On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars


What turned a nice Alabama-born Southern Baptist boy into a wild-eyed Somali terrorist?

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So, what could possibly turn a nice Southern Baptist boy into a jihadi terrorist? That’s what the stunned residents of Daphne, Alabama, are asking themselves. 

Omar Hammami at age 15

On May 12, the local high school’s former sophomore class president, Omar Hammami,  proclaimed in an African summit meeting of Islamist extremists outside of Mogadishu, Somalia, that the death of Osama Bin Laden will not weaken the group’s plans against the United States, but rather it has strengthened the terrorists’ resolve.

In Somalia

“Hammami warned that al-Qaida’s war against the United States and its allies will continue and will not end until there is an Islamic victory,” reports Jim Kouri.

Hammami, who has taken to calling himself “Abu Mansur Al Ameriki,” is a leader of the al-Qaida splinter group al-Shabaab. The summit meeting was themed “We are all Osama” and held in Afgoye, a small town on the outskirts of the Somali capital.

After Hammami’s proclamation on the Arab TV channel al-Jazeera, Yemen’s rebel al-Qaida leader Nasir al-Wahishi echoed Hammami’s sentiments. In a statement posted on an Islamic web site, al-Wahishi wrote that “the torch of jihad is brighter after bin Laden’s death at the hands of infidels.”

Omar as a 13-year-old Southern Baptist summer camper

So, what happened to this teenager who regularly attended Baptist summer camp and was one of the most popular kids at his high school?

“On a warm, cloudy day in the fall of 1999, the town of Daphne, Alabama, stirred to life,” wrote Andrea Elliott in the New York Times in 2010. “The high-school band came pounding down Main Street, past the post office and the library and Christ the King Church.

“On a float bearing leaders of the student government, a giddy mop-haired kid tossed candy to the crowd. Omar Hammami had every right to flash his magnetic smile. He had just been elected president of his sophomore class. He was dating a luminous blonde, one of the most sought-after girls in school.

“For a 15-year-old, he had remarkable charisma. Hammami was every bit as Alabaman as his mother, a warm, plain-spoken woman who sprinkles her conversation with blandishments like ‘sugar’ and ‘darlin’.”

After joining the jihadis

Now 25 years old, Hammami grew up in the Mobile suburb. His mother teaches elementary school. She is a U.S. native still active in the church where she took Omar as he grew up. His father was a Syrian-born Muslim and a civil engineer at the Department of Transportation.

On Fridays, Omar occasionally went to the mosque with his father. On Sundays, Omar often attended church with his mother and sister. Debra told the kids to keep their church-going a secret from their father. The Hammami home remained culturally Muslim. Inscriptions from the Koran decorated the walls and pork was forbidden.

In school, Hammami was an outgoing boy who in an assignment described the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as “stupid.” He wrote, “I wish violence would vanish clear from the Earth.”

But at age 15, he visited Syria and told friends how his male cousins shared a “cohesiveness of brotherhood.” Back in Alabama, he gave up Friday night football games to attend the mosque more regularly with his dad. He began offering Muslim prayers in the school library.

In 2000, during his junior year, the subject in class turned to Osama bin Laden, who had claimed responsibility for U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

“One boy suggested that Bin Laden should be shot dead,” reports Elliott.

“What if I said that about Billy Graham?” Hammami demanded.

“Billy Graham is a peaceable preacher,” the boy said. “Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.”

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” Hammami replied.

Hammami today

In class, Hammami swore at a teacher because she was Jewish and tried to choke a student who interrupted him as he was reciting the Koran. His high grades allowed him to skip his senior year and enroll at the University of South Alabama. There he became president of the Muslim Student Association. When the U.S. was attacked on September 11, 2001, local reporters called him for comment. He told them, “It’s difficult for me to believe a Muslim did this.”

He dropped out of college and set out to master Arabic. In 2005, he joined a Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario, and married a friend’s 19-year-old sister-in-law. 

“Through an Internet web site and bulletin board, Hammami met a fellow American jihadist, Daniel Maldonado, who had also left the U.S.,” writes Kouri. “Eventually the two men secretly made plans to become jihadis.”

In 2005, Hammami and his wife moved to Egypt. There, she gave birth to a daughter. Then, abruptly, “Without telling his family, Hammami traveled to Somalia where he joined al-Shabaab,” writes Kouri.

Speaking this week on al-Jazeera

In October 2007, he appeared on al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network. A scarf concealed half his face, as he began, in English, “Oh, Muslims of America, take into consideration the situation in Somalia …” which at the time was occupied by Ethiopian troops.

In 2008, he took credit on al-Jazeera for an ambush on an Ethiopian convoy. An al-Shabab video in 2009 shows Hammami leading fighters and lecturing recruits. And now, he has shown up as a spokesman at the summit.

Back in Alabama, Debra Hammami is at a loss to explain what happened to her boy. She told a reporter that he is “in the wrong hands.”

His father “talks about his son the way a parent talks about a child lost to a cult,” writes Elliot. “Terrorism, he says, ‘goes against everything I taught him.’”



  • http://amsorryaboutomar jim osurmann

    I am really about what happened to Omar.
    Now, the reality of the Word of God, the Bible is clearly seen:
    “do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever” (St. Paul, in His Epistle to the Corinthians).
    Baptist can never go with any Religion, especially Islam. Omar is now deluded with his belief in Islam, a big lie of “Prophet” Muhhammed.

    There are two things for Omar:
    1. If he truly trusted and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, he will be facing his Lord to give an account on what he has done (Romans 13).
    2. If he did not (which I doubt), he will be with the rich man in burning hell.

    May God forgive his soul.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Courtney

    Didn’t the Lord say DO NOT be unequally yolked with unbelievers? When you start to believe your way is better than God’s way…you get into a problem. It’s your fault mama that’s whose fault it is. You confused him when you guys allowed him to “experience” muslim teachings…so don’t act confused about what happened to your son…because you know full well. I just pray that the Lord will shine a light and the eyes of his understanding will be opened.In the name of Jesus. Amen Join me in praying for this young man.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Courtney

    Jim,

    Isn’t it sad that he is paying for what his mother did?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda May

    This poor young man, Having grown up in such a diverse culture, half babtist,half muslim, My heart aches for him and his famiy, this is nir his mothers fault, nor hid fathers though i see here NOONE is blaming the FATHER only his mother, HE MADE HIS LIFE CHOICES. He may have beentaught”Babtist” and Muslim, But was he ever taughy this> A personel relationship with CHRIST? OUR SAVIOR?OUR REDEEMER? Not IN ANY BABTIST CHURCH I THE SOUTHERN STATES. AND we know the muslims dont teach it. This young man was taught 2 RELIGIONS, NOT CHRISTIANITY!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jim Morrison

    He’s not an Alabamian, not even close. Don’t put that bull out in a story and try convicing people with theat propaganda!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shelly Krueger

    It saddens me to read the blogs placing blame. The mother of a Muslim home was very brave to take her children to a Baptist church. Her teachings may return to her son and God may use him for the greater good.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Susan Gill

    What a misleading title of this article. You might be a Muslim living in the Southland or in New England for that matter, but you cannot really identify with the long traditional element in those regions. I am not shocked at this story, in fact, I wonder why there are not other muslim kids in the same situation. My feeling is that there are but those kids just don’t leave the country and join jihadist groups. I recall a Muslim Indian woman that I worked with whose teenage son was investigated by police because of the kind of violent messages he was sending over the internet and in school. It is foolish to make believe Islam is just another religion.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment MOSES

    baptist and all demoniations and churches of today ARE RUN BY RELIGOUS DEMONS AND DOCTRINES OF DEVILS, SO THEY HAVE NOT JESUS OR GOD NOR THE HOLY GHOST SPIRIT POWER TO OVERCOME SIN, AND THE WORLDLY LUST,FOR UN KNOWLEDGE THEY PERISH IN THEIR SINS, BLINDS LEADS BLIND. THEY ARE POWERLESS AND SATAN KNOWS THAT, HE SAIDS EAT FROM THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE AND GOOD , AND EAT THE FRUIT EVERDAY AND YOU SHALL NOT DIE IN YOUR SINS, and they eat,SATAN HAS MANY DECEIVED AND ARE DECEIVING THEMSELVES AND OTHERS, HELL IS FILLING UP EVERDAY ….
    HE THAT IS LEAD BY THE (SPIRIT)OF GOD ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD, WHO OVERCOMETH THE WORDLY LUST, SIN,TRIBULATIONS, FORNICATIONS.
    HE THAT IS HOLY STILL LET HIM BE HOLY STILL, HE THAT IS FILTHY STILL LET HIM BE FILTHY, AND HE THAT RIGHTEOUS LET HIM BE RIGHTEOUS STILL…. JESUS IS COMING SOME DAY FOR HOLY GHOST FILLED, OBEDIENCE, TRUE REPNTED, FOLLOWERS OF HIM AND DOERS OF HIS WORDS….AMEN NOT LUKEWARM, HYPOCRITES, SINNERS…. THEY ALL ARE GOING TO HELL, JESUS SAID IN REVELATION….

  • http://www.martinezshopper.ws MartinezShopper.ws

    HEY FOLKS, “STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES” AS FORREST GUMP WOULD SAY. HIS DAD SAYS THAT TERRORISM GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING THAT HE EVER TAUGHT HIS SON. HOWEVER, TRUTH BE TOLD, WHAT AN IDIOT, WHY IN HADES WOULD YOU TAKE YOUR BOY TO A MOSQUE SO OFTEN AND not EXPECT HIM TO TURN OUT LIKE THIS?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Constance

    It is so sad that we as Christians do not search the Word of God for instructions of our Lives. That is what the Word of God is all about. 2 Corinthians 6:14-Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? Marrying people of different cultures and belief can certainly cause problems. In Omar’s case, his father, if not born again, does not believe in the One True and Living God who created this earth and man and his mother believing and serving God should have prayed and searched God’s word for instruction about marrying a Muslim. Even though Omar attended a Baptist church, his faith in God may have not been very strong and so when he attended Mosque with his father, Satan took hold and the battle began in his mind. Satan messes with the mind and can cause strongholds to take place. So what a man thinketh, so is he. If you hear and read the Word of God everyday, it will enter your heart and you are a changed creature. I know it happened to me, so I strongly believe that what you choose to hear and read can definitely affect a person. If you hear and read about hatred daily, then hatred will take a stronghold in the mind and filters into the heart and you become a hater of anyone who does not believe in what you have chose to believe and become. God’s first Commandment, there you shall have no other Gods before me, which means anything or anyone else and another commandment, Thou shalt not kill. God and Satan are true enemies, therefore God has to try to stamp out evil, and that is why we have wars, and taking innocent lives for no reason is against God’s laws. If I don’t believe as someone else, does it give me the right to plan to kill them and take their lives. Satan is out to kill and destroy and it does not only mean in death. Killing love in marriages and families is one of Satan’s biggest goal. Dividing love in marriages and families, divides nations. We all need to pray for this family, that Omar’s mother would unceasingly pray to God to that by some miracle Omar will hear, finds and read the truth about who the True God is, and it is not Allah. Pray that Omar’s father if he hasn’t yet, picks up the Holy Bible and sees for himself who God is and that he will submit himself to God and be transformed into a new creature in the Lord, God our Savior. This family has been divided, but God Almighty can and will reunite them through his teachings of love and grace. Only through Christ, our Lord and Savior can anyone enter the gates of Heaven by the submission of our sins. Otherwise, without giving your life and heart to God, you shall surely burn in the gates of Hell. We all should pray that God will show us the error of our ways and follow Him.

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