By Aarti Tikoo Singh
February 4, 2019
Mohamad Tawhidi, a Muslim cleric of
Iraqi origin who is now based in Australia, is a
campaigner against extremism. On the eve of his participation in a cultural
festival in India, he spoke to Aarti Tikoo Singh about his mission of
You are an Iraqi born in Iran. Why did
your family emigrate to Australia?
My family fled to Iran from Saddam
Hussein’s oppressive regime. Four of my uncles were executed by Saddam
Hussein’s regime due to their open opposition against his crimes and wars. My
father was imprisoned for nearly a decade. My parents moved to Iran because the
borders were open and Iraqis were fleeing to Iran in the thousands. I was born
in Iran as a refugee. We migrated to Australia because my parents took the
opportunity to start a new life after living through the Iraq-Iran war.
Why did you choose to become an imam and
call yourself ‘Imam of Peace’?
I went on a trip to Iran in 2006. At first
the journey began as a Middle East holiday that turned into an educational
programme. I decided to remain in Iran due to the fact that I could relate to
everything there. So I decided to engage in Islamic studies. I have been
involved in Islamic affairs ever since.
I am a peace advocate. Most imams I was
raised around in school and at the mosque were not peaceful people. Therefore,
I distanced myself from extremist imams by referring to myself as ‘Imam of Peace’.
I encourage more imams to refer to themselves as ‘Imams of Peace’ because I
believe it will solve a lot of societal problems.
You are a Muslim cleric, yet you often
criticise Islam. Why?
I do not criticise God or the monotheistic
foundations of my religion. I love my religion. I only criticise the man-made
elements which have led to wars, terrorism and ongoing waves of extremism.
There is no single governing body in Islam. So all Muftis are free to issue
whatever Fatwas they desire, directing the vulnerable masses to follow their
nonsensical and fundamentalist brands of extremism.
Why are you visiting India?
I am visiting India because I have been
invited to attend a cultural festival. I want to use this opportunity to shed
light on the importance of establishing peace and healthy interfaith dialogue.
What do you think of Islam and Muslims
There are many wonderful Muslims in India.
My problem is with the Pakistani version of Islam that is heavily influenced by
militant teachings. Pakistan’s version of Islam is somewhat sophisticated
because it is amended to fit the narrative of the government and to justify all
of its wrongdoings. It is heavily influenced by militant ideologies and false
prophecies of conquering the entire Indian subcontinent. It is a revolutionary
brand of Islamism that threatens the entire geographic region. Pakistan’s
al-Qaida cells have already expanded into India.
In India’s social media you are accused
of working for the Hindutva agenda.
In every country, there are groups accusing
me of being a front for certain organisations. I find this to be very childish
because my agenda is clear. I work for my own foundation, the Imam Tawhidi
Foundation. I am a religious practising Muslim. I believe that many verses in
the Quran support scientific facts such as the big bang and evolution.
Therefore, I base my theology and doctrine on scientific facts and logic.
You have been accused of being critical
mostly of Sunni Islam. Is it because you are a Shia cleric?
I am not sectarian. I criticise both Shia
and Sunni extremism equally. In my latest book The Tragedy of Islam, I have
dedicated an entire chapter discussing ‘The Difficulties of Shia Islam and Shia
However, we cannot deny that the majority
of terrorist groups such as ISIS, al-Qaida, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Boko Haram,
al-Shabab, are all Sunni Muslims. The Shia terrorist organisations are a
handful and in limited geographic areas: Hizbullah of Lebanon and the IRGC of
I believe the collective mindset or
mentality should be challenged, and humans should be able to think as
honourable individuals. Change begins when individuals decide to think for
themselves. The first step towards positive change is to distance ourselves
Why don’t you preach your version of
Islam in Iran or Iraq instead of Australia?
I did preach throughout the Middle East. I
was imprisoned in Iran for my preaching. I was detained without charge. I was
preaching a more open-minded and secular brand of Islam that calls for the
separation of mosque and state, religion and politics. In Iraq, I co-founded
Imam Hussein TV3 and was preaching regular Islamic lessons in jurisprudence,
Quranic science and Islamic History. But I had to leave Iraq in 2014 due to
ISIS taking over important cities.
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are
the author's own.