American jihadist Omar Hammami fondly recalls living in Canada, Tim Hortons coffee

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

An American Islamic jihadist fighting in Somalia has published an online autobiography that includes fond memories of Canada.

Alabama-born Omar Hammami lived in Toronto for a year before travelling to Somalia to join Al Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked group fighting for control of the dystopian African country.

The memoir ostensibly written by Hammami, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mansour Al Amriki (the American), is entitled The Story of an American Jihādī, Part 1.

In it, according to the Toronto Star, Hammami says he has no regrets about his life but misses his family and Western pleasures such as hot wings, Chinese food and Tim Hortons coffee.

"There are Tim Horten's (sic) fast-food joints all over the place and people speak from their nose," Hammami wrote, recalling his first impressions after crossing the U.S.-Canada border.

"We used to have a blast asking the Canadians we met: "How 'bout that hockey eh? Wanna have a coffee at Tim Horten's or should I get ya a Fresca?'

"Everything is the same, but slightly different. Dollars are called 'Loonies' and a two dollar coin is a 'Toonie.' That became important on one occasion because I think I got badgered in the airport once for not knowing what a bloody 'Loonie' is.

"But, eventually I got used to the accent and I started to have an addiction to Tim Horten's coffee."

Hammami, 28, had been reported killed in Mogadishu but his body could not be found, the National Post reported. He resurfaced last year in a video where he taunted the U.S., where he was on the FBI's most-wanted list, to make him a martyr.

Hammami, child of a Syrian-born engineer and an American mother, converted to Islam and quit university in 2002.

He came to Toronto to pursue a relationship with an Ethiopian woman, the Star reported. He ended up marrying a Somali-born immigrant and moving to Cairo. She refused to follow him to Mogadishu and demanded by phone that they get a divorce.

"I told her that I live under a tree and that I am speaking from a mountain," Hammami wrote. "She didn't seem to understand. She refused to come to Somalia and insisted that I should simply come back to Canada and live happily ever after (fat chance!)."

According to the Post, Hammami was delivering pizza in Toronto when he felt the pull of jihad.

"I finally looked at my life and decided that I had to move on," he wrote.

He interacted with different Muslims in Toronto and sampled "black-listed books." Living in a multicultural city helped him in "trying new things and melting down the artificial barriers."

"I was happy for quite a while until I realized that even this is not enough. Obviously (Toronto) was never a pure Islamic society by any stretch of the imagination, but it served as a temporary haven for me while I digested new information and formed new plans for my future."

Hammami faces terrorism charges in the United States.

The Alabama news blog said his father, Shafik Hammami, appeared Thursday on TV where he tearfully described his continued worries about his son.

"To me, every single day, first thing when I get up in the morning, I scour the Internet, and that's how I start my day," Hammami said from his home in Daphne, Alabama. "As long as I know that he is alive, that's enough for me."

"In his mind, he's fulfilling God's guidance to him, and no one can convince him otherwise."