Fact File- Point to Ponder
30 April 2013
‘India is the only country where Muslims exert influence without fear’
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 Muslims fighting 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.
I talked to prominent 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 responsibility they have, as the only Muslims with the freedom to stand up against those who wish to take this freedom away.
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.
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?
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.
Extract from TOI 19 April 2013