Dr. Sami Al-Arian was born on January 14, 1958 in Kuwait from Palestinian parents. His roots are in Jerusalem and Jaffa, Palestine. He received his elementary and secondary education in Egypt between 1966-1974. He came to the United States in 1975 and received his BS degree from Southern Illinois University in 1978 in Electrical Sciences and Systems Engineering. He also received his MS and Ph.D. degrees from North Carolina State University in 1980 and 1985, respectively, in the area of Computer Engineering. He has been a professor at the University of South Florida since 1986. He is a tenured associate professor at USF and received the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1993 and the Teaching Incentive Award in 1994. He has over forty Publications in the area of Computer design and test.
Dr. Al-Arian has also been an active community leader. He helped establish many organizations including the largest grass roots organization in the U.S., the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 1981, and many of its affiliates. He also co-founded the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE) in 1990, as a research and academic institution, dedicated to establishing a dialogue and understanding between the Muslim and Western worlds.
Dr. Al-Arian is also dedicated to interfaith dialogues, community development, and civil rights. He served on the board of the Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE), the largest community organization in Hillsborough County in the state of Florida, and a member of many other civic organizations. Dr. Al-Arian is a frequent speaker and lecturer on many campuses, churches, and conferences. He also serves as the local pastor or Imam of the local Islamic community in Tampa.
Dr. Al-Arian has also founded with other individuals in the Tampa Bay area the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace. The coalition was formed in June 1997 in response to the unjust imprisonment of Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar using secret evidence and the ongoing negative local and national media attacks on Arabs and Muslims. In addition, he is a co-founder of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, the largest national organization fighting secret evidence since 1997. He was elected as its first president in 2000. He is also the recepient of the "civil rights award" of 3 prominent Arab and Muslim organizations: the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and American Muslim Alliance (AMA).
Since 1995 Dr. Al-Arian has been the target of an orchestrated campaign to silence him for his pro-Palestinian views. Recently the USF president sent him a letter of intent to terminate his employment at the Universiy after he appeared in a TV program. This case has been at the center of a national debate in post September 11th America on academic freedom, free speech, and tenure.
Dr. Al-Arian is married to Nahla who is a teacher of comparative religions. They have 5 children.