‘Imam of Peace’ or ‘Fake Sheikh’: Who is Mohamad Tawhidi?
Even before he landed in India, self-proclaimed peace advocate Imam Mohamad Tawhidi became a subject of contention. On one side, the ideological Right showers him with praise and promotes his views on ‘Islam’. On the other, maulanas in the country write to the Home Ministry against his visit to India.
Such is the impact of Tawhidi, who is currently in India to attend 'Arth', a cultural festival that will see more than 250 writers, scholars, artisans and artists from India and abroad participate.
Iranian-born Tawhidi describes himself as a peace activist and has faced extreme criticism from fellow Muslims for his radical and somewhat reformist views.
Here’s a look at some of his views:
ON MUSLIMS IN INDIA
“If extremist Imams in India had brains they would have gone on vacation by now,” he had said, ahead of his India visit.
No wonder then that Tawhidi’s remarks have found favour with the Hindutva brigade and right-wingers in India.
On Thursday, the ‘Imam’ held a meeting with BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy in New Delhi.
Tawhidi has also been praised by several people online, including right-leaning American Hindu author David Frawley.
Tawhidi not only ‘hates’ Muslims as much as some right-leaning organisations, but he also disseminates exactly the sort of narratives that fit squarely into their blogs, reports and speeches. (See here & here)
He had even given an interview to known right-wing portal OpIndia last year.
Meanwhile, his arrival in India was met with hostility by several Islamic preachers and organisations.
Shujaat Ali Quadri, National President of Muslim Students Organisation of India, had Tweeted: “We oppose and reject Imam Tawhidi 's arrival in India. He is nothing but a puppet of the West and Israel.”
The Majlis Ulama-e-Hind had also expressed its disapproval over Tawhidi’s visit and had written a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The organisation had also slammed Zee TV network for inviting him for ‘Arth’.
Tawhidi had ‘laughed off’ the protests on Twitter:
Islamic scholar Tarek Fatah, meanwhile, said that there was panic among Indian Islamic preachers.
Tawhidi had also said: “They tell you I’m fake, they tell you I’m no one, they then have emergency meetings to issue fatwas, statements and intimidating letters to home ministers in order to ban me from entering their country. If I was who they say I am, they wouldn’t do what they do. Simple.”
Renowned author and philosopher Sam Harris had also praised Tawhidi. Notably, Harris had once proclaimed “we are not at war with terrorism, we are at war with Islam” itself.
Several users on social media also flagged that Tawhidi, who claims to be an Imam, was in fact ‘a fraud’.
One user pointed to discrepancies in Tawhidi’s own account of his origins.
Whereas, Alt News founder Pratik Sinha accused Tawhidi of spreading fake news.
The claims appear to be substantiated as Tawhidi is not an Imam, nor is Tawhidi recognised as an Imam by either the Australian National Imams Council or its South Australian equivalent, “nor is he affiliated with any Australian mosque or prayer centre,” according to an ABC investigation into the “fake Sheikh.”