Tarek Fatah

Tarek Fatah

Life

Tarek Fatah was born in 1949 in Karachi, Pakistan into a Punjabi family which had migrated from Mumbai to Karachi following the Partition of India in 1947. He was a leftist student leader in the 1960s and 1970s.

Although he graduated with a degree in biochemistry from the University of Karachi, Fatah entered journalism as a reporter for the Karachi Sun in 1970, and was an investigative journalist for Pakistan Television. He was imprisoned twice by military regimes. In 1977, he was charged with sedition by the General Zia-ul Haq regime and barred from journalism in Pakistan.

He left Pakistan and settled in Saudi Arabia, before emigrating to Canada in 1987.

Of himself, Fatah asserts:

“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.”

On religion, Fatah opines:

“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.”

Political activity

He became involved in the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) and worked on the staff of Premier Bob Rae. Fatah was NDP candidate in Scarborough North in the 1995 provincial election but was unsuccessful. He subsequently worked for Rae’s successor as Ontario NDP leader, Howard Hampton.

In July 2006, he left the NDP to support Bob Rae’s candidacy for the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership. In an opinion piece published in Toronto’s Now Magazine, Fatah wrote that he decided to leave the NDP because of the establishment of a “faith caucus” which he believes will open the way for religious fundamentalists to enter the party. However, after Rae’s defeat by Stéphane Dion, Fatah condemned similar racial and religious organizing activity in the Liberal Party, arguing in a Globe and Mail editorial that Tamil, Sikh, Kurdish and Islamist Muslim leaders had engaged in “blatant efforts to wield political muscle,” “bargaining the price of their cadre of delegates” and creating a “political process that feeds on racial and religious exploitation.””I respect the diversity of Canada,” he wrote, “but I want to celebrate what unites us, not what divides us into tiny tribes that can be manipulated by leaders who sell us to the highest bidder.”

At a press conference on 2 October 2008, Fatah sharply criticized the New Democratic Party (NDP). Fatah stated that he was a lifetime social democrat who had supported the NDP for 17 years but that he could no longer be affiliated with that party. He claimed that the NDP began opening its doors to Islamists under Alexa McDonough and that, under Jack Layton, he had seen them “flood” into the party. Fatah stated that Islamists in the NDP have pursued a campaign to instill a sense of victimhood in Muslim youth.

In early 2011, Fatah said that he received a threat via Twitter. Fatah contacted Toronto Police Service and later met with two police officers from 51 Division. Fatah said that police intelligence officers, one a Muslim officer who had shut down a previous investigation into a death threat, shut down the investigation and claimed there was no threat. Fatah criticized the Toronto Police over the incident.

In a 2015 Toronto Sun article, Fatah wrote that he would be voting for Conservative leader Stephen Harper in the 2015 federal elections, while calling himself a social democrat.Fatah has also favoured both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders for the United States presidential race in 2016. He said that many Muslim groups, and he himself, have recommended curbs on immigration from countries that harbour Islamist sympathisers, similar to policies promised by Trump.

Media activity

From 1996 until 2006 he hosted Muslim Chronicle, a weekly Toronto-based current affairs discussion show on CTS and VisionTV which focussed on the Muslim community.

In 2003, Fatah broke with Irshad Manji in an article in The Globe and Mail in which he repudiated the thanks she gave him in the acknowledgment section of her book The Trouble with Islam. Fatah wrote of Manji’s book that it “is not addressed to Muslims; it is aimed at making Muslim-haters feel secure in their thinking.”Manji replied saying that he told her in front of witnesses that “This book was written by the Jews for the Jews!” Fatah was subsequently quoted as indicating that he regrets his remarks and that he was unfair in slamming Manji’s book. He said that she was “right about the systematic racism in the Muslim world” and that “there were many redeeming points in her memoir, which I overlooked in my rush to judge it.”

He has also been a guest host of TVO’s The Agenda filling in for Steve Paikin.

In February 2007, Fatah was included by Maclean’s magazine on a list of 50 Canadians described as “Canada’s most well known and respected personalities.”.

In December 2008, the Toronto Star suggested that Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoint Fatah to one of the vacant seats in the Canadian Senate.Toronto Star’s senior editor Bob Hepburn wrote that Fatah is “A prominent spokesperson for secular and progressive Muslim issues who would bring a much-needed unique perspective to the Senate.”

CFRB 1010

From May to September 2009, Fatah co-hosted the “Strong Opinions Show” on Toronto’s CFRB 1010. After the show’s cancellation he joined CFRB’s Moore in the Morning program as a commentator. Starting in September, 2010, Fatah joined Ryan Doyle as a co-host of “Friendly Fire,” the evening show on CFRB 1010. He hosted a Sunday afternoon show, The Tarek Fatah Show, and appeared as a commentator on other shows prior to leaving CFRB in January 2015.

Newspapers

Fatah writes a column for the Toronto Sun and appeared on the Sun News Network as a frequent guest host and commentator prior to the station’s demise in February 2015. Fatah has also written opinion pieces for various publications including TIME Magazine, the Toronto Star, the National Post and The Globe and Mail.

Debate with Sheharyar Shaikh

In February, 2011, Fatah was scheduled to have a debate with Sheharyar Shaikh of the North American Muslim Foundation (NAMF), after Shaikh issued an open challenge to Fatah to debate him. Fatah cancelled at the last minute and failed to show up. Shaikh, who had defended polygamy and opposed secular educations for Muslims, was a critic of Fatah’s views. Fatah stated that he had cancelled his appearance because the moderator was changed shortly before the event was to begin, and because the audience was “hostile”. Fatah also claimed that he was warned by police of threats to his safety. Fatah and Shaikh later appeared together in an interview for Sun News debating the role of Islam in ISIS.

Fatah Ka Fatwa

Fatah had hosted a Hindi language talk show on India’s Zee News channel called Fatah Ka Fatwa (“Fatah’s Fatwa”) which features panel discussions that include Muslims discussing Islamic issues.The show, which began airing 7 January 2017 and is scheduled to run on weekends for 13 weeks, is often provocative, criticising aspects of Islamic belief and practice and discussing Islamic terrorism, and has garnered tens of millions of viewers. The programme has fuelled objections by conservative Muslims and has resulted in petitions and legal attempts to force the show’s cancellation as well as a bounty on Fatah’s head and other threats against the host.

Views

South Asia

Pakistan

He is a staunch critic of Pakistan in his articles. In February 2013, the website of the Toronto Sun, where Fatah contributes his articles, was blocked in Pakistan. According to reports by Fatah himself, the block was likely due to Fatah’s unsparing critiques of Pakistan published in the tabloid.According to Fatah, he is also banned from making public speeches or lectures in Pakistan. Tarek Fatah has advocated support for Baloch separatists, calling for Balochistan to be an independent state from Pakistan.[not in citation given]

Middle East

Iran

In October 2005, Fatah, in his role as communications director of the Muslim Canadian Congress, denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for calling for the destruction of Israel.

Israel

In 2010, the Toronto Star reported that Fatah believed in Israel’s “right to exist” and Zionism, but was calling for an end to the illegal and “immoral” Israeli occupation of Palestine, and anti-Arabism, and that he supports a two-state solution. Fatah said that Israel’s actions were fueling antisemitism, though antisemitism in itself, he believes, “violates Islam’s essence”.

Islam and Muslims

Islamic radicalism

In a discussion hosted by The Globe and Mail in 2007, Fatah claimed that “most of the Islamic radicalism that you see today stems from the empowering of Saudi based Jihad groups that were funded and backed by the U.S. and the CIA throughout the Afghan war against the Soviet Union.”

Tarek sided with Michele Bachmann when she accused Huma Abedin of allegedly having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fatah argues that “Most secular and liberal institutions were destroyed piece by piece and what we are left with is the result of huge amounts of cash and weapons in the hands of the Taliban type, or Al-Qaeda groups that get their intellectual sustenance from the political teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna and the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abul ala Maudoodi, both of whom preached Jihad as an obligation for all Muslims if they saw another Muslim under attack.”

In response to the Quebec City mosque shooting he promoted the controversial view that, rather than being the act of a lone shooter, the involvement of an accomplice had been covered up by the Canadian government and police.

According to the National Post he has also said “Islam is riddled with termites … and if we don’t cleanse ourselves with truth, the stench of our lies will drive us mad”, and that there are “hateful sermons in almost every mosque” in Canada – Fatah himself does not attend a mosque and encourages Muslim parents to keep their children out of mosques because they have become, in his view, schools for fanaticism.

Burka Ban

Fatah has called for the burka to be banned.

Honour killing

In November 2011, 60 Muslim groups and two dozen imams endorsed a statement that called for action against domestic violence, condemned honour killing as a notion that had “absolutely nothing to do with Islam”. Fatah refused to endorse the statement, according to the National Post, arguing that the statement didn’t address gender inequality and that honour killing has roots in Islam. According to Fatah, Islam deems the relationship of an unmarried woman as “adultery” and imams must distance themselves from punishing such actions by death.

Homosexuality

Fatah stated that “The issue that has resulted in all the threats and allegations against us is our support for same-sex marriage. It’s the central point on which the Muslim Canadian Congress and I have faced outright hostility, verging on violence. There is near unanimity in any religious group that this is the ultimate sin and, for them, this amounts to the ultimate betrayal.” Regarding Islam and homosexuality, Fatah stated that “Our human rights cannot revolve around religion. It’s not about our rights, it’s about human rights.”

Fatah also criticized the support of some gay and lesbian Muslims for Hezbollah.

Quebec City mosque shooting

Fatah has endorsed the discredited conspiracy theory that Muslims participated as perpetrators in the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting that killed six people.

Criticism of Ontario Human Rights Commission

In April 2008, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) dismissed a complaint about allegedly Islamophobic articles in Maclean’s magazine. However, the commission criticized the newsweekly for publishing articles that were “inconsistent with the spirit” of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and doing “serious harm” to Canadian society by “promoting societal intolerance” and disseminating “destructive, xenophobic opinions.”

Fatah said that for the Commission “to refer to Maclean’s magazine and journalists as contributing to racism is bullshit, if you can use that word” and that the Commission has unfairly taken sides against freedom of speech in a dispute within the Canadian Muslim community between moderates and fundamentalists. On 2 October 2008, Fatah said that the OHRC has been “infiltrated by Islamists” and that some of its commissioners are closely linked to the Canadian Islamic Congressand the Canadian Arab Federation, both of which, according to Fatah, have “contempt for Canadian values.”

Praise and criticism

Michael Coren, a notable critic of Islam, has praised Fatah for being “brave” enough to admit the “faults and failings” of Islam.

Wael Haddara, president of the Muslim Association of Canada, said that he “respect[s]” Fatah for his passion but that it was “hard, if not downright impossible, to find something positive that he has ever said about Muslims.” As a result, Haddara argues, Muslims are no longer listening to Fatah.

Syed Soharwardy, an Imam in Calgary, said that while Fatah’s views are valuable, he stereotypes Islam by extrapolating the behavior of a few extremists to represent the religion as a whole.

Complaints

  • Darul Uloom Deoband protested against his ZeeTV series program, accusing him of blaspheming against Muhammad and his companions, and making objectionable comments on Muslim kings and rulers. The Police Superintendent of Saharanpur has registered a case against Tarek Fatah under section 153A and 259A of Indian Penal Code. The complaint calls Tarek Fatah’s remarks “insulting and spurious”.
  • Delhi High Court has sent a notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (India) and asked for a reply from Zee News regarding the controversial statement on ‘Fatah ka Fatwa’. Hifzur Rehman Khan demanded to ban the show and also asked to remove the content from YouTube.
  • The Delhi Minority Commission demanded that Tarek Fatah should be banned from entry to India. It was responding to a lecture by Fatah organised by the India Policy Foundation on 13 September 2018. Calling him an “open enemy of Islam” and a “hate-purveyor”, the Commission also criticised Firoz Bakht Ahmed, Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University for having agreed to chair the session.

Advocacy groups

Muslim Canadian Congress

Fatah was one of the founders of the Muslim Canadian Congress in 2001, after the September 11 attacks and served as its communications director and spokesperson until 2006. He spoke out against the introduction of Sharia law as an option for Muslims in civil law in Ontario, Sharia banking in Canada, which he has described as a ‘con-job’, promoted social liberalism in the Muslim community and the separation of religion from the state, and endorsed same-sex marriage.

In July 2006, Fatah was the subject of an email campaign at Canadian media over his views.Fatah resigned as the communications director of the MCC in August 2006, citing concerns about his safety and his family member’s safety.

Tarek Fatah

Tarek Fatah and other MCC board members at anti-war demonstration in Toronto

Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC)

Mohamed Elmasry

In October 2004 CIC President Mohamed Elmasry stated that all Israelis over 18 are legitimate targets for suicide bombers.Fatah, along with other Jewish and Muslim organizations, called on Elmasry to quit.

In June 2006, Elmasry said that Fatah is “well known in Canada for smearing Islam and bashing Muslims.” Fatah responded that “[t]his is a classic threat to label anyone as an apostate and then marginalize them,” … “and this is what Mr. Elmasry has done by listing me as the top anti-Islam Muslim.” Fatah said he saw the label from Elmasry as tantamount to a death sentence. Leonard Librande, professor of religion at Carleton University, told CTV News “There’s nothing particularly Islamic in this… There are differences of opinion frequently in the community. It doesn’t mean somebody is going to kill you.”

Wahida Valiante

Wahida Valiante, president of the CIC, told The Globe and Mail that “Tarek Fatah’s views are diametrically opposed to most Muslims. There is a tremendous amount of discussion in the community. His point of view contradicts the fundamentals of Islam.” Fatah wrote to the RCMP to complain about the CIC’s article claiming that it “is as close as one can get to issuing a death threat as it places me as an apostate and blasphemer.”

Assassination plot

In 2017, Indian police arrested two men hired by Chhota Shakeel to assassinate Fatah.

Books

Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, published in 2008. In the book Fatah argues against the establishment of an Islamic state as a necessary prerequisite to entering the state of Islam. He suggests that the idea of an Islamic state is merely a mirage that Muslims have been made to chase for over a millennium. The second edition of this book was released in 2016.

The Toronto Star reviewer John Goddard said that book was a “richly layered work of stark realities.” Emran Qureshi in the Globe and Mail said that Fatah had provided a “substantial contribution to the critique of the Islamic state and the state of Islam, especially in Canada” but criticized the book for its “gratuitous polemics” and sloppy fact-checking.The book was praised by the Mackenzie Institute, which stated that it is “a direct challenge to the fanatics of the Wahhabi, Deobandi, and Khomeinist traditions. His exposition is solidly rooted in the oldest texts and histories of Islam and argues that the pursuit of an imperial Islamic state has soiled the religion, and violates the intentions of Mohammed himself.”On 31 March 2009, the conservative Donner Canadian Foundation announced Chasing a Mirage had been shortlisted for their $35,000 Donner Prize, awarded to non-fiction texts covering public policy.

Fatah’s second book, titled The Jew Is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, was published by McClelland & Stewart in October 2010. The book won the 2010 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Book Award in Politics and History.

His upcoming book is The Hindu Is Not My Enemy.