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Shia Imam Tawhidi Wants to Know about Toronto Killer Faisal Hussein’s “Mental Illness” But Who is Imam Tawhidi?

Faisal Hussein murdered  two people and wounded more than ten others on a horrific rampage in Toronto’s Greek Town a few days ago. It is a place I know well and where I used to play Greek music in the clubs there, when I was a university student. Immediately after Hussein was shot by the police, a Muslim Brotherhood activist claiming to represent his  family shared with the media that he had “mental illness” problems. Whatever the facts will turn out to be,  the “family’s” claim has prompted some notable Muslim democracy activists to comment publicly on this killing spree.

The first is the wife of the brave and imprisoned Saudi Arabian human rights activist, Raif Badawi. His wife Ensaf Haider, who lives in Canada, has tweeted that, “Politically correct reporters keep saying murderer Faisal Hussain suffered ‘mental illness’. Which Islamic terrorist was NOT mentally ill? These jihadis hate women and Faisal aimed at and shot the woman. He’s a jihadi, no doubt about it.”

And then there is the tweet by a religious Muslim leader, Imam Tawhidi who has opined that Hussein was most likely motivated by religion. Tawhidi is now asking our Canadian law enforcement officials to release to the public the details of Hussein’s alleged mental illness. Who treated him,  for what, when, where and did the police know that he had murderous intentions? In these days of political correctness, we cannot be sure that the public will ever get access to all this information. So, we must also ask ourselves since when did devout, religious Shia Imams come out against Jihad and just who is Imam Tawhidi.?

Tawhidi is young, just under forty. He is articulate. He is engaging, sometimes funny, but very serious. He speaks fluent English and Persian, has read and studied the Quran and all the commentaries, can quote them effortlessly and, he is a friend of liberal democracy.

His full name is Imam Mohamed Tawhidi. Yes, despite enduring the outrageous slings of an ongoing character assassination campaign by his opponents in the Iranian government he is a bona fide, Iran and Iraq trained Shia Imam, who believes that religion is a private matter and who is alone among his Shia religious colleagues, standing up to the radical Islamist threat, both Shia and Sunni, which is gaining ground in all the English-speaking democracies such as his native Australia.

I met Tawhidi at a dinner honouring the end of Ramadan, the Iftar. I was invited by my  colleagues at the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow to hear this young Imam, who is a refreshing change from the grey bearded octogenarians of Iran, speak about the challenges of being a Muslim in the 21st century and the challenges to the 21st century that have emerged from radical Islam. What makes Mohamed Tawhidi unique is that he is coming from inside Islam. He is a believer. He spent years in Iran studying with some of the most established Islamic scholars in that Shia country. In English terminology he has been “ordained.” He is bona fide.

At the dinner he spoke for about forty minutes and then fielded questions. Here are some of the highlights of his talk. First of all,  he explained that attempts to reform Islam from outside or from a secular viewpoint are bound to fail, for the average Muslim will interpret these efforts as blasphemy or attacks on the faith.

He argues that one must start with the Quran and then move on to the various commentaries and commentators (and beyond), who have written about the Quran over the last 1300 hundred years. For those of us who are not Muslims, he began by saying that the Quran (like the Old and New Testaments) does not stand alone. It must be interpreted.

The Quran is an ancient text from 7th century Arabia and was developed during a period when Muhammad was establishing his new religion and his authority. Tawhidi points out that during that time the community of Muslims was probably less than a thousand people. Its enemies within Arabia were more numerous but not dramatically so, as he reminds us that numbers were small then, and life was lived within tribal confederations.

Therefore, nothing written in the Quran can be simply universalized and applied to situations and contexts today where Islam has been around for 1300 years, as it has become a world religion and civilization that is no longer persecuted.

Tawhidi became, from an outsider’s perspective “a rebellious scholar,” when as a fully subsidized student of Islamic Shia theology in the holy city of Qom (the seat of the power of the late Ayatollah Khomeini) he witnessed first hand, abuses and misuses of religion justifying the power of the government of Iran; financial and sexual corruption, lack of due process of any kind in the courts, economic inequality, theft by government representatives, rape, kickbacks and bribes. He began to question the tortuous theological and political logic of the Iranian Mullahs, backed up by their physical, police and military force that flies in the face of the moral equality which he believes is one of the essential values of his faith.

Tawhidi believes that the Sharia law as promulgated in Iran today is corrupt and immoral. He was and remains appalled by the alacrity with which the regime uses public hangings to consolidate its grip on its cowed and frightened citizens. He pointed out that the Japanese firm that provided the government with large cranes which are used to hang victims of Iranian judicial aggression,  cancelled their contract as they felt that the machinery was no longer being used in the spirit within which it was sold.

He said that when innocent young men and women are hung from the cranes of central Teheran, the last thing the West should do is make sure its embassies are within eyesight of these poor victims. That would be an insult to their struggle. He said we must remain steadfast in our refusal to let the Iranian government open an embassy in Ottawa which will become a basis for supporting terror such as its clients, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

He then changed tone and joked that he realized that because Iran is a failed state that cannot deliver justice, opportunity and proper social services in its own country despite drowning in oil, when he was a student he well remembers that whenever anything went wrong people would say, “It is because the Jews are occupying Palestine.” He then pointed out that according to Islam the Jewish people are the masters of the Holy land and he supports the modern state of  Israel, a functioning democracy that protects the rights of its Muslim and Christian minorities.

He warned us that the Iranian government is spending and has spent millions of dollars lobbying the Canadian government to reopen its embassy in Teheran and that a significant number of liberal MPs are more loyal to the corrupt Mullahs of Iran than they are to democratic Canada. He points out that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in private is probably well aware of this, but still, Trudeau would like the Canadian embassy to be reopened in Teheran.

Tawhidi explained that given the tradition of “zakat” or voluntary charity of Shia Muslims outside of Iran, not only are Iranian government funds being used to whitewash its abysmal human rights record, but some of the locally raised charitable funds are used for political lobbying here in Canada. He did not only blame the Iranian radicals for trying to undermine western opposition to their theocracy of thugs, but he pointed out that they have many fellow travellers here in North America, especially those on the left, who support the bogus concept of Islamophobia, which he fears will become law and thus prevent legitimate public criticism of human rights abuses by Islamic states and individuals.

Tawhidi finished his speech by saying that the critique of radical Islam must be made by Muslims. Others can help, but it is their challenge and his life is dedicated to doing just that. He is bringing both time honoured and new ways of thinking about his faith to a young generation of Muslims, who are the demographic majority in their home countries, and who want a version of Islam compatible with modern human rights.

Tawhidi is not a fair-weather preacher. When he began to question his teachers, he was thrown in jail in Iran. His book is forthcoming, and it will tell his story, in detail . We and the world will be hearing much more from him. I for one cannot wait to get a  copy. With regards to his tweet on Faisal Hussein, although the murderer may turn out to have been mentally ill, we may eventually discover that Faisal was a “lone wolf” Jihadi;  but even lone wolves draw their inspiration from the  pack of wolves in places like Iran calling for “Jihad”.

They are all from the same brood and thoughtful Canadians need  to  realize that these killers  draw strength from one another. Whatever the facts of this recent outrage turned out to be, we must praise Imam Tawhidi and brave souls like him  for asking for a full disclosure to the public as to who was this “mysterious” Faisal Hussein.

Geoffrey Clarfield

Over the last 12 years, Clarfield has written more than one hundred and fifty pieces for a number of print and web-based newspapers and magazines such as the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the New York Post, the American Thinker, the Brooklyn Rail, Minerva Magazine, Books in Canada and the New English Review where he is a contributing editor. He has appeared on radio (CBC, NPR) and TV (CBC, TVO) as a speaker and panelist, and has organized and lectured at a number of public events dealing with politics and culture, working with Norman Doidge and Jordan Peterson, and appearing last year at Idea City.

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