Mohd Asim Khan
Pakistan-born Canadian writer Tarek Fatah (he objects to being called a Pakistani) is offending and entertaining in equal measure.
From Partition to the interpretation of Islam, he has views that verge on the extreme, and even when speaking on serious topics he glides from the sombre to the ludicrous, blurting out profanities now and breaking into a childlike giggle the next moment. At times, he contradicts himself.
Such is the charm of the man that you may disagree with him on all that he is saying, but you just can't dislike him. This is because whatever he says has that tinge of sincerity you can't ignore, even if it is outright controversial.
For example, he said communal riots in India would not happen if Indian Muslims forgo their personal law, and objects to names like Taimur (as Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan has named his son) and Aurangzeb.
Fatah is proud of his roots in India and his Hindu ancestry. He eulogises the great Indian civilisation and calls Pakistan an "abstract idea". But his snide remarks are not reserved only for Pakistanis or Muslims; he also takes India's Hindu right to task over love jihad and their perceived fondness for Hitler.
"India is a civilisation that has a past and a future. It's the only civilisation that has that. In spite of being assaulted and attacked and plundered over a thousand years, it has risen up again," Fatah, whose books include "Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State" (2008) and "The Jew Is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism" (2010), told IANS in an interview.
"On the other hand, Pakistan is not a nation, it's just a state of mind. There is no such people as 'Pak', like we have Afghans in Afghanistan, Kazakhs in Kazakhstan and Balochs in Balochistan. Where are the Pak people?" he asked.
Fatah insisted that the idea of Pakistan ended in 1971 when the "majority of its people said we do not want Pakistan and created Bangladesh".
Asked why he doesn't like to be called a Pakistani, Fatah said: "India is a republic rooted in 5,000 years of Indus Valley civilisation, the other (Pakistan) is a concoction of hatred. Pakistan is merely a military enterprise for the jihadis."
Fatah went on to say that all the proponents of Pakistan were "Hindu hate mongers", including the celebrated Urdu poet Allama Iqbal.
"Iqbal's ancestors were Hindus but he was a Hindu hater. He went to the extent of plagiarising his own poetry to attack the Hindus. I would call people in India who are still celebrating Iqbal and singing his tarana (anthem) as idiots," Fatah said.
However, despite calling Partition a tragedy, Fatah has little tolerance for the idea of Pakistan -- or any of its component territories -- merging with India.
"Why should Pakistan merge with India. Bhutan is an independent country; so why not Balochsitan or Sindh? What is this obsession with territories? It's a very feudal concept," he said.
Although he believes that Balochistan and Sindh should be independent countries, he dismisses separatist movements within India such as that for Khalistan or Azad Kashmir or Bodoland as "ideas drawn up in Pakistan's boardrooms".
On Kashmir, he said that although the Kashmiris fit his definition of a nation, like the Balochs, they can't be given independence as "Kashmiris themselves opted to join India in 1947".
Fatah also has an objection to Indian Muslims naming their children after kings and Sultans such as Aurangzeb and Taimur.
"Indian Muslims have made people like Aurangzeb their heroes. That's why Saif Ali Khan has named his son Taimur. His wife says my husband is a historian. Is this what they got in history?" Fatah asked.
So what should have been the baby's name, in his opinion?
Pat came the reply: "Hitler rakh lete jee, toh Hinduon ko bhi thand par jaati. (They should have named him "Hitler" instead, so that even Hindus would have liked it). Because the (right wing) Hindus are so fond of Hitler. It's only in India that Hitler's books sell like hot cakes."
The Canada-based writer has no love lost for Indian Muslims who flaunt surnames which show their Arab lineage such as Hashmi, Naqvi and Bukhari.
"By flaunting surnames like Hashmi and Qureshi, they are saying 'we are not Indians, we are Arabs'. Only the Muslims who have converted from Hindus are Indians," he said.
"But this phenomenon plagues all Indians. Even Hindus who have made money take fancy names. So Namrita becomes Nikki Haley and Piyush becomes Bobby Jindal. They are all liars," Fatah said.
While slamming the mullahs for stopping inter-religious marriages -- which he said happened quite frequently in undivided India -- Fatah does not spare the Hindus.
"The mindless Hindus are talking of love jihad. What nonsense is this? It is the fundamental human right of a man or woman who they choose to marry," he said.
Fatah said that Indian Muslims are to be blamed for communal riots in India. "You end Muslim personal law, the communal riots would end. Muslims want communal riots and blame Hindus," he said.
(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)