Tarek Fatah Heckled and Abused at Urdu Poetry Festival, Where are Free Speech Defenders?

In a shocking display of bigotry & intolerance, journalist & writer Tarek Fatah was manhandled and abused by a hardline Islamist mob at a Urdu literature festival held in the heart of the nation’s capital on Sunday.

Fatah, who had gone to visit the festival as a member of the public, said that he was attacked and subjected to slogans like “Modi ka kutta, Tarek Fatah” and “Death to Tarek Fatah”. It appears that the festival organizers and police did little to stop the mob, and Fatah finally had to leave the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, where the Jashn-e-Rekhta festival was being held.

This is not the first time that Tarek Fatah has faced the ire of Islamists in Bharat. Last month, the Shahi Imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Masjid threatened Tarek Fatah during a TV show, saying ““Your throat will be slit.”

Fatah is a Pakistani-origin Canadian citizen and advocates a “liberal, progressive form” of Islam – he has also received death threats from Islamists in Canada. He is a critic of radical Islam, the left-Islamist nexus, and most vocally, the religious-military complex which controls Pakistan.

But Fatah has asserted his Muslim identity, saying “I don’t critique Islam at all; I critique shariah. I find shariah to be one of the biggest handicaps that’s holding back Muslims and is putting Islam in disrepute”. Despite this, Fatah has been attacked by a number of Muslim media outlets in Bharat, with Hyderabad’s Siasat calling him an “Islam-basher” and ETV Urdu introducing him as a person who is “completely disliked by Muslims”. The editor of Two Circles, a Muslim news website, Kashif ul-Huda, attributes Fatah’s rise to the “Islamophobic agenda of the media”

The intense dislike for Fatah among hardline Indian Muslims has bubbled to the surface in the last few years, as Fatah has emerged as a prominent commentator in Bharat and started a weekly debate show ‘Fatah ka Fatwa‘ on Zee News. Just today, there was news that an Islamic outfit in UP announced a bounty on the head of Tarek Fatah and Zee group chairman & MP Subhash Chandra for the anti-Muslim ‘Fatah ka Fatwa‘ program.

Back in 2013, when Fatah was prevented by Muslim radicals from delivering a lecture at Jamia Millia Islamia, he had said –

“I’m not allowed to speak in Pakistan and the sad thing is there is a mini-Pakistan growing in Delhi itself, at Jamia. 

It’s not a war of religions, but a war of ideas. The only people who can destroy Islamofascism are Indian Muslims. Only in India can they get up and say we live in a secular country. Yet it doesn’t happen.”

Last year during a debate in Rajya Sabha, veteran Congress leader and alleged liberal Muslim, Ghulam Nabi Azad had actually blamed the space given on Indian TV to exiled critics of Islam like Tarek Fatah, for fueling disturbance in Kashmir valley!

No Liberal defenders for Tarek Fatah’s right to free speech?

Delhi is full of self-styled liberals of various hues and they dominate our mainstream media. Since our liberals claim to be the sole defenders of free speech & rationalism and opponents of religious bigotry, one would expect them to be outraging over this attack on Tarek Fatah. But going by their twitter timelines, this does not seem to be the case –

An NDTV journalist ignored the actual attack and focused on the ‘publicity’ Fatah would garner –

An IBN7 news anchor laid the blame at Fatah’s door –

Rifat Jawaid, editor-in-chief of AAP-leaning site ‘Janta ka reporter’ (also an ex-BBC editor as per his twitter bio), dismissed the entire incident in this caustic tweet –

‘Janta ka reporter’ has also been making snide insinuations that Tarek Fatah is a Pakistani spy, in an attempt to discredit him and to stop  people from hearing what he has to say. How & why Pakistan’s ISI would employ a man who is one of their worst critics in the world, is a question which possibly only Jawaid’s team could answer! 

Tarek Fatah is no stranger to controversy. He has accused Hindus of being casteist and racist, supports illegal Bangladeshi immigrants overlooking the serious law & order issues created by them, and has once recommended the dissolution of Bharat into smaller nations. But no Hindu nationalist group has launched a poisonous, personal attack on him – his arguments have been countered calmly and rationally.

Finally, it was left to social media to call out the hypocrisy of our self-styled liberals –

Why is it that when dissenting voices within Muslim societies like Tarek Fatah, Taslima Nasreen etc. are viciously attacked, one sees hardly any outrage from the average garden variety liberal? A hue & cry over ‘rising intolerance’ was manufactured after the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri UP, but no one talks about the elephant in the room – the intransigence and growing radicalization of the 180 million+ Indian Muslim population. The kind of support that Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami has garnered in West Bengal, while its leaders face trials for war crimes in Bangladesh, is a clear indicator of how badly the Indian secular model has failed.

Equating the threats & hate targeted towards Fatah with the Karni Sena attack on director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is also misleading. The obscure Sena’s one-off act of roughing up the director for alleged distortions in movie Padmavati was condemned by one and all, including allegedly right-wing sites. No one put a bounty on Bhansali’s head. The protest was local, unlike Fatah who is targeted from Delhi to Hyderabad to Kolkata.

Hindu icons like Bhagwan Ram, Krishna, Shiva are mocked/criticized day in and out by liberal media, Bollywood, writers, painters, intellectuals – Hindus protest, sometimes noisily, but there is no large-scale violence or death fatwas issued as happens when someone even draws a cartoon of the prophet of Islam. But write a blog against Islam and you might well end up with your throat cut, just like the dozens of bloggers who have met this fate in Bangladesh.

Our self-appointed guardians of free speech have been completely exposed for their blatant double standards. But our public institutions have been so badly degraded in the name of socialism & secularism, that these discredited elements will continue to wield influence for a while yet.


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