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'There's no greater place to live as a human being than the subcontinent'

June 12, 2008
The Atelier Club in downtown Toronto was packed to capacity recently for the launch of Pakistan-born Tarek Fateh's book Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State.

Fateh's book argues that Muslims have been force-fed lies about their history for over a millennium -- not by Islam's enemies, but by its imams.

'Islam came to free humanity from the clutches of the clergy. Instead, the religion of peace has become a prisoner of war, held captive by the very priesthood it came to eliminate,' Fateh, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, writes in his book.

In an exclusive interview Rediff India Abroad Senior Editor Ajit Jain, the prolific author, broadcaster and columnist pointed out that in India "Muslims, who are 12 per cent of that country's population, thrive," while "next door in Pakistan and Bangladesh," which are Islamic States, "Muslims suffer."

Through the book -- written despite death threats against him -- Fateh wants Muslims to understand that their future lies in "models that are based in India, South Africa and Canada."

Many Muslims say Islam was supposed to be a way of life but it has become a dogma. That it has been politicised.

In some unfortunate way, it is correct. All the differences within the Muslim community, or the wars and the civil wars that have been fought, have never been about piety but about politics.

What is the solution to the increasingly political overtones to the perception of Islam?

We have to stand up to them (fundamentalists) and expose the ideology of hate. In the Indian context, this is the choice between Aurangzeb on the one side and Dara Shikoh on the other.

We know the catastrophe that happened after Aurangzeb weakened the whole of the subcontinent in his efforts to do what the Wahhabis (an ultra-conservative branch of Islam with roots in Saudi Arabia) are now doing. Aurangzeb killed his brother (Shikoh) who was the crown prince, because he (Shikoh) was very close to Hindus and Sikhs.

It is known historically how Dara Shikoh in the 16th century with the help of Hindu priests learnt Sanskrit and -- again, with their help -- he translated (50) Upanishads and the Bhagawad Gita into Persian, followed on what Akbar the great started, Din-e-Ilahi.

The entire thing became such a huge loss to India. Because of Aurangzeb and Islamic war, the whole country became feeble and the British were able to take over the country soon after his (Aurangzeb's) death.

Wherever Islam has become synonymous with violence and hate, Muslims have suffered tremendously. Of course, non-Muslims have also died by the hundreds, but the main victims have always been Muslims.

The traditional orphans of the Iran monarchs or the Indians recognised this was politics. This was not seriously about religion. Religion was merely a tool that allowed them to stay in power, whether it is Saudis or ayatollahs or in the Indian context, Aurangzeb, we had catastrophes, and repression, and secular Muslims had to fight political battles against these fascists.

Image: A scene after the Eid prayers at the Jamma Masjid in New Delhi, December 22, 2007. Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images. Inset: Author Tarek Fateh

Also read: The average Indian Muslim wants room to survive
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