Who Is @maulanaUfkani - An Afghan Muslim Cleric, Or An Imposter?
Despite appearing to tweet in support of Muslims, the account became popular through right-wing influencers, who frequently shared his tweets to ridicule the 'Islamic' views presented.
The account of Twitter user 'maulana abdul uf kani' (handle name @maulanaUfkani) purports to be that of a Muslim user - with the location set to Afghanistan. His now-removed profile picture was that of a bearded man wearing a skullcap - personifying a typical Muslim man. His posts echoed highly conservative Islamic views - but often presented in a manner that sounds ridiculous, nearly satirical.
Despite appearing to tweet in support of Muslims, the account became popular through prominent Indian right-wing influencers, who frequently shared his tweets, or interacted with them to ridicule the 'Islamic' views presented by the 'maulana'.
Looking through the social media history of this user, with the help of former handles and posts, BOOM found that the account used to go by the handle @HumorLessHarm, and frequently interacts with other Indian right-wing accounts. We also found that the account had deleted all the tweets made before May 2021, after which it took the persona of the 'Maulana'.
Recently, after being called out as an imposter and fake account by multiple Twitter users, the user removed the profile photo of the bearded man with skullcap, and added the words 'parody' to the bio. However, many on Twitter - especially those who are right leaning, continue to outrage in response to his posts.
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What Does This 'Maulana' Tweet About?
We looked at an archive of the account, saved on December 13, 2021, which shows that the profile picture of the bearded man with skullcap. The profile bio did not mention 'parody', as it does now.
This suggests that the profile picture was removed, and the word 'parody' was added, very recently.
The information provided by the Twitter account states that it was started in November 2020. However, the earliest tweet made by this user only dates back to September 6, 2021. This suggests that this user did not tweet anything for nearly 11 months after creating the account, or has deleted all the tweets posted prior to posting this tweet.
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What is this 'first tweet' about?
The user purported to be from Afghanistan, and spoke of Afghan schools being reopened following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. The tweet stated that the curtain seen between the male and female students in the photo is to provide equal space to women.
Click here to view an archived version of the tweet.The 'maulana' also pretended to be the cousin brother of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, expressing anguish at her marriage to Asser Malik in November, 2021. The user claimed that he is Yousafzai's first cousin, and that he is hurt that she did not marry him.
Click here to view an archive of the tweet.
In another recent tweet, the user attempted at confirming the right-wing allegations that Muslims were ccelebrating the helicopter crash that killed Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat. The user appears to defend this act, along with the allegations that Muslims also celebrated India's loss to Pakistan in the T20 world cup match recently. His tweet also appears to be highly sarcastic in nature.
Click here to view an archive of the tweet.
In yet another sarcastic tweet, the user insinuated that Muslims had pelted stones at electric supply workers in Ahmedabad, and pretended to defend this act by suggesting that 'energy can be produced using stones'.
A quick look at the profile will reveal a long list of such tweets from this user.
Who Interacts With This Account?
Surprisingly, most people interacting with this account are actually right-leaning Indians, including some really popular right-wing influencers.
Some of the popular users to interact with this account is Tarek Fatah, who frequently shares fake news, and @BefittingFacts - who is followed by prominent right-wing figures including Union Minister Piyush Goyal, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, BJP worker Kapil Mishra, BJP Youth National Secretary Tajinder Bagga, and psephologist Yashwant Deshmukh.
Fatah shared a tweet by the 'maulana' - yet another highly sarcastic one - where the latter claims that Pakistan is a safe country because terrorists Osama Bin Laden and Dawood Ibrahim and sought refuge there. Fatah appears to be oblivious to the sarcasm, and ridicules the 'Pakistani Islamic cleric' based on this tweet.
We found multiple instances of @BefittingFacts interacting with this user- frequently responding to his posts and engaging in conversations.
Mohit Gulati, a right-wing influencer who goes by the handle @desimojito, also shared a screenshot of a tweet by the 'maulana', where the latter posts an incoherent tweet about waiting to marry his cousin who is turning 18 soon.
The post is riddled with comments from people ridiculing the 'maulana' for his regressive views. There is also a fair share of comments from people questioning whether this is a parody account.
We also looked through the followers of this 'maulana' - we could not find any Afghan or Pakistani followers; the entire list was of Indians, with an overwhelming portion of these accounts showing clear support for the right-wing Hindutva ideology.
'Maulana's' History - An Internet Trail Of A Indian Right-Wing Troll
In a Twitter thread, AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair lists down further instances of this account being promoted by right-wing accounts, including that of Tajinder Bagga.
In one of the tweets, Zubair suggests that this user went by a former handle @HumorLessHarm, before taking up the persona of an Islamic cleric.
We went on Wayback Machine and searched for posts made by @HumorLessHarm, and found a long list of posts made between November 2020 to May 2021.
To confirm that the 'maulana' was actually @HumorLessHarm, we did a quick Twitter ID check.
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First, we used this internet tool to find the unique Twitter ID of the 'maulana's' account, using the handle name @maulanaUfkani. The ID turned out to be 1331645407865184266.
We then accessed one of the archives of the tweets made by @HumorLessHarm, retrieved using Wayback Machine. We viewed the the page source and looked for 'data-user-id', to view the Twitter ID of the account.
The source page revealed the @HumorLessHarm had the exact same Twitter ID as @maulanaUfkani - 1331645407865184266; thus confirming that both the handles are run using the same Twitter account.
In its Twitter bio, the user described his handle as a 'Stan account' (internet slang for fan account) of prominent right-wing handles Squint Neon (@TheSquind) and Sniper Saffron (@SniperSaffronIN). @TheSquind has since been suspended from by the microblogging platform.
In yet another archived post, the user responds in smileys to a post that promotes the right-wing conspiracy theory that the farmers' protests were being led by Khalistani separatists.
In another post, the user is seen actively engaging in banter with other right-wing IT Cell members, including the now-banned @SquintNeon.
In yet another archived post, the user joins in with another Twitter user to call out accounts who 'gathered clout and followers through right-wing and then started despising them'.
We also found another archived post where the user responds to another Twitter user who appears to be complaining about the 'Association of Billion Minds' - a firm that handles the BJP's election strategies, including social media.
The user @HumorLessHarm states that the 'leaders (of BJP) are good' but that the 'it dpt (IT Department - or IT Cell) thinks they can win just in name of their leaders'.
This tweet, made right after BJP's massive lost to the Trinamool Congress in Bengal, highlights that the user might be associated with the BJP's IT Cell in some way or the other.
Looking through the older (and now-deleted) tweets by @HumorLessHarm, we could not find a single post suggesting that the user is either Muslim, or from Afghanistan.
Summarising what we know about this account:
1. It used to go by the handle @HumorLessHarm
2. Described its own account to be a follower of prominent right-wing IT Cell handles
3. Promoted right-wing content, interacted exclusively with other Indian right-wing accounts
4. Deleted all posts somewhere after May, 2021
5. Changed his profile name to @maulanaUfkani, added the profile photo of a bearded man with a skullcap.
6. From September 2021 onwards, started posting as an Islamic cleric from Afghanistan.
7. In December, the user gets called out by fact-checkers and Twitter users.
8. Soon after, removes the profile picture of the bearded man with a skullcap, and adds 'parody' in the Twitter bio.
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