Iranian-born Australian personality Mohamed Tawhidi burst onto American political Twitter like a wrecking ball and went straight for Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s jugular. By selectively editing video of a speech she gave at a CAIR function weeks after the fact, the self-described “Imam of Peace” manipulated a narrative that Omar downplayed the 9/11 terrorist attacks by taking out of context the phrase “some people did something.” Recognizing an opportunity to score some brownie points for TPUSA high school pep rallies, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) retweeted the crafted smear into the Twittersphere feigning significant levels of outrage. Donald Trump followed suit riling up his base with Islamaphobic innuendo. The “Imam of Peace” celebrated this chaos by boasting the power his tweet had at crafting this narrative. However, Dan Crenshaw thrust upon American political discourse a man for whom several questions linger. Why did Mohamed Tawhidi secretly record men engaging in sexual activity without their consent? Does he still maintain copies of these explicit recordings? Is the American LGBTQ community also at risk?
In his 2018 book The Tragedy of Islam, Tawhidi details his experiences studying at an Islamic institute in Iran. After his first visit to radical cleric Sadiq Shirazi (who later dubbed Tawhidi a religious clergyman), he was targeted for bullying by staff and students at school. It continued until he fled, in tears, to the office of “the supreme leader” of Iran Ali Khamenei. A representative responded by ordering an end to the bullying, which deterred faculty members but not the fellow students who continued picking on him. As an insurance policy, Tawhidi followed a “student captain” and filmed him engaged in public behavior he deemed indecent. This particular student was close to the dean of students, who wasn’t a fan of Tawhidi.
The peaceful man didn’t stop there. Upon hearing rumors that Chinese students were engaging in “homosexual activities” in showers, peeping Tawhidi conducted a covert operation to extract audio without their consent. He writes, “I hung a pair of my jeans in one of the shower rooms, and placed a recorder in its pocket. I managed to obtain an audio file of their entire session.” He then presented these recordings to the dean of his school, the Al-Mahdi Institute, threatening to release them to the Iranian regime’s opposition who would make sure the “homosexual activities” and public indecency would become front page news.
The running theme throughout Tawhidi’s strange tale is manipulation. He talks about presenting his clandestine audios while bluffing about possessing further damning information. His deceptive practices put innocent men at risk. It’s widely known that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not a safe country for members of the LGBTQ community — where homosexuality is punishable by death. Outing gay men in Iran can have deadly consequences, yet Tawhidi brags he was simply “ten steps ahead” by recording men participating in sexual activity for personal blackmail purposes. He ultimately exposed them to an authority figure who could have facilitated fatal punishment.
Perhaps Dan Crenshaw should have done some light reading before his fast-and-loose twitter fingers promoted manipulated content. He’d have learned that the “Imam of Peace” literally wrote the book on recording men having sex for his own agenda. This behavior isn’t conducive to American values of respecting human rights, including those of the LGBTQ community — who remain a protected group in the United States. Tawhidi’s fellow students became collateral damage as he violated their intimate moments without consent. He weaponized sexuality and used it against those he felt slighted by.
This type of attack on marginalized communities has no place in the United States. Our political institutions become even more sullied by accepting social media figures who engage in this conduct. Sadly, many American conservatives have since amplified Tawhidi’s voice. During an appearance on The Candace Owens Show, Tawhidi declared that “the left are even more violent than ISIS.” Ironically, he was also welcomed on The Rubin Report, an internet show hosted by an openly gay man.
Tawhidi enjoyed his rounds on the intellectual dark web because Dan Crenshaw raised his profile. His Twitter follower count skyrocketed and he was even featured on pro-Trump television network One America News, where Tawhidi dangerously accused Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) of being extremists. One America News proceeded to promote Tawhidi’s book without mentioning he had secretly recorded men having sex.
Failing to do basic research on foreign figures entering US political discourse potentially puts Americans at risk. As a result of Tawhidi’s smear campaign against Ilhan Omar, the Congresswoman received numerous death threats. Attacks on members of Congress, though troubling, are expected to a certain degree. Secretly recording innocent men having sex for personal leverage…that’s a whole other animal. One that must not be allowed to thrive in America’s political arena. Our politicians must also be held accountable and made to answer for the voices they elevate. Standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in the US and worldwide doesn’t include lining the pockets of their attackers.