Never one to do things halfway, he threw himself into religion and became militant.He traveled to Somalia in 2006 and joined al-Shabab, the violent insurgent group that more recently declared its affiliation to al Qaeda.

defaced speedating-45defaced speedating-36

When I asked why al-Shabab wanted to kill him, his response was barbed, and delivered in the third person.

(He continued to insist he was merely Hammami’s spokesman.) “To tell the truth, I felt that he placed tons of innuendos about his current situation in his auto-bio, that no one seems to be catching on to,” he wrote.

In response to a question, I told him I don’t write solely about Muslims; I was interested in all types of American extremism.

Abu M agreed to consider my request, probing my intentions in the meantime. “Is it a way to pass the days cloistered up in academia or is it a concerted effort to deface ‘radicals’ and their messages?

Bedeviled by biting ants.” “Lots of searching for wives, his first wife divorces him for not coming back to Canada, so he starts Somali speed-dating.

Married again.” “Connected with and trained under a group of Yemenis.

It was often difficult to bite my tongue, especially when he slipped into hyperbole.

Early on, I asked whether he would consider turning himself in to escape al-Shabab’s threats on his life, a question I would pose to him again and again over months to come.

For instance, after the Boston Marathon bombing, dozens of friends of the surviving suspect, college student Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, lined up in front of cameras to express horror that their friend had been so different from the person they thought they knew. From the moment I first saw him in a video in April 2009, I knew Omar Hammami was a terrorist who had embraced al Qaeda’s global campaign.

And when he first became aware of me, he knew I was on the other side of the apocalyptic conflict he imagined, an unabashedly Western writer and analyst working to shine a light on terrorist operations and violent ideologies.

Hammami grew up in a Muslim-Christian family in Daphne, Alabama.