An Indian born in Pakistan

Written by Tarek Fatah | Published on: December 1, 2011
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 civilisation and made permanent refugees, sent in search of an oasis that turned out to be a mirage. I am in pain, a living witness to how dreams of hope and enlightenment can be turned into a nightmare of despair and failure. Promises made to the children of my generation that were never meant to be kept.

Today the result is a Muslim society lost in the sands of Sinai with no Moses to lead us out, held hostage by hateful pretenders of piety. Our problems are further compounded by a collective denial of the fact that the pain we suffer is caused mostly by self-inflicted wounds and is not entirely the result of some Zionist conspiracy hatched with the West.

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.

Of all the ingredients that make up my complex identity, being Canadian has had the most profound effect on my thinking. It is Canada that propels me to swim upstream to imitate with humility the giants who have ventured into uncharted waters before me…

I attempt to draw a distinction between Islamists and Muslims. What Islamists seek and what Muslims desire are two separate objectives, sometimes overlapping but clearly distinct. While the former seek an “Islamic state”, the latter merely desire a “state of Islam”. One state requires a theocracy, the other a state of spirituality…

The phrase “state of Islam” defines the condition of a Muslim in how he or she imbibes the values of Islam to govern personal life and uses faith as a moral compass. In contrast, the “Islamic state” is a political entity: a state, caliphate, sultanate, kingdom or country that uses Islam as a tool to govern society and control its citizenry…

Perhaps we need to pay heed to the words of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, who in the 16th century, while addressing his Muslim friends, wrote:

Make mercy your Mosque,
Faith your Prayer Mat,
what is just and lawful your Koran,
Modesty your Circumcision,
and civility your Fast.
So shall you be a Muslim.
Make right conduct your Kaaba,
Truth your Pir,
and good deeds your Kalima and prayers.

Excerpts from the preface to Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, Wiley, 2008

Archived from Communalism Combat, December 2011. Year 18, No.162 - Voices