Tarek Fatah talks about Islamofascism, the drivers of Jihadi terror, why Saudi Arabia is the greatest threat to global security, and issues related to Indian Muslims.
Besides being the author of two highly acclaimed as well as bestselling works, Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy, Tarek Fatah is also a well-known broadcaster, columnist and activist. Although born in newly-created Pakistan, Fatah prefers to be called an Indian whose ancestors relocated to undivided Punjab in the 1800s from the Rajputana region after converting to Islam. Manish Pant caught up with the writer on his third visit to India to discuss Islam, geopolitics and the way ahead for the Indian subcontinent.
1. How do you define Islamofascism?
Any use of Islam to develop supremacist ideas, which are political in nature and subjugate people who are not from that philosophy, is fascism. Fascism involves whipping up people under a certain order by employing non-state actors to implement policies of supremacy, whether it is the concept of Aryan supremacy in Germany or Italian Blackshirts. Islamofascism is a new form of fascism where the religion is implemented and used as a political tool to implement the goals of a worldwide caliphate, in which the Muslims will rule supreme and non-Muslims will either have to submit by paying a tax or convert or die. The Muslim Brotherhood, Jamat-i-Islami, Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, SIMI, Taliban, Al Qaeda or ISIS, they are all different shades of the same animal; a worldwide Islamofascist ideology.
2. So what impelled you to wage a campaign against this phenomenon through both your writings and lectures?
The first people who rose against Nazism were German communists. The first people to die under Hitler’s rule were Germans. The first people to suffer under Benito Mussolini or Francisco Franco were Italians and Spanish. Fascism is always fought by people from the same group who wish to implement it. Like fascist tendencies in India are opposed primarily by Hindus.
3. In a speech that you delivered in Toronto a few years ago you declared the very notion of Islamofascism a threat to modern civilisation.
All other forms of fascism are about the control of the world or domination of one race over the others. Islamofascism is about the destruction of the world as we know it, so that we can all start living in the after-world. This is not a joke as it is the Islamofascists’ firm belief that life on earth is like a transit lounge, and that we are here to take a connecting flight to the hereafter. It’s a death cult and far more dangerous than Nazism or Communism. Islamofascism is about the end of time scenario, which is a firm belief that emerging from the earth, the people of Yagog and Magog will fight the ultimate battle. People are dying out of free will and not because they are victims. The Islamist believes that life begins after death. It’s almost fundamentally contradictory to any other political movement. In religion, it is somewhat familiar to the Hindu notion of reincarnation. But these guys are not planning to return!
4. Of late you have been writing a lot about death cults such as ISIS or Boko Haram. What in your opinion are the main causal factors behind their rise?
It is the belief that they have to destroy human civilisation. They don’t believe in the last few hundred years of European contribution in taking civilisation to where it is today. Most of what we do today is the result of Martin Luther nailing his points on the door of a church. The 500 years of European Enlightenment have led to great societies such as the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand or the democracy of India. But for an Islamist those years have to be erased. If a nuclear holocaust reduced all humanity to say the 10th century, everyone would be equal with just a sword, spear and horse, that is, if horses survive at all. And then they and kuffar will be at the same level as there won’t be any B52s, AK47s, helicopters and SAM missiles.
5. What accounts for this almost pathological hatred that these extremist groups have for the modern world?
It is because they can’t see anything around them. I felt great pride when my daughter first uttered the word abba. But it would be foolish on my part if after 30 years I am still as excited when she calls me that. I would expect her to say something more. But the Muslim society is still saying abba as it hasn’t achieved anything much. When a young Muslim looks around, there is nothing he can see in the running shoes, in jeans, in the walking stick, even in a wooden chair. Islamofascists want to reduce us to a level where everyone sat on the ground for lack of wood in the sands of Arabia. It is a desire to go back where there is absolutely nothing left. Not even Islamic texts.
As long as the vast majority of non-Arab Muslims could not read the Koran they remained unaware of the Muslim theology. They lived in harmony with the people around them and assimilated into Persian, Indian or Indonesian cultures. But with the arrival of colonialism and subsequent translation of the Koran and Sharia into European languages, the knowledge of what Islam is became known to every Muslim in the last 200 years. Before that 80% Muslims were anyway illiterate. Even if you were Arab, you couldn’t read, as Arabic wasn’t indigenous to Persia, Turkey, India, Indonesia. Even the guy who was teaching you the Koran hardly knew what he was saying. But the moment colonialism provided the impetus, educated Muslims found ways to arouse a feeling of Muslim victimhood. Like in the case of Muhammad Iqbal who was pretty pissed-off that Tagore got the Nobel Prize and changed his whole view of Tarana (Anthem) to Tarana-e-Milli (Anthem of the Community). All of these events are connected.
6. Of late, what has made you highly critical of the world community, especially Western powers, in what you describe as their failure to counter Islamist groups such as Al Qaeda or ISIS?
Non-Muslims do not understand this phenomenon and nor does the West. What has India done? It’s absolutely dismal. It doesn’t even know what happened in Mumbai. It is complete ignorance which is practised with flair of arrogance. You don’t even know anything about Bangladesh, which is a country that was created by Indian intervention. Yet India has managed to make an enemy out of a country that should have been its greatest fan! It’s the only secular Muslim country, and there is more anti-Bangladesh feeling in India than against any other country. The alleged perpetrator in the recent rape case in Nagaland was not killed because he was a rapist, he was killed because they said he was an “illegal Bangladeshi immigrant”, though his brother died in the Kargil War and his father was 20 years in the Indian army.
If India cannot understand Bangladesh and Pakistan, you think the US will understand Saudi Arabia and Turkey? And there is no genuine or sincere attempt to study the phenomenon. It is all engineered around conferences, NGOs and conclaves, where Katrina Kaif would be speaking alongside some academic with Sachin Tendulkar as the keynote speaker!
The US has been reduced to from Ronald Regan right down to the joker sitting there who lectured India about religious tolerance and then went to Saudi Arabia to kiss the king’s hand! How stupid can you be! You are going to the world’s most intolerant country by cutting short your visit to India. And the joke is, when Michelle asked, “Oh Barack, why aren’t we going to Agra?” he said, “Let me show you a living 17th century king!” The US doesn’t know what it is doing, and it won’t act unless that makes money for someone.
In fact, India and Israel are probably better equipped about these problems then the US will ever be. You have a 13% Muslim population just as Israel has 20% Muslim population. Only Israel and India can figure out what is happening. But Saudi money is so prevalent in the West that everyone thinks that Iran is the problem and not Pakistan.
7. Why makes you so harsh on the US President Obama?
He is so impressed with his own prettiness that he has done nothing. Imagine, he won an election and what did he use his powers for: to visit Copenhagen to ask for New York Olympics.
Who hires a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House just because his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, is a former Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldier? And so Daliah Mogahed was introduced as his speech writer. And he goes where, to Cairo, and insists that Muslim Brotherhood members should sit in the front row and that the US is a great country because women can wear hijab! He reduced the entire United States of America to one issue: not the First Amendment, not its constitution, not its Seventh Fleet, not the aircraft that the Wright Brothers invented, not the motorcar of Detroit! He reduced it to a hijaab, in a country where women are fighting to take it off because his speechwriter or advisor was a Muslim Brotherhood woman. The former US ambassador to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Rashad Hussain, is a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Saudi educated Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin, is another Mulim Brotherhood member.
The US is no longer a country of citizens. It is a country of employees of corporations. There are no Roosevelt or JFKs or even a Reagan. Even Reagan was focused on destroying communism. These days the US president undertakes travel to sell Boeing airplanes.
8. You have closely watched the Middle East. There was a lot of expectation that some of the most closed societies in the region were actually moving towards reform in the aftermath of the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010. Going forward, do you see democracy taking root there?
I didn’t believe that. The biggest minority is the individual and if he has no rights there are no human rights. Even at demonstrations in Cairo women were being sexually assaulted by men. What Arab Spring are we talking about? Ninety five percent of the Arab women have never had an orgasm in the last few hundred years! Every mother has produced kids as an act of sex and not love. Women’s genitals have been cut for thousands of years. What sort of a society are you creating with only one category of people?
The whole story of the guy who burnt himself in Tunisia was fabricated. The dictator went off and started living in Saudi Arabia. And who won the elections? The Islamists! Now the secularists are back. But 1,000 Tunisian women have travelled to Iraq and Syria to get themselves raped by ISIS fighters!
Nothing is going to happen unless a major Muslim army is defeated and the surrender document signed.
9. So do you see Middle East as the next Balkans?
A billion Chinese have how many countries? One! A billion Indians have how many countries? One! Three hundred million Russians have how many countries? One! Eighty million French have how many countries? One! Three hundred million Indonesians have how many countries? One! And how many countries do 250 million Arabs have? Twenty two! What more do you want? But this phenomenon is not balkanisation, it is cannibalisation of the world. What is there in North Africa to have five countries where borders have straight lines? Nothing! There are three countries: Arabia, Sham and Misr. Rest is Maghreb. Case closed!
10. Since Western governments seem to be on the back foot when it comes to tackling Islamists within their own societies, do you feel that multi-culturalism has failed in Europe?
One reason is the European white guilt and the other their latent anti-Semitism. They are the sons and daughters of those who practised Jew hatred over centuries. Many of the converts to Islam in Europe and the US are Christian Jew-haters who find it very safe to do so now for it allows to them to talk in terms of Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Nearly 40 to 50 million people vanished in five years during the Second World War, which is equivalent to the time when Tamerlane reduced the world population by 7%. So this gap in production and the Marshall Plan required working class people that came primarily from Turkey, Pakistan and North Africa. The white guilt led the European societies into thinking that perhaps this rotten, misogynist, homophobic and fascist culture should not be judged unless we fully understand it better so that we don’t make the mistake we made when we started hating the Jews. In this gap flourished multi-culturalism that was initially about cultures that agreed with Anglo Saxon culture of European values that came out from 500 years of struggle.
However, the third generation immigrants were even more distraught than their parents because they were inculcated with the belief that as a Muslim one can never assimilate with the kuffar culture of a host. But for the Sikh and Hindus this was not an issue as they don’t have dreams of a world empire, while the dream of a Muslim caliphate is embedded in every young male that is born. It, therefore, took two generations to create a class where someone from the London School of Economics comes and beheads Daniel Pearl in Karachi. The last suicide attacks in Israel were done by British Pakistanis. The perpetrators of 7/7 London train bombings were not Arabs, they were Pakistanis. The beheading of the British army soldier Lee Ripley was done by Nigerian Christian converts to Islam.
During the Cold War the Soviet Union offered a counter-future as an alternative, which through the communist parties or the social democrats was very strong in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. For instance, the immigrant blocks in Paris used to have a ‘Red Belt’ around them, those regularly elected members from the Communist Party of France. It is now the ‘Green Belt’. The same people who voted for the communists are today parents of radical Islamists. With the end of the Cold War there is no counter-narrative, which means politics is not the game. You are identified not by how you think, but who or where you were born. Far damaging in the Muslim world is the construct that we are the chosen people. And the first verse of the Koran as it is written is openly translated as attacking Jews and Christians. A child born to Pakistani Punjabi parents is encouraged to learn Arabic as the mother tongue has no value and ends up speaking English with an Arabic accent without ever going to Arabia! The Arabs mock at South Asian Muslims. What is the last name of a girl in Bangladesh? “Begum!” Begum is not a name it’s like saying “Mr Nawab.” It shows you that a community has lost its bearing if it can’t even name itself properly.
11. What makes you consider countries such as Saudi Arabia as bigger Islamofascist threats than Iran?
The Saudi, it is again an artificial state. It is actually the states of Nejd and Hejaz. It is one country occupying another and calling itself a country, which happened in 1925. So if the occupation in 1925 is acceptable to Muslims then the supposed occupation of Palestine in 1948 should also be acceptable to them. Or is it that a matter of 20 years has made a difference?
It sadly tells you about the Muslim hypocrisy about understanding international issues. For a Muslim in Srinagar or Delhi, Gaza counts but Baluchistan does not. Iran counts but Kurdistan doesn’t. Turkey counts but the Rojava Kurds don’t. The genocide of black Muslims in Darfur does not even appear in their press. Or nobody even knows about the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara since 1974. We are living in a sea of ignorance, in which the fascism that Saudi Arabia and Qatar finance is like taking their s**t and literally dumping it in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is the first time that entire countries are funding fascism while claiming to be on the side of those fighting it.
Turkey is clearly privy to NATO’s secrets as a member and also promotes ISIS. Saudi Arabia has funded the entire Syrian Civil War and failed. It has disrupted Iraq to a great degree. It pays salaries of 20,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
12. Do you see any movement towards reformation in Islam?
Islam doesn’t need a reform. It is nobody’s business! All it needs is people to step down and say that no public laws can come from a divine text. I don’t care if you believe like most Christians that snakes can talk or the Muslims believe that horses can fly or Hindus that chariots can roam in the sky. But the day that you start making laws based on those myths then I have a problem. So we are looking at a nation state in which our laws should be governed by the International Charter of Human Rights of 1948. If it runs counter to that law, that country shouldn’t be a member of the UN or be able to trade with anyone. The embargoes placed on Iran should be placed on Saudi Arabia. Iran has not invaded any country. It’s mischief is very trivial compared to the mischief of Pakistan. Iran doesn’t have people in Philippines hijacking planes. Pakistan is there at the Thailand-Malaysia border. It is involved in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Turkey, the US and UK, and yet is a US ally.
13. You often point out that present day Pakistan is but a mere shadow of the ideal state, secular or otherwise, of the original idea propounded by its founders. Do you expect any further disintegration of that idea?
No, this is not Pakistan. A large part of that Pakistan got renamed as Bangladesh. This is a rump state of other occupied areas that sooner or later will wither away unless and until Punjab becomes a landlocked state and withdraws its fake army because a number of battalions exist only on paper. They are usually farmers working on generals’ lands and funded by taxpayers’ money. It is fraud of mammoth proportions.
Let the frontier region join Afghanistan, with the Indus River as the border between Pashtunistan and Western Punjab or whatever remains of it. Baluchistan is already an occupied area and sooner or later that occupation will end. There is a civil war of independence going on now; the fifth war of independence in 60 years! Sindh has been destroyed by the Urdu speaking people who arrived from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and took over its capital where Sindhi is not spoken anymore.
14. Sixty years after Independence, how well-integrated is the Muslim community in India? And where do you think the successive dispensations have failed?
I think they are very well-integrated. Hats-off to Indian Muslims they are not Arabised to that degree. Of course, the rise of the burqa is a very scary thing that nobody seems to understand.
The community seems to be totally integrated whether you are in Mumbai or Delhi. But they lack a leadership. The prevailing state of mind suggests that it can only come from religious clerics. The politicians are just rogue elements. Uttar Pradesh which was a place of high culture is represented by people who are vultures! The secular Muslim intelligentsia does not exist. Today there is neither Hasrat Mohani nor Abdul Kalam Azad, both of whom were incidentally maulanas.
Outwardly speaking, they eat the same food, take the same transport, share every festive holiday and they are represented at the highest to lowest level. In percentage terms, there would be the same number of poor Hindus per capita as there are poor Muslims and vice versa.
But that is not my concern. My concern is that slowly the Arabisation of Indian Muslims is taking place, and of all the places in Kerala. But what is very fortunate is that Arabic will not be accepted by any self-respecting Malayalam speaking Muslim. Even the radicalisation of the Tamil Muslims is part of the same phenomenon. But then there is not one Muslim community in India. The Kashmiri Muslims are a completely separate issue than the Uttar Pradesh Muslims, who are very different from Kerala’s Muslims, who in turn are completely different from West Bengal’s Muslims. Therefore, in some ways you can’t say there is a Muslim community. That definition should not be used. As there are multiple Indian Muslims, so this label is ridiculous. Like when I use it, I associate it more with the Uttar Pradesh Muslims. Your president was a Tamil Muslim completely at odds with the clerical elite.
15. You recently asserted that the emergence of Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal bodes well for India as a country…
India is so huge that it cannot have a single stream. It has 35 languages, six major religions and over a billion people. It could be 30 countries. In the Aam Admi Party I see the urban resistance to corruption. Arvind Kejriwal is a person willing to accept mistakes, be forgiven and re-elected. So he is taking care of debates that occur not on sectarian issues, but on policy matters.
Mr Modi on the other hand, has again made a remarkable comeback from the dead to take 12 years of flak and emerge as a person who works 18 hours a day with a single focus of India on his mind. I think his budget was quite impressive. His formation of a government in Kashmir meant that he must have swallowed a lot of his pride. It shows the man is focused on India being at the forefront of regional politics. I may not vote for him, but as an observer my first task is to detach myself and then take a view. I am told that everything at the top is now corruption free. Even his critics admit that ministers now can’t promise anything to anyone. Secretaries to ministries are no longer subjugated to ministers’ whims and fancies. He first met with the secretaries then with the cabinet ministers, which is remarkable.
16. So how do you see the Indian society evolving?
It has to as it is the only hope we have. It is the only country in the world that has everything there for itself to be a model for the rest of the world as a functioning secular-liberal democracy. But it cannot unless and until it stops celebrating poverty as part of its culture.
17. Do you see any early resolution to the long-standing impasse over Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue?
I don’t think it is a controversy. It is a non-issue that stems out of several backgrounds. Too many temples have been destroyed for anyone to cry about a mosque. It was a reaction to a pent up emotion that can blow up anytime. You can’t expect people to forget 700 years of subjugation overnight and expect a rational reaction when no one has as yet admitted that they or their forefathers were wrong. Even now every history book I read tries to justify that the Islamic rule wasn’t so bad after all. There is no major admission that there was apartheid for 700 years. There was a law that allowed you to spit into the mouth of an untouchable, even if he were a Muslim. And even Indian Muslims used to pay jizya to Arabs.
18. On a lighter note, you are Sunni while your spouse is Shi’ah. Has belonging to different sects of Islam ever led to any conflicts on the home front?
Sunnis know nothing about Shi’ahs, but Shi’ahs know everything about Sunnis. This arrogance is typical of a ruling class. It’s just like Indians know everything about the British, but the British don’t know anything about Indians. A Sunni doesn’t know his history, while a Shi’ah knows everything. And India is the only place where a Shia can openly practise his faith.
(All photos, courtesy: Tarek Fatah)