American Muslims are defending an Australian imam whose public opposition to radical Islam and attempts to impose sharia law has drawn criticism from other Muslim leaders in Australia.
Imam Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi said that other members of Australia’s Muslim community were criticizing him because he has blasted radical Islam and warned of an extremist cell in Sydney, the nation’s largest city.
“’They have called me a fake Muslim imam or a Shaikh only because I expose their intentions to create a caliphate within Australia,” Tawhidi said. “I am considered a fake because I condemn terrorism. I am considered a fake because I oppose and expose extremism.”
His comments came last week in a four-minute video in which he detailed the reasons other Muslim leaders were criticizing him.
“I am considered a fake because I would die for Australia. I am considered a fake because I live by the Australian constitution,” he said. “For them, I am too Australian.”
U.S. Muslim groups said Monday that they generally supported Tawhidi’s position, though they had some reservations.
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Fox News that the premise of Tawhidi’s critics – that there is a dichotomy between being a good Muslim and being a good citizen of a western nation – is false.
“The problem comes when you look at a dichotomy between being an Australian or an American and being a Muslim. We don’t see a dichotomy,” Hooper said. “We see that, in fact, the American-Muslim community is the prime defender of the U.S. Constitution. We see no conflict between Islamic beliefs and practices and living as a productive, contributing citizen whether it’s in Australia or America.”
Hooper said he would have liked Tawhidi to clarify that there is no need for Muslims to choose between being good citizens and being religiously faithful.
“Instead of stating you can be a good Australian and a good Muslim at the same time, he’s somehow throwing Islam under the bus and that’s where he got in trouble,” Hooper said. “Muslims around the world follow sharia law every day of their lives when they pray, when they fast. There is no inherent conflict being a law-abiding Australian or American and practicing Islam. That’s a false premise.”
Another Muslim group in the U.S., American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) told Fox News that, while they would defend Tawhidi completely, he is not addressing the core issue.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, a U.S. Navy veteran and AIFD spokesman, echoed Tawhidi’s view that radical Islam is a threat to freedom, democracy and the West.
“I’m with him on his statements on radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups he has been targeting in Australia,” said Jasser. “He’s right, they are separatists and a threat to the sovereignty of Australia.”
While Tawhidi, a Shia imam, has condemned the Islamic State, Jasser told Fox News that he has yet to speak out against Hezbollah and other Shia groups.
“He’s not treating the core ideology, which is why Sunni groups have jumped on him and called him fake,” Jasser said. “I don’t endorse anyone who calls him a fraud, but I don’t want people to miss the fact that Shia imams exploit this to ignore their own problems within.”
Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.