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Mohammad Tawhidi

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Mohammad Tawhidi
TitleImam
Personal
Born1982/1983 (age 35–36)
ReligionShia Islam (Usuli Twelver)
Senior posting
Based inAdelaide, Australia
Period in office2010–present
Websiteimamtawhidi.com

Mohammad Tawhidi (born 1982/1983) is an Iranian-born Australian Shia Muslim scholar. He was pronounced as an imam in 2010 by Grand Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq Shirazi, a senior cleric of the Qom Seminary in Iran.

Early life and education[edit]

Tawhidi is a Shi'ite Muslim of Iraqi origin who was born in Qom, Iran,[1][2] in 1982 or 1983.[3] His family emigrated to Australia at the age of 12, and he attended the Australian Islamic College in Perth.[4] In 2009, he studied for a bachelor's degree in Islamic studies at Al-Mustafa University in Qom, but dropped out in 2012.[5] He also studied and graduated from the Islamic seminary in Qom[1] and Karbala in Iraq.[6] He received lessons from senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq Shirazi,[5] who pronounced Tawhidi as an imam in 2010.[6] He later worked for one of the Shirazi-run television stations in Karbala.[7] In 2015, he returned to Australia, and is based in Adelaide.[7] He is fluent in Arabic, English, and Persian.[8] Tawhidi said that Shirazi served as his marja taqlid, a religious leader whose authority one follows. But since 2015, Tawhidi has stated that he does not subscribe to any particular religious leader.[7]

Tawhidi is president of the Islamic Association of South Australia,[9] which he founded in 2016.[10] He has written infrequently for The Huffington Post since January 2016.[2] He refers to himself as the "Imam of peace".[11]

Views[edit]

Tawhidi believes that Islam must be reformed in order to survive.[12] He has stated that some Islamic texts, particularly the Sahih al-Bukhari, should be banned, claiming that it is used as an ideological underpinning for acts of terrorism.[1][13] He supports the deportation of radical Islamic leaders from Australia.[14] Tawhidi has called for a Royal Commission to investigate the prevalence of Wahhabism, Salafism, and radical groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir.[14] He opposes Muslims who make justifications for domestic violence and the killing of apostates.[12] He supports limiting the building of mosques,[1][13][15] has claimed halal certification threatens the Australian way of life,[11][16] and stated that "Palestine is Jewish land."[1]

Tawhidi has supported Ayaan Hirsi Ali's view that Islamic schools should be closed, or changed completely, for security reasons.[13][16][17][18] After making these comments, Tawhidi claimed he had been "escorted into hiding by the police" for fear of retribution by the Muslim community.[13][17] However, a police spokesperson told The Australian that "there have been no incidents relating to the removal of a person from a mosque or similar place."[11][13]

Tawhidi has been critical of the treatment of women in Islam.[1] According to Tawhidi, there are Muslim men in Australia who have more than one wife.[1] He has also suggested that Australian female politicians should not dress in headscarves when they are in Muslim-majority nations,[1] and has called for the appointment of women to the Australian National Imams Council.[19][20]

Tawhidi believes that all acts of terrorism are condemned in the Quran.[21] Tawhidi has denounced ISIL as an extremist body that does not represent Islam.[2] In June 2017, after the jihadi terrorist attack in London, he described the branch as a "cancer" on the religion.[22]

Media attention[edit]

In March 2016, Tawhidi released a statement concerning a man who was released on bail after allegedly grabbing a woman's headscarf on a bus in Adelaide. He stated: "If government laws do not prevent such assaults, then I fear that a day will come where the Muslim community might take matters into their own hands to protect their women and mothers."[10][23] His statement also said that the Australian Government should review its laws on female headscarves.[23] Tawhidi later clarified that his statement was not meant to be interpreted as a threat, and he was unhappy with how his comments were portrayed by the ABC and Daily Mail Australia.[24] He said that the misinterpretation by media outlets inspired him to found the "Imams for Peace" organisation.[24]

Later in 2016, he attended the World Alliance of Religions for Peace (WARP) Summit in South Korea, hosted by apparent cult leader Lee Man-hee.[13][25][26] The WARP Summit coincided with the birthday of Lee Man-hee.[13] Tawhidi was supportive of the event and was quoted as saying "this WARP Summit is an event blessed by God because it is every religious person's wish to achieve peace through an alliance into one religion."[13][26]

In February 2017, Tawhidi caused controversy when he appeared on an episode of Australian current affairs program Today Tonight.[16] During the episode, he suggested that Islamic extremists were conspiring to set up a caliphate in Australia.[11][13][16][17] He also made claims that these extremists planned to increase the Muslim population in Australia and rename streets after Islamic terrorists.[13][15] Tawhidi called for a government body to be established in order to investigate the Muslim community.[13][15]

In the same month, Tawhidi made a request to defend former Jakarta Governor Ahok during his blasphemy trial.[9] He argued that the aggrieved Islamic groups had incorrectly interpreted the verse of the Quran that Ahok had allegedly referenced in a blasphemous manner.[9] Tawhidi stated that there is nothing wrong with non-Muslims leading a Muslim-majority country.[27] Tawhidi said he has received death threats from Indonesia's Islamic Defenders Front.[9]

Tawhidi previously had his arrival to Indonesia rejected, in October 2015, after he was considered to have insulted the Sunni-majority nation by calling it "Indoneshia".[27][28] Islamic organisation Hidayatullah described Tawhidi as "an extreme Shia."[28] A statement from DPP ABI, an Indonesian Shia organisation, said Tawhidi was suspected of being a "takfiri" and they rejected his presence in Indonesia.[29] The statement went on to say that Tawhidi's presence would undermine efforts to "achieve unity of the Muslims in the face of Zionism."[29]

In May 2017, Tawhidi appeared as a guest on Australian breakfast television program Sunrise to discuss the recent Manchester Arena bombing.[18] He claimed young Muslims were being pushed to believe killing infidels would allow them to gain paradise and that the Manchester bomber would have believed he would go to heaven for what he did.[18]

Reception[edit]

Zuhdi Jasser, writing for Asia Times Online, said that Tawhidi was not a reformist but instead subscribed to "a nefarious interpretation of Shia Islam."[30] Jasser asserted that Tawhidi only criticised Sunni Islamists and never Islamists within his own community such as the Iran regime.[30] However, Tawhidi has criticised Iran for imprisoning scholars who criticise its government, and stated the people of Iran regularly witness "waves of oppression, torture and lack of human rights."[31] He has also repeatedly criticised prominent Shia figures like Ayatollah Khomeini.[32]

Chloe Patton, in a piece for the ABC, referred to Tawhidi as a "Shia extremist" and accused him of waging a "sectarian war against Australia's majority Sunni community."[13] Patton referred to Tawhidi's comments to Andrew Bolt that Sahih al-Bukhari, a sacred Sunni text, should be banned.[1][13][16] Paul Barry, presenter of Media Watch, suggested that Tawhidi had called sacred Sunni texts "monkey teachings" and described Sunnis as "followers of an alcoholic, rapist caliph."[16] However, on other occasions, Tawhidi has promoted unity amongst Muslim sects and opposed sectarianism in Islam.[33] In June 2016, he began Ramadan by visiting an Ahmadiyya mosque and paid his respects to the community.[34] In a piece for The Huffington Post, he states that Muslim sects and divisions become irrelevant during serious matters of national safety.[21]

Tawhidi's critics have dubbed him "Australia's fake sheikh."[13][18] Alex McKinnon, in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald, claimed his "credentials are tough to verify."[11] The Sunni-based Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) does not recognise Tawhidi as an imam, sheikh or Muslim leader.[11][13][15]

Bronwyn Adcock, writing for the ABC, said Tawhidi had very few supporters in the Muslim community.[5] She also suggested that Tawhidi's teacher, Sadiq Shirazi, is not aligned with the moderate brand of Islam called for by Tawhidi.[5] She cited Shirazi's insistence on having an Islamic system of government instead of a secular democracy and his view that girls can be allowed to marry at the age of nine.[5]

Tawhidi has been accused of being an ally of Australian groups considered far-right such as the Australian Liberty Alliance and One Nation.[13][30][30] Tawhidi defended One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, saying "if we had politicians like Pauline Hanson in Iraq, in my home town, we wouldn't have had ISIS come in."[16][35] He has partially supported Hanson's proposal to ban Muslim immigration.[3][11][16][35] Tawhidi says he supports "a temporary ban on Muslims coming from the Middle East."[3]

In May 2017, Tawhidi was spat at and insulted by a man speaking in Arabic during an interview with Seven News in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba.[36]

In October 2017, Zuhdi Jasser, a Sunni Muslim who has been critical of Tawhidi for being divisive, stated: "I'm with him, not in condemning it in its entirety, but in condemning the vast majority of the Sahih al-Bukhari, which we believe is the origin of many of the radical interpretations in Sunni Islam."[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Australian Shiite Imam Mohammad Tawhidi: We did not come to Australia to have burqas running around; Don't like it? Hop on a kangaroo back to where you came from". Middle East Media Research Institute. 20 March 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Imam Tawhidi". HuffPost. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "'Stop Muslims coming from Middle East': Australian imam supports Hanson's call for immigration bans". Yahoo! News. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  4. ^ Piotrowski, Daniel (8 April 2017). "Exclusive: 'The Islamic ruling for this is beheading': Chilling threat to imam who wants Muslim schools shut down - as he reveals he would never have come to Australia if he knew a 'mosque on every corner' was being built". Daily Mail Australia. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Imam Mohammad Tawhidi: The problem with the media's favourite Muslim". ABC News. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Royal Institute Investigation Verifies Imam Tawhidi's Credentials". The Office of Shaikh M. Tawhidi. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  7. ^ a b c Adcock, Bronwyn (25 June 2017). "Shadows of the Sheikh: how an Adelaide Imam with a mysterious past became a media star". ABC Radio National. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  8. ^ Rodway, Nick (26 August 2017). "Man of peace". The Spectator. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d "Australian imam volunteering to defend Jakarta's Ahok at blasphemy trial". SBS World News. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b "SA imam seeks greater tolerance and respect for the wearing of headscarfs". ABC News. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Our public discourse is weakened by one-trick contrarians". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Islam must reform or it won't survive: Imam". Sky News Australia. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Welcome to the Weird World of Australia's 'Fake Sheikh', Mohammad Tawhidi". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi demands radical Islamic leaders be deported from Australia". Yahoo! News. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d "One Path Network Exposes Today Tonight's Despicable Anti-Muslim Fraud". New Matilda. 4 March 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "'Fake' Sheikh of shock". Media Watch. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  17. ^ a b c "Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi wants some Muslim schools 'shut down'". News.com.au. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  18. ^ a b c d "Muslim leaders clash in fiery debate on Sunrise". News.com.au. 26 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Alan's 7.10 editorial 070617". 2GB. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  20. ^ "Peak Islamic council needs a female mufti, says South Australian imam". The Australian. 8 April 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  21. ^ a b "National Security: The Roles of Muslim Faith Leaders". HuffPost. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Muslim taxi drivers offer free rides home after London terror attacks". The Independent. 4 June 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Kilburn man charged for allegedly grabbing woman's headscarf and intimidating her on bus into city". The Advertiser. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  24. ^ a b "Adelaide Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi sets record straight on his warning against violence". The Advertiser. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  25. ^ "HWPL Interfaith Dialogue bridged Multiculturalism and Harmony". Munting Nayon. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  26. ^ a b "[2nd WARP Summit] "I felt and absorbed the sincerity of the peace movement"". newscj.com. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  27. ^ a b "The offer of Australian Imam Shaikh M Tawhidi to defend Ahok was coldly welcomed [Translated from Indonesian]". BBC Indonesia. 17 February 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  28. ^ a b "The Shia Australians will be in Jakarta, this is the Answers of the MUI Law Commission [Translated from Indonesian]". Hidayatullah. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  29. ^ a b "Rejected by ABI and IJABI, Intolerant Shia Characters Cancel to Indonesia [Translated from Indonesian]". ABNA Indonesia. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  30. ^ a b c d "Is Tawhidi the imam Australia's been waiting for?". Asia Times. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  31. ^ "The Refugee Crisis: Why Muslims Are Fleeing from Islamic Governments". HuffPost. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  32. ^ "Imam Tawhidi". www.facebook.com.
  33. ^ "Islamic Unity: Realistic Aspects of Success". HuffPost. 11 April 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  34. ^ "Shia Imam starts off Ramadan by visiting Ahmadiyya Mosque". Rabwah Times. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  35. ^ a b "Imam calls for a focus on radicalisation". Sky News Australia. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  36. ^ "Muslim cleric who called Halal certification 'a scam' insulted and spat at during Sydney street walk". Yahoo! News. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  37. ^ Mills, Sarah (12 October 2017). "'Radio Free Islam' and the Road to Reform : A Conversation with Dr Mohamed Zuhdi Jasser". Conatus News. Retrieved 25 July 2018.

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