Hamid al-Ali: Cleric for Al Qaeda and other Jihadists

Hamid al-Ali, Assassin PriestThe Jamestown Foundation comes out with yet another important article.

Hamid bin Abdallah al-Ali is an influential Salafi cleric in Kuwait. He is designated by the U.S. government as a global terrorism financier and supporter, yet his website is registered in Vancouver in Washington state. Figures such as al-Ali are critical to the education and doctrine of Salafis—especially those that join the armed resistance of the jihadi movement—yet they often fall under the radar while they continue to radicalize thousands of followers. Part of the reason behind the lack of attention that clerics like al-Ali receive in the West is due to the pronounced cultural differences between opinion-makers in the United States and in the Muslim world. It would be hard to imagine a leading public figure in the United States composing lines of poetry, for example, in response to a security or political development.

Yet, among Arabs—and true as well of Salafi-Jihadis—poetry remains a respected form of expression and one lauded by the elite. One of al-Ali’s poems, entitled “These Lines Were Composed By the Sheikh upon Hearing the News of Iran’s Nuclear Announcement,” published on http://h-alali.net on April 10, was read by more than 6,300 users. The poem offered al-Ali’s historical perspectives on Iran’s potential rise to power (in a fashion typical of his strong position against Shiite Muslims). However, the dense religious rhetoric typical of Salafi clerics, more than anything, prevents the West from understanding the message and importance of these individuals.

As one of the leading public Salafi personas in the Arab and Muslim world, al-Ali frequently comments—and sways Muslim opinion—on a variety of critical issues. He is outspoken about Iraq and the direction in which jihadi groups are moving the country; he regularly calls for unity among Salafi and jihadi groups; and he encourages the mujahideen to adhere strictly to the doctrine of the Salafiyya. His fatwas, articles and sermons have been received by hundreds of thousands of Arabic-speaking Muslims. Yet, he is perhaps most famous for his fatwa, issued in early 2001, sanctioning suicide bombings—and specifically the flying of aircraft into targets during such operations.

Clerics such as Hamid al-Ali are clerics in the same way that Christian priests or ministers are in the west. In Islam, religion is government and government religion. The only leader to be respected is a devout Moslem. Whether he rules wisely or ruins his country is irrelevant, as long as he follows the Koran. Islam is profoundly political, especially when interpreted the traditional Wahabbist (aka Salafist) way, or Deobandist (that’s the Taliban), or Khomeinist (that’s Hizballah and other Iranian militants).

Hamid al-Ali didn’t stop at condoning the 9/11 attacks (ahead of time). He has gone on to recruit jihadists for the Al Qaeda insurrection in Iraq, and also against the government of his own country Kuwait.

In January 2005, arrests by Kuwaiti security forces uncovered a Kuwaiti al-Qaeda cell planning attacks within the country. The arrests also led to evidence that al-Ali had been actively recruiting Kuwaiti youth for jihad in Iraq and in his home country [3]. The U.S. Treasury Department also maintains that al-Ali provided funds to training camps in Kuwait and posted technical assistance on explosives making and other training materials to his website. Yet, the specific acts of support to local terrorist groups pale in comparison to the effect he has had on countless Muslims guided by his teachings. His rulings and commentary on current events and political issues—like his contemporaries Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Basir al-Tartusi—frame the debate among Salafis, and between them and other Muslims.

Fellows like Hamid al-Ali must be exposed for what they are: Extremist preachers of the wicked perversion known as Jihad, inspirations and apologists for Al Qaeda, who wish to use modern weapons to force a medieval way of life on the Islamic world first, and then on the rest of the world.

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