Islamic spiritual leader Ali Al-Timimi’s pen is mightier than his sword, prosecutors contend. It’s not so much his actions but his words that make him so dangerous, they say.
Less than a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Timimi told a group of Northern Virginia Muslims that it should train for violent jihad abroad and wage war on the United States, prosecutors say. In 2003, he celebrated the crash of the space shuttle Columbia in a message that prosecutors say reflected his view that the United States itself should be destroyed.
The government says the statements of Timimi — who goes on trial today in U.S. District Court in Alexandria — constitute nothing short of treason. But some Muslims, who are rallying to Timimi’s side through a Web site and other expressions of support, see a respected religious leader being prosecuted for his words.
“He is not accused of anything except talking. It’s all about him saying something,” said Shaker Elsayed, a member of the executive committee of Dar Al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church. “If this isn’t a First Amendment issue, I don’t know what is.”
If that’s the case, then advocacy of treason and the destruction of the United States should go on unimpeded — as long as the one speaking does not act? Preposterous. The First Amendment, as has often been noted, was never meant to be a suicide pact.