How a Fringe Muslim Cleric from Australia Became a Hero For America’s Far-Right

How a Fringe Muslim Cleric from Australia Became a Hero For America’s Far-Right

A screenshot of Mohamad Tawhidi speaking to the online talk-show host Dave Rubin during a recent YouTube interview. Screenshot: Youtube

FOR ISLAMOPHOBES, Mohamad Tawhidi is something very close to a godsend. A Shia Muslim cleric, raised in Australia and educated in Iran, Tawhidi presents himself as an Islamic reformer who embraces and amplifies far-right warnings that immigration by his fellow Muslims poses an existential threat to Western civilization.

“He’s a hero,” the former New York Assembly Member Dov Hikind said last month, introducing Tawhidi to an audience of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. “He is a super-special individual that God has introduced to this world.”

Tawhidi immediately repaid the favor by suggesting that Muslims, at least those from the majority Sunni sect, are mistaken to consider Jerusalem a sacred site. “Muslims who are fighting for Palestine are absolutely confused,” he said. “Palestine is Jewish land.” Tawhidi went on to call political Islam “a disease,” and accused America’s first two Muslim women in Congress, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, of “bringing a Hamas agenda to the U.S. Congress.”

Hikind, who is leading a campaign to force Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her comments about Israel, was delighted by Tawhidi’s baseless claim that the two Democrats are secret agents of the Palestinian Islamist movement.

When Tawhidi was first cited as an authority on Islam by Australian tabloids, he was dismissed by fellow Muslims in Australia and then the United States as something of a joke — and a symptom of how easily duped the right-wing media can be. Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Arizona, even compared him to a creation of the satirist Sacha Baron Cohen.