Pakistan-born Canadian writer and broadcaster TAREK FATAH is widely acclaimed as well as criticized for his strong anti-Pakistan views. He has openly opposed the Sharia law and advocates a liberal, progressive form of Islam. Fatah strongly believes Pakistan is a lie and openly articulates this. In an exclusive interview with Editor-in-Chief, APN, RAJSHRI RAI, he shares some of his radical thoughts on Pakistan and Indian Muslims. Excerpts:
What is your take on the recent surgical strikes by India in Pakistan?
After 1,000 years, the citizens of India felt yes, we can defend ourselves. A sense of confidence has come in them. The surgical strikes have no military significance. It is a psychological advantage. Pakistan attacked those (soldiers) who are a part of India—it affected common Indians. As far as the elitist class is concerned, they are obviously not affected by it.
How do you see the Kashmir issue and what in your view is the solution?
What is this Kashmir issue? Kashmir is a part of India. China and Pakistan have invaded parts of it. From the first day itself, India should have said no and fought Pakistan. It should have stopped water to Pakistan—cut all water ties. Let them go and take water from Saudi Arabia! You don’t have to fight a war.
See, they took away your Lahore, Taxila, Mohenjo Daro. You kept on giving and they kept on taking. You should stop it. Let them suffer the consequences. India’s arms were cut off when Pakistan separated itself and was created.
Wouldn’t all this be seen as inhuman?
Well, the enemy says it won’t stop till every Indian becomes a Muslim. What they forget is that they (Muslims) too are the inheritors of Indian civilization. Muslims will remain Indians too. As I said earlier, India’s arms were cut off when Pakistan separated itself from India and became a separate entity. India should realize what it has lost. Stop all trade ties. Neither should any actor from there (Pakistan) come here nor should any actor from here go there.
But there should not be any ban on art and culture. How can we restrain creative minds?
Where are the creative minds and the poets in Pakistan? They are already dead. You have put a fatwa on songs, singers and the sitar. When they put a ban on the Sindhi language, not a single Hindustani protested. They did not bother. This is your karma.
When we talk about Kashmir, we must also talk about Balochistan. It is not easy for India to support their cause…
Balochistan was an independent state that Pakistan occupied by force. When they came for help, you refused. Now see what is happening to Kashmir…
What in your opinion is the problem with Indian Muslims?
Indian Muslims should first be Indian and then Muslims. If you reverse this, it becomes Pakistan. How can you accept Babar as the badshah of Hindustan? He came, attacked, tortured, built mosques and when he was about to die, he said he did not want to die in Hindustan as there are ugly people here and so he went back to Uzbekistan and died there. Textbooks should project him as an invader and not a hero.
Do you support the Babri Masjid demolition?
Babri Masjid was built by Babar by demolishing a Ram temple. Aya, loota, barbad kiya aur chala gaya. (He came, he looted and went away). Of course, the demolition is wrong as one should understand that those who demolished are our enemies. When we achieve truth and reconciliation, we do not demolish mosques or temples.
Aren’t you afraid of the threats you constantly receive?
They threaten you. They socially ostracize you. But they are the cowards.
When in the Indo-Pak conflict did it feel that the situation could be resolved peacefully?
The birth of Pakistan is a lie. There is no honesty, truth and kindness in the blood of Pakistanis. Tell me one instance when the Pakistan government or the military told the truth! They have massacred since the day the country was born; first the supporters of Bacha Khan, then Kashmir.
It is said there are many Indians who support Pakistan. How does one deal with this?
It does not pose a danger to anyone. Indian Muslims do not support Pakistan as such. But on the other hand, they want a Muslim family law. The problem is that Indian Muslims lack leadership. When the Muslim personal law board was introduced during Indira Gandhi’s rule, you kept only Maulvis there. But Muslim women are now demanding that the unfair law be abolished. Maulvis, on the other hand, want the Sharia law.
What are your views on triple talaq?
It is a crime. The Quran says to always tell the truth even if the truth goes against you. Maulvis have an option, either Allah’s Islam or Mullah’s Islam. If you follow the former, you will become a great person and attain peace, while the latter will lead to violence and bloodshed. The clergy is full of hypocrites. They have a problem if their daughters are divorced through talaq, but if others’ daughters get talaq, they are not bothered. Unfortunately, Indian politicians are using Islam to garner votes. This is unacceptable. It is the worst form of identity politics.
How should Muslims view themselves here politically?
Minority politics is suicidal. They should not treat themselves as an aggrieved minority. They should come out of the victim mode. Muslims should recognize their rights. They should not support reservation and subsidy. They should get out of the ghetto.
Why are educated people turning radical? Do you support extremism?
The more educated a person is, the more radical he becomes. Take for instance Jinnah—he was rich, educated, consumed alcohol, ate pork and beef. He was a radical. I am not supporting extremists. They are following me. Though I support Modi and denounce Muslims’ ideologies publicly, I do not support Hindu radicals like the Bajrang Dal or the Shiv Sena. If they rule, India will become a Hindu nationalist nation, which is wrong. India’s biggest friends are two Muslim countries—Bangladesh and Afghanistan. India is one of the most pro-Muslim countries of the world.
How should India deal with Pakistan amidst all the pressure?
Stop their water sources. For a Hindu, going to Lahore should be same as going to Mecca is for me.
What is the only way to bring peace between Pakistan and India?
Jab tak Pakistan hai, shanti nahi rahegi. Jab tak Lahore mein Diwali na manayi jaegi, tab tak shanti nahi hai. Lahore mein Diwali nahi toh wo kya Diwali hai! (There will not be any peace till Pakistan exists. Till we are not able to celebrate Diwali in Lahore, peace in its true form won’t be there between the two countries. And if there’s no Diwali in Lahore, then that Diwali has no meaning in other places!)
What are the most negative aspects of India?
The most negative part is the evident class division which is ingrained in every citizen here. The way the rich treat the poor makes my heart cry. No one sits beside their driver. This typically symbolizes class differences.
Which place in India and which Indian leader do you admire the most?
I like Delhi. There is a small Punjab in Delhi which I was not aware of. Among the leaders, I like Shashi Tharoor. He is erudite and understands the bigger picture of the world. He might be a little flamboyant but he knows the world and what is happening.
What do you think of Rahul Gandhi and Bilawal Bhutto?
They should both be sent on a vacation. Rahul and Bilawal are pappu-type people who have got into politics because of their family background. They have no understanding of politics though.
Lead picture: Tarek Fatah. Photo: Anil Shakya