a cancer within Islam. I have lately perceived a better parallel. Stalinism was once called “the syphilis of the labor movement.” Wahhabism, the ideology that inspires al-Qaida and Zarqawi, is the syphilis of Islam.
Nevertheless, there is good news: syphilis may be cured. But the patient requires medicines and a renunciation of corrupt habits that lead to infection.
American Islam requires the medicine of pluralism and the renunciation of the corruption represented by Saudi/Wahhabi money. Otherwise it faces the dementia that characterizes the final stages of syphilis.
Nothing could better illustrate the impact of the Wahhabi illness on Islam than the verdict against 41-year old Ali al-Timimi, who was convicted Tuesday, April 26, in a North Virginia court, of inciting terrorism in the aftermath of September 11.
Al-Timimi, a U.S. citizen by birth, an Iraqi by ethnic background, and a student of Islam in the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is an unsurpassable poster boy for the Wahhabi lobby that dominates American Islam. News accounts have grossly exaggerated his significance, comparing him to a “rock star” and granting him an “international following.” In reality, al-Timimi was an obscure figure, along with the rest of the Virginia Jihad Network, of which he was the alleged spiritual leader until their arrests in 2003.
As revealed at his website, www.altimimi.org, al-Timimi has scientific training, having “received his doctorate in computational biology [from George Mason University], on the topic of ‘Chaos and Complexity in Cancer.’” His attraction to the crazy “end-times” theology of the Wahhabis reflects a notable phenomenon: many professionally and scientifically educated individuals in the Muslim umma are attracted to extremism. This is, to emphasize, a symptom of intellectual instability, not of the impact of one’s technical schooling.
In a 2003 e-mail, al-Timimi described the U.S. space shuttle disaster as "a good omen: promising that "Western supremacy (especially that of America) that began 500 years ago is coming to and end, God willing." Exultation at the shuttle disaster would hardly seem normal in a man of science no less that religion.
With the inflated ego typical of Wahhabis, al-Timimi claims to be “one of the few Muslim experts in the U.S. in the field of Islamic Theology and Philosophy.” This assertion reflects the Wahhabi claim that they alone are Muslims, to say nothing of the cult’s contempt for non-Muslim experts and scholars.
Those of us who were victims of harassment by the chief activist in al-Timimi’s group, Randall “Ismail” Royer, now serving a 20-year federal prison sentence, knew extremely well that something was going on, but we could not know the extent of their activities, notwithstanding their meager numbers.
But, most important, there are hundreds more al-Timimis, possibly thousands, in America and Canada. Al-Timimi embodies Wahhabism at its worst, as a systematic organizer and agitator for violence and extremism. Islam teaches that the first responsibility of the Muslim is to protect the security and prosperity of the believer’s own family and other members of the community. Al-Tamimi’s actions – recruiting from U.S. soil for armed defense of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and terror in Kashmir; teaching that the space shuttle explosion was a sign of divine disfavor to the republic of which he was a born citizen; preaching the imminence of the “end times” – do not secure the safety of American Muslims. These actions greatly endanger American Islam, as they put all Americans at risk.
Royer, for his part, already told his hometown paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in 2003, that while he was employed by the Wahhabi lobby’s direct-action arm, the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), he followed the counsel of al-Timimi and fled the U.S. for Bosnia after September 11th. But the Balkan republic was not to his liking; its Islam is too Western, something Wahhabis cannot abide. Royer was soon back in Washington, dedicated full-time to schmoozing on the Hill, recruitment for terror in the Indian subcontinent and the harassment of peaceful and loyal citizens and residents. Bosnia was well rid of him.
Adventurist elements such as al-Timimi, with their community and religious influence over Islam in North America, have turned the faith into a seditious conspiracy, inciting war on the country that has nurtured and protected them: the United States. But the religion of Muhammad, especially in its Sunni form, has always hated sedition. Muslims living in America are required to obey the laws of the United States and to avoid and denounce terrorist incitement and activism whether it is found in the mosque, school, or community bureaucracy. This is a matter of the security of themselves and their loved ones, and of Islamic law.
Bosnian Muslims survived the horror of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, with hundreds of thousands of dead, tens of thousands of rape victims, and thousands of destroyed mosques, but with their Islamic spirituality and conscience intact. They did this because they were firm in their commitment to civility with their non-Muslim neighbors and acceptance of the legal norms of the West. Their Islamic leaders do not brand non-Muslims “unbelievers” (much less “infidels,” a term the Christian origin of which is revealed by its Latin roots.) They were tested by atrocities and horrors, and were forced to fight for their lives. But these Muslim teachers accept peace and preach peace. In all my time with them I have never heard the term “jihad” pass their lips.
By contrast, Wahhabis like al-Timimi are not religious leaders, any more than the Atlanta “Christian” terrorist Eric Rudolph is a religious apostle, and their activities cannot and will not be shielded by the U.S. Constitution.
Until American Muslims organize to strike down the Wahhabi domination of their schools and mosques, the antireligious program of indoctrination by the Saudi-backed fanatics will threaten the safety of all Americans, but especially of Muslims. Time is running out, and the illness requires an emergency cure.
American Islam must be as American as any other faith, or it is doomed. Let al-Timimi be sentenced, and let him use his imprisonment to ponder how he has betrayed his fellow-Muslims by luring them into the trap of extremism, lawlessness, and crime. Better that he had studied the ailments within Islam than a computer model of cancer. Islam is a religion of laws, and by its authentic and traditional laws al-Timimi must be punished to the maximum by the government of his country of birth, the United States.
[Note: Stephen Schwartz’s Two Faces of Islam has just been published in Bosnian, with the support of that country’s leading Islamic scholars.]