Who is Tarek Fatah?

Tarek Fatah, a former leftist student leader and a practising journalist from Canada, is one of the most vociferous critics of Pakistan- the country where he was born


A file photo shows Pakistani students in Karachi University. A section of the Indian media dub Tarek Fatah as an “advocate of a progressive and liberal Muslim identity.” Photo: AP
A file photo shows Pakistani students in Karachi University. A section of the Indian media dub Tarek Fatah as an “advocate of a progressive and liberal Muslim identity.” Photo: AP

New Delhi: After writing a book titled The Jew is not my Enemy, his next book is called The Hindu is not my Enemy.

The titles and the themes explored would not be ordinarily deemed provocative—except that the author in question is a Pakistani born Canadian.

Many Indians seem to love him.

Why? Because he is one of the most vociferous critics of the country where he was born—i.e. Pakistan. And he is anything but an apologist or sympathiser for or of the radical Islamist.

Sample this:

“Forget about Pakistan. At some stage, it will wither away. At some stage, Balochistan has to secede. It is the fifth civil war they are fighting against the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military is an industrial mafia that controls everything from cereals to trucks to missiles to magazines to banks. It is the most vivid example of what US President (Dwight) D. Eisenhower talked about the military-industrial complex.

“Bangladesh, on the other hand, is an incredibly exciting place to be because that is where the Muslim vs the Islamist fight is taking place....”

This is a excerpt from an interview Fatah gave to The Times of India on a visit to India in 2013.

And this is from his blog: “I write as a Muslim whose ancestors were Hindu. My religion, Islam, is rooted in Judaism, while my Punjabi culture is tied to that of the Sikhs. Yet I am told by Islamists that without shedding this multifaceted heritage, if not outrightly rejecting it, I cannot be considered a true Muslim.”

His views on radicalism and fundamentalism have resulted in a section of the Indian media dubbing him an “advocate of a progressive and liberal Muslim identity.”

“Islamize yr soul Muslim, not yr country; Put a #hijab over yr ego, not your head;

“Cover yr good deeds in a #burqa, not your faces,” reads a Twitter post by him.

Born in Pakistan in 1949, Fatah was a leftist student leader in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was in these decades that he was twice imprisoned by successive military rulers of Pakistan. In 1977, he was charged with sedition by General Zia-ul Haq and barred from being a journalist in the country. In 1987, he moved to Canada where he has been active in journalism.

His own introduction to himself goes like this on his blog: “I am an Indian born in Pakistan, a Punjabi born in Islam; an immigrant in Canada with a Muslim consciousness, grounded in a Marxist youth.”

“I am one of Salman Rushdie’s many Midnight’s Children: we were snatched from the cradle of a great civilization and made permanent refugees, sent in search of an oasis that turned out to be a mirage. I am in pain, a living witness to how dreams of hope and enlightenment can be turned into a nightmare of despair and failure. Promises made to the children of my generation that were never meant to be kept.”