Tarek Fateh and Fateh ka Fatwa

Fateh ki Fatwa is a discussion program aired by Zee TV. The program is telecast in Hindi. Anchor of the program is Tarek Fateh. Mr Fateh was born in Pakistan. In Pakistan, Mr. Fateh was imprisoned in Pakistan. Mr. Fateh was banned from practicing his profession of journalism in Pakistan. Mr. Fateh moved to Saudi Arabia and later to Pakistan.  Mr. Fateh is now based in India. He is a vocal critic of orthodox practices in Islam. By his own admission, Mr. Fateh’s family were originally Hindu. They converted to Islam sometime in 1840. Parents of Mr. Fateh moved to Pakistan post partition.

Mr. Fateh is a vocal critic of Pakistan, of orthodox islam. The television program that Mr. Fateh hosts, Fateh ki Fatwa, intends to discuss practices in Islam that tends to stand out. Mr. Fateh invites prominent people from muslim community and initiates a dialogue and discussion with them and among them. His guests include muslim clerics, maulana and mufti, academician, feminist and social workers, and business men. I was watching, recently, one episode of Fateh ki Fatwa (episode number 5). As I understood, the program gets very heated and participants get very agitated. The show I watched, one cleric attacked Tarek Fateh that his daughter is sleeping with a non muslim. If Fateh cannot control his daughter, how can he speak of greater Islamic society (kaum). In another episode (I had only watched highlight), one muslim cleric had claimed Tarek Fateh will be beaten with shoe and thrown out of India. Some even suggested how can a muslim decry his own religion and Tarek Fateh is a kafir. 

In this background, it is important to ask what purpose Mr. Fateh’s talkshow is serving. Definitely the format of program is such that viewers can see many people highly agitated. There is aggression among participants. Some even get personal. Obviously, such a show is a great source of TRP for a channel. So Zee News and Mr. Fateh may be interested in propagating the show. For non muslims, specially those who want to denounce Islam, the show may be source of great amusement. But what purpose it is really serving?

Certain organisations like Maulana Ansar Raza of Garib Nawaz Foundation has filed a petition in court to stop airing of the show. According to them, the show propagates division between different communities in India. Such a program if allowed to continue, may promote violence among communities. Based on our experience with shooting of the film Padmavati, such a possibility cannot be discounted. Yet a liberal secular democracy cannot legally prevent a program from airing in the absence of any evidence. Mr. Fateh may do well listening to advice of participants, who urge him to bring to his show more intellectuals from the community and less religious preachers. 

Mr. Fateh’s talkshow on Islamic practices and how they are  controlled by religious preachers and orthodoxy is in all liklihood genuine. At least no one can accuse Mr. Fateh of trying to interfere in affairs of the community, while being a non muslim himself. In the show Fateh ki Fatwa, if participants become so angry and agitated, will they ever take the message of  discussion seriously? Any change in any society, including in the Islamic society, has to come from within. Tarek Fateh may be stirring the pot, may be people will take his point, but majority of muslims are getting more offended by the show than getting enlightend.  However, the show brings to my mind a novel I read titled Satyakam. One message of the novel that is ingrained in my mind is “if stay (truth) is not accompanied by shiv and sundar, does it have much appeal?” May be Mr. Fateh should change is tone or format or his participants. A Maulana or a Mufti may be educated in the matter of Islamic theology, but they may not be qualifed to debate and discussed on matters of history.

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