Free Ali Al-Timimi

September 14, 2008

A Clerical Error

Filed under: Labels and Libel — sandboxarea @ 2:08 am

It's not my fault... it's the typewriter


They call Ali names– slurs really– in the guise of accurate reporting. In the first blog post of the category “Labels and Libel”, I discussed how some writers wanted to lend credence to the government’s absurd claim that Ali had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). And what’s worse, they published it from the house that Woodward and Bernstein built. 

So that’s how some writers portray Ali’s home. What about Ali, the man… Ali, the person?

It’s been the practice of the Wall Street Journal– for a good many years– to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” when referencing just about everyone… Wall Street CEOs, movie stars, Joe Q. Public man on the street… even thugs and dictators.

So, does anyone reference Ali as Dr. Al-Timimi? I haven’t see it. You might think that they rather use “Mr. Al-Timimi”… I haven’t seen that either.

So which title do a lot of reporters use? Cleric.

The word “cleric” carries a lot of baggage with it. And since Islam does not have a priest caste as is found in Christianity or Hinduism; “cleric” is used by Western writers as a catch-all for the professional religious man. And if you take a moment to think about it, you’ll realize that there are never any good connotations to the words: Muslim cleric. I’m sure you’ve read stories about the Shiite cleric named Muqtada Al-Sadr. 


More importantly, the real harm in describing Ali as a cleric is that it perpetuates one of government’s myths: that Ali ran a mosque and had a bunch of followers.


Ali wasn’t in charge of Dar Al-Arqam. Though he did give lectures there, he also gave religious talks at other places as most knowledgeable Muslims do. So was Ali at the mosque everyday? No. In fact, he had moved away from the area of Dar Al-Arqam about a year or so after its founding. So during the years 2000-2005, Ali rarely worshipped there. 

Dar Al-Arqam was founded in 1999– with Ali’s participation. And while he lived near that office space turned part-time mosque, he might have prayed there for the evening prayer… that’s 1 prayer out of the 5 daily prayers that most Muslims pray. 

So if Ali wasn’t a “professional religious man”, then what did he do during his 9-to-5? Ali worked on curing cancer and other gene related diseases while working full-time at the university and earning his PhD… more like 6am-to-midnite.


I guess that it’s harder to sell newspapers when the title of an article is “Cancer Researcher Indicted” or “Knowledgeable Muslim Convicted” rather than “Muslim Cleric Convicted”.


1 Comment »

  1. […] addresses Ali as “Dr. Al-Timimi” which is probably the first time that I’ve seen anyone use that term. And as you can see, Ron mentions both Ali’s cancer research work as well as his Islamic […]

    Pingback by Clips and Snips « Free Ali Al-Timimi — September 28, 2008 @ 1:12 am | Reply

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