Updated| Recently another controversy erupted over freshman Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) when a short clip of a recent speech showed her referring to the 9/11 attacks as the work of “some people.” Specifically Omar said, “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and then all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
For context, this one quote was from a speech against Islamophobia following the recent massacre at Christchurch that left 50 worshipers dead. Although Omar’s point was clear — that the majority of Muslims should not shoulder the blame for the actions of a few — the phrase “some people did something” has been twisted by conservatives who accused her of downplaying the tragedy.
The Murdoch-owned New York Post seized the opportunity to reprint a graphic photo of the attacks along with the caption “HERE’S YOUR SOMETHING” — which was as irresponsible as it was exploitative. (It is also par for the course for a newspaper that traffics in racist imagery.) Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, who once waxed poetically about the “pure genes” of Swedish people, questioned Omar’s loyality.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) similarly blasted Omar, as did pointy-headed Twitter troll/Daily Wire pundit Ryan Saavedra. While still employed at the online dumpster heap Breitbart, Saavedra once remarked that “the crusades need to come back.” And of course the Commander-in-Chief himself tweeted a video montage that spliced Omar’s quote with footage of the attacks, despite his cruel reaction to the twin towers’ collapse.
What seems to have gotten lost in the chaos is how this got started. For that, look no further than a man who calls himself Imam Mohamad Tawhidi, or the “Imam of Peace.” Tawhidi is a far-right, Iranian-born Australian Muslim who is popular even among some right-wing Islamophobes for his willingness to boost their talking points.
And despite referring to himself as an “imam” — an Islamic leadership position — his credentials appear sketchy at best. As Australian journalist Bronwyn Adcock pointed out, Tawhidi “has no mosque, and only a handful of followers.” He is not recognized as an imam by the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), and he appears to have lied about earning a Bachelor’s Degree from Al-Mustafa International University.
On April 8, 2019 Tawhidi tweeted the video clip of Omar, along with the lie that she “does not consider it a terrorist attack.” The clip itself bore the Daily Caller News Foundation watermark, and an article about the video had been authored by Amber Athey, who was recently forced to apologize over antisemitic jokes about the Holocaust. Tawhidi’s tweet was retweeted over 14,000 times, including by GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel:
Prior to this another clip from that speech, where Omar says Muslims should stand up for their rights and “raise hell” was tweeted by the pro-Trump account @suzydymna, which currently has over 139,000 followers and accused Omar of “call[ing] for violence.” The video clip was retweeted by Ryan Saavedra on March 24, but the 9/11 portion didn’t come to light until later.
Still, Tawhidi largely took credit for the latest attack on Omar’s character, boasting that, “One tweet from Imam Tawhidi managed to influence the United States media for 3 days straight, retweeted by hundreds of US politicians, thousands of verified accounts & exposed Ilhan Omar on a front cover.” He added, “This is exactly why the mainstream media hates me.”
This isn’t the first time Tawhidi has launched a disingenuous attack against Omar, however. In addition to calling her a “proud and outspoken anti-semite” and “the most ungrateful migrant to the USA,” Tawhidi has tweeted another video clip of Omar where she discusses taking a college course on terrorism. Tawhidi wrote, “The Honourable Rep. Ilhan Omar admitting that she attended terrorism classes.”
But beyond this obsession with the Minnesota congresswoman, Tawhidi has also promoted white nationalists and other far-right figures.
He defended National Front leader and failed French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen after she was accused of violating a law that prohibits “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity.” On March 5, 2019, he declared “I STAND WITH MARINE.” He tweeted a similar message that same day, and included a link to the noxiously anti-immigrant website Voice of Europe.
On March 5, 2019 he also tweeted a video by Dov Hikind in which the former New York lawmaker called Ilhan Omar an antisemite. Hikind made headlines in 2013 for wearing blackface at a Purim party, and bragged about his time as a member of the Jewish Defense League, a terrorist organization founded by a racist Israeli politician. On March 10, 2019, he retweeted a video posted by Islamophobic troll Amy Mekelburg.
On March 10, 2019, he defended Fox News host Jeanine Pirro after she claimed Omar wearing a hijab was “antithetical to the United States constitution.” “Indeed, @JudgeJeanine is 100% right,” he wrote. “In many government departments around the world I am told to remove my Turban and robes in order to attend a Parliamentary hearing/meeting. So, I dress differently. We must follow the law. Ilhan is against the COTUS.”
After Pirro was briefly suspended for her remarks, Tawhidi tweeted out a bizarre poem in her honor in which he called her “princess” and accused progressives of “oppress[ing]” a woman of color — Pirro is of Lebanese descent:
In the aftermath of the Christchurch shooting, Tawhidi defended Pauline Hanson, the far-right Australian politician who founded the nationalist One Nation Party. Hanson has a lengthy track record of racist remarks.
In a 1996 speech Hanson said, “I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians.” In 2016 she warned that Australia was being “swamped by Muslims.” And in 2017 she called Islam a “disease” that Australians needed to “vaccinate against.”
Tawhidi wrote that linking Hanson’s racist rhetoric to the massacre in Christchurch was “truly disgusting” and “pure cowardice.” In another tweet he defended One Nation as “a legally registered political party that has tens of thousands of members and hundreds of thousands of voters,” and said that comparing their Islamophobic policies to the shooter’s manifesto “insults all those good and hard working Australians.”
He added that Hanson “has the right to disagree with us Muslims and our religion” and to “propose laws that limit migration.” Tawhidi called this “normal in the world of politics” and claimed that “[m]any Muslims vote for One Nation too.”
And last year Tawhidi strongly supported white nationalist Faith Goldy for her ultimately unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Toronto. Goldy was fired by Rebel Media in 2017 for appearing on The Krypto Report, a podcast affiliated with the Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. She also repeatedly recited and defended the “14 words,” a white supremacist slogan.
Unsurprisingly her campaign was characterized by xenophobia and Islamophobia.
On August 30, 2018 — slightly over a year since the “Unite the Right” rally Goldy was present at — Tawhidi announced, “I support @FaithGoldy’s policy on crime and Islamic Extremism. Her promise to crack down on dangerous cells is exactly what Toronto/Ontario needs.” On September 8, 2018, he tweeted his support for Goldy’s promise to ban face masks and “monitor finances in and out of Toronto Islamic centres.”
On September 22, 2018 he tweeted, “Deep inside your heart you know very well that if @FaithGoldy was mayor of Mississauga, Islamist organisations linked to terrorism wouldn’t be permitted to hold public events hosting @lsarsour and her terrorist teacher Siraj Wahaj.” He also boasted that “Faith Goldy is winning in online polls” because “Torontonians have had enough.” Despite her white nationalist beliefs, Goldy went on to finish in third place.
In December 2018, a Twitter user reminded Tawhidi that Goldy “is a white supremacist.” “Not whiter than my turban,” Tawhidi replied.
And in 2017 Tawhidi appeared as a guest on alt-right vlogger Brittany Pettibone’s show to discuss Islam and sharia law. Pettibone was an early promoter of the Pizzagate hoax and is currently engaged to neo-fascist leader Martin Sellner. During the interview Tawhidi said that the “path of Islam has gone down a very violent road — now I’m not saying all Muslims, but the majority.” He claimed that “the majority of Muslims love that version, the violent version, of the Prophet Muhammad.”
When asked whether he supported “vetting” for Muslim immigrants into Western nations, Tawhidi replied that he supported “vetting, a very strict filteration, and a temporary ban” on Muslims. “A temporary ban is what I would suggest the most,” he said. Pettibone said “many of us at least on the Right do think that that’s a very reasonable thing and really didn’t understand the outrage” over President Trump’s ban.
He also told Pettibone that “[Islamic] radicalization spreads because of the tolerance of the Left” and that tolerance is “paving the way for terrorism.” Of President Trump’s Muslim ban Tawhidi said, “I do support Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims even if that be myself, because you guys there, you need to figure stuff out. You guys seriously have a problem. Whoever turns around and says there is no problem is lying.”
This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Mohamad Tawhidi is not recognized as an imam, and that this is likely only a title he has given himself.