‘Indian born in Pakistan’ Tarek Fatah dies after prolonged illness

Known for his progressive voice, 73-year-old Fatah was always reflective and critical about radical Islamism, drawing constant criticism and death threats from fundamentalists of his religion

NEW DELHI | Updated: 24 April, 2023 7:42 pm IST
Tarek Fatah was known for his strong opinions against Islamic fundamentalism

The voice that would often introduce himself as “I am an Indian born in Pakistan”, the voice that would never shy away from criticising Islamic fanaticism and India’s partition, has fallen silent.

Tarek Fatah, the Pakistani-born Canadian journalist and author, lost his long battle with cancer. The progressive Muslim commentator breathed his last on Monday, April 24. He is survived by his daughters, Natasha and Nazia.

Announcing his demise, his daughter Natasha wrote a heartfelt tweet, symbolising what Fatah stood for.

“Lion of Punjab. Son of Hindustan. Lover of Canada. Speaker of truth. Fighter for justice. Voice of the downtrodden, underdogs, and the oppressed. @TarekFatah has passed the baton on… his revolution will continue with all who knew and loved him. Will you join us? 1949-2023,” she tweeted.

Born in Karachi on November 20, 1949, Fatah was part of the leftist student movement during his college days in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was the beginning of what Fatah would become in the future, as he was imprisoned twice during these decades by military rulers. Such was his influence that General Zia-ul-Haq charged him with sedition in 1977. General Zia also prevented Fatah from working as a journalist in the country.

Left with little choice, Fatah went to Canada in 1987 and kicked off his career as a journalist there.

Despite being born in Pakistan, Fatah was always proud of his Indian origins. He often described himself as hailing from a Rajput family that was forcibly converted to Islam in the 1840s.

But what made Fatah unique was his ability to stand up to the fanaticism in Islam. He was a staunch critic of it. Not only that, Fatah often showed his respect for Hinduism and took pride in Indian civilization.

Despite being on the receiving end for his progressive views on Islam, fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim’s aide Chhota Shakeel even engaged two persons to assassinate him in 2017, Fatah remained undeterred as he fearlessly put his thoughts through his writings as well as speaking sessions.

Fatah went on to write several books on the subject of Islamic fundamentalism and its impact on Muslim communities around the world. Some of his famous books on the subject include Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.

While one can describe him in many words, perhaps Fatah himself has the last words on the ‘subject’, “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.”

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