Tarek Fatah is a Canadian writer and advocate of a progressive and liberal Muslim identity. Speaking with Aarti Tikoo Singh, Fatah discussed his emphasis on Muslimsfighting tyranny, why left-wing groups are often wrong in assessing Islamic movements — and how Indian Muslims are uniquely placed to challenge repression:You're visiting India for the first time — what are your impressions?
I'm relieved all my impressions turned out to be realistic — India is the only country offering a future in terms of what the nation state would be and how to accommodate languages, races and religions with all the difficulties
that go with that. As a Muslim, i found it fascinating that this is the only place
in the world where Muslims
exert influence without fear. Muslims are better equipped in India than in Pakistan and Bangladesh.You lead a secular reformist movement for Muslims — did you find support from Indian liberals?
I think they're puzzled. I felt the vast majority
of Indian Muslims are open to the idea of a separation of religion and state. They've rejected Islamic states, voting to stay here — however, there is no leadership in the Muslim community that says, 'Not in my name'. I talked toprominent Muslims
who said, "You're not going to make me deal with issues as a Muslim. I am an Indian. " But i feel they are abdicating the responsibi-lity they have, as the only Muslims with the freedom to stand up against those who wish to take this freedom away.
Actually, liberals across the world have abdicated this res-ponsibility, indulging in what i call left-wing Orientalism. Islamo-fascism is not the result of economic deprivation. It is an ideological war, based on a death cult — you can't use conventional socio-political wisdom to address this.
Unfortunately, the liberal Left, including socialist parties in America and India, doesn't admit they don't have it right. But they're making an error in thinking Islamo-fascism is linked with economic deprivation. Such thinkers should go on a sabbatical to Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Aligarh — they'd be in for the shock of their lives.But serious questions remain in India about Muslims being discriminated against — isn't that of concern?
I don't deny that — but i would rather live with discrimination, where i have the right to speak out, than live somewhere women and others are targeted in the name of Islam. Of course there's oppression in India too against women but nobody says it's an act of piety — it's 'dadagiri', not piety. It can be corrected with better enforcement of laws offering equality and protection. In the Islamic world, the law itself says women are inferior to men.
Indian Muslims have a good thing going — but if you're not ensuring, for instance, that every girl is educated, you're making sure things don't become as good as they could be. It is the responsibility of liberal Muslims to discuss issues and say this or that is not acceptable. If Muslim women cannot go to a mosque and sit in the front row, it is not a Hindu problem. If Muslim men don't treat female relations with equal dignity, why are they complaining that others aren't doing so?
The onus is on us. You can't fight fascism batting on the back foot. You've got to hit it out of the park.
I put harsher responsibility on Indian Muslims because they are free, living in a democratic society. If they want to know what it's like to live under Islamic rule, they can see what`s happening in Pakistan.