Ali Al-Timimi's Fighting Words


This week Ali Al-Timimi, a lecturer at the Center for Islamic Information and Education in Falls Church, Virginia, went on trial in federal court for his anti-American rabble-rousing. The charges against him, including treason, attempting to aid the Taliban, and inducing others to commit various crimes, are all based on things he said (or is accused of saying), and his fate will depend on whether his words qualify for First Amendment protection. Under the 1969 Supreme Court decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, even speech advocating violence is protected unless it is intended and likely to result in "imminent lawless action." Celebrating the crash of the Columbia as a signal of the West's inevitable defeat, although cited in the indictment as part of Timimi's crimes, surely qualifies for protection under this standard. Urging young men to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan (which Timimi denies doing) might not.