Ali al-Tamimi

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Ali Al-Tamimi
Born (1963-12-14) December 14, 1963 (age 56)
Other namesAli Bani Tamim; Ali Al-Timimi
OccupationBiologist and Islamic teacher
Criminal statusIn prison
Conviction(s)As charged
Criminal charge10 counts, including soliciting others to levy war against the United States, and contributing services to the Taliban.
PenaltyLife sentence

Ali Al-Tamimi (also Ali Al-Timimi; born December 14, 1963 in Washington, DC) is a former Fairfax County resident, biologist, and Islamic teacher [1] who was subsequently convicted of inciting terrorism in connection with the Virginia Jihad Network and sentenced to life imprisonment.[1][2][3] Al-Tamimi has been described as "arguably the first American born activist Salafi preacher."[4]

Early life[edit]

Al-Tamimi grew up in the metropolitan Washington area.[1] His father, a lawyer, worked at the Iraqi embassy, and his mother was a psychologist. Knowing the family personally, journalist Milton Viorst, who talks of how his father got a M.A. in law at George Washington University "in his free time", and says of his mother that "she took pride in telling me that she had acquired three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in psychology", also describes the family as "not particularly ethnic or religious" : like other Americans, they celebrated Halloween and Christmas, while Ali was into sports, but it all changed in 1978, when he was 15, as his family moved to Saudi Arabia because his father wanted to reconnect with his Arab-Islamic roots, and where Ali himself became interested in Islam, learning its basics while before he didn't even knew Muslims pray towards Mecca.[5] On returning to the U.S. two years later, he attended The George Washington University and the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2004 he received a doctorate in computational biology from George Mason University on the topic of "Chaos and Complexity in Cancer". Al-Tamimi pursued Islamic studies, where he became influenced by Islamist thinkers like Sayyid Qutb, Safar Al-Hawali and Muhammad Surur, before returning to the United States.[6] [7]

Work and Islamic activities[edit]

Ali Al-Tamimi worked at an IT company named Xpedior, Inc. Clients he provided service to included America Online (AOL). He reportedly worked for two months for Andrew Card, former Chief of Staff (2000–2006) of the George W. Bush Whitehouse, while Card was Secretary of Transportation under George H. Bush (1992–93).[citation needed] In the early 1990s, Al-Tamimi led a five-person delegation from the Islamic Assembly of North America in the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China.[citation needed] Al-Tamimi contacted Shaikh Abdel Rahaman Abdel Khaliq, who wrote a book about women in Islam, which Al-Tamimi translated into English.[citation needed] He was a lecturer at the Center for Islamic Information and Education in Falls Church, Virginia.[1] He was a founding member of the Center, which is also known as Dar al-Arqam. In late 2002, the then-former Dar al-Hijrah imam Anwar al-Awlaki visited al-Timimi and inquired about recruiting men for "violent jihad.".[8][9] But Al-Timimi became suspicious of al-Awlaki's motives believing it to be an entrapment attempt and asked al-Awlaki to leave.[10]

Trial and sentencing[edit]

Prior to al-Tamimi's prosecution, nine members of the Virginia Jihad Network were convicted on charges related to their participation in a terrorist enterprise, including engaging in paramilitary training. Tamimi had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case.[1] According to court papers, he said on September 16, 2001, that his followers should "go abroad and join the mujaheddin engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan."[1][11] Many attendees at that meeting began military training both in the United States and in terrorist training camps overseas.[1]

After the conclusion of the Virginia Jihad Network trials, prosecutors tried al-Tamimi for encouraging the Virginia Jihad Network wage jihad in India and the U.S.[1] The case before U.S. District (Eastern District of Virginia) Judge Leonie M. Brinkema was on 10 counts, including enlisting people to wage war against the United States and providing services to the Taliban.[1] Al-Tamimi's defense lawyers argued his case was an attack on the freedom of speech and religious freedom, arguing that their client only told young Muslims that it might be better to emigrate from the United States to better practice their faith.[12]

The jury convicted him on all 10 counts after a week of deliberation in April 2005.[1] He was sentenced on July 14, 2005, to life imprisonment.[1] In sentencing him, Judge Brinkema said "I don't think any well-read person can doubt the truth that terrorist camps are a crucial part of the new terrorism that is perpetrated in the world today. People of good will need to do whatever they can to stop that."[1]


Jonathan Turley, handling the appeal, argued together with dozens of Muslims convicted of terror charges, that al-Timimi's wiretaps were illegal. This was one of a series of cases challenging the NSA warrantless surveillance.[13][14] The appeal also alleged mistreatment in prison and denial of access to counsel.[15] The appeals court did not rule on the merits of the appeal, but sent the case back to federal court for a rehearing, with broad latitude given to the trial judge. The Justice department did not confirm or deny the use of NSA wiretaps against al-Timimi.[16]

In September 2015, the Fourth Circuit court remanded the terrorism case on the grounds that "the FBI withheld evidence of its 2002 investigation into the first American on the CIA's kill or capture list, Anwar al-Awlaki".[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Markon, Jerry (July 14, 2005). "Muslim Lecturer Sentenced To Life; Followers Trained For Armed Jihad". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  2. ^ Mounir al Mawry (July 15, 2005). "Loading". Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  3. ^ "Terror defendant allegedly trained for Taliban after 9/11". USA Today. February 13, 2004. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  4. ^ Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, Salafism in America: History, Evolution, Radicalization, october 2018, p. 67. Report for the George Washington University Program on Extremism. Link.
  5. ^ Milton Viorst, "The Education of Ali Al-Timimi", The Atlantic, June 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference Hitchens was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ Bowen, Innes (August 15, 2014). Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam. Hurst. ISBN 9781849045308.
  8. ^ Schmidt, Susan; Imam From Va. Mosque Now Thought to Have Aided Al-Qaeda; The Washington Post, February 27, 2008. p. 3. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  9. ^ Rhee, Joseph (November 30, 2009). "How Anwar Awlaki Got Away; U.S. Attorney's Decision to Cancel Arrest Warrant "Shocked" Terrorism Investigators". ABC News. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  10. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (2014). Dirty Wars. p. 71. ISBN 1846688515. Why was the guy [Awlaki] there? Why was he asking somebody he'd never met in his whole life to help him get young men for the jihad? It just stunk of entrapment. Ali threw him out of the house.
  11. ^ ''The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right'', Daniel Benjamin, Steven Simon, Macmillan, 2006, ISBN 0-8050-8133-X, accessed March 3, 2010. Google Books. September 11, 2001. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  12. ^ Goodman, Amy (July 14, 2005). "HEADLINES JULY 14, 2005". Democracy Now. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  13. ^ "Lawyers Question Use of U.S. Spy Program". Los Angelest Times, Associated Press. December 29, 2006. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  14. ^ Carr, Rick (January 20, 2006). "Tap Dance". National Public Radio. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  15. ^ Inskeep, Steve (August 16, 2006). "Islamic Scholar Challenges Treatment in Prison". National Public Radio. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  16. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (April 26, 2006). "Cleric Wins Appeal Ruling Over Wiretaps". New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  17. ^ Browne, Pamela K.; Herridge Catherine (September 26, 2015). "Circuit court remands terrorism case on grounds FBI withheld info of al-Awlaki investigation". Fox News. Retrieved March 1, 2016.