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It doesn’t take a great deal of investigative curiosity to know something is amiss when Muslim hating New Atheists promote and praise a figure who expresses devotion to the Islamic faith.
“This was remarkably honest and refreshing. Why aren’t most Imams like this?” tweeted Sam Harris in response to a New Atheist podcast featuring Imam Tawhidi.
When Harris gives praise to an imam, you can be sure you’re dealing with no ordinary imam. After all, Harris once proclaimed “we are not at war with terrorism, we are at war with Islam” itself.
A quick Google search of the Imam provides a quick answer for why New Atheists are suddenly fawning over Tawhidi, otherwise known as the @ImamOfPeace on Twitter. You see, Tawhidi not only hates Muslims as much as they do, but also disseminates the exact same debunked anti-Muslim conspiracy theories New Atheists share in their books, blogs, and podcasts.
Earlier this year, Tawhidi claimed Muslims in Australia were secretly conspiring to establish an Islamic caliphate on Australian soil, “right here, under our noses”; backed calls to ban Islamic schools, and supported far right calls to ban Muslims entering the country, even promoting the Twitter hashtag #PrayForMuslimBan.
Little wonder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a darling of the New Atheist movement, who once urged a “military war” against Muslims, called for Tawhidi to be “elevated to celebrity status.”
But there’s only one, big problem. 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.”
In fact, no one had even heard of the self-annointed Iman Tawhidi prior to seemingly emerging out of nowhere in the Australian media last year. His cartoonish and pardoxical efforts to portray himself as the sum of all xenophobic fears, while at the same time echoing xenophobic narratives made him an irresistible magnet to Australian media outlets and racist hate groups.
His absurd conspiracy theory regarding that warns of secret plot, hatched by Australia’s 400,000 Muslims, to establish a caliphate on Australian soil was beamed into living rooms via Channel 7’s Today Tonight. The fake story propagated by a fake Imam went viral on social media, with one far right Facebook page titled Australia: Love it or Leave, spreading it with the accompanied message, “The Secret Plan for a Muslim State in Australia, In Their Own Words.” The post was shared more than 6,000 times.
When mainstream Australian media outlets are unable or unwilling to even perform a casual vetting of such an overt anti-Sunni Muslim fear mongerer, it’s little wonder why Australia ranks as one of the most Islamophobic nations on the planet.
It’s also evident every anti-Muslim bigot’s favorite Muslim is little more than an hyper-sectarian, pro-Iranian propagandist, who equates Sunni Islam with the perverted ideology of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, once Tweeting, “Islam without Imam Ali (a.s) is simply ISIS.”
Chloe Patton, an expert on Australia’s Shiite community, warns Tawhidi is merely a mouthpiece for Shia extremism. “In Tawhidi’s black-and-white worldview, anything other than the Shia Twelver Islam that he follows is the terrorist ideology,” she writes.
Yesterday I called out Tawhidi as a “fake Imam” in response to his tweet that erroneously and mischieviously attempted to tie Islam to violence and terrorism.
To which Tawhidi replied:
Of course, this is all part of Tawhidi’s schtick. Make outlandish statements, portray cartoonish versions of Muslims, and then offer public debate whenever his credibility and authenticity is called into question.
But despite his offer, Tawhidi isn’t actually interested in debating qualified Islamic scholars or leaders. Dozens of actual Muslim Australian Imams have called his bluff, and on each occasion their acceptance of his offer to debate is met with his predictable silence.
My reply to his public offer was met with him denying me access to his Twitter account:
I mean, why would he be interested in sitting down to a serious debate with actual qualified scholars of Islam when the “only religious instruction he offers is a self-described ‘university standard’ Islamic Studies class delivered from a rented classroom at the University of South Australia”?
“Course content posted online includes rambling refutations of the Big Bang and the theory of human evolution,” according to Patton. “A video he has shared on social media depicting a sparrow repeatedly fluttering against another sparrow gives a taste of his views on the latter. The caption reads: ‘Watch how this bird performs CPR on another bird, something we humans won’t learn without an educational training course; so who taught that bird?’”
This hardly constitutes rigorous and robust academic study from a bona fide tertiary education institution, but his “knowledge” of Islam is clearly adequate for those who wish to couch their hatred of Muslims behind his name.
“I don’t hate Muslims,” they can say. “I support Imam Tawhidi.”
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