Tarek Fatah (1949-2023): Firebrand Activist, Controversial Believer Of Free Speech

Tarek Fatah (1949-2023): Firebrand Activist, Controversial Believer Of Free Speech
LAHORE: Tarek Fatah, a Pakistan born Canadian author, columnist and broadcaster breathed his last on April 24, 2023. He was 73 years old, and succumbed to cancer recurrence. He is survived by two daughters and his widow Nargis.

Born on 20th November 1949 in Karachi, Tarek Fatah hailed from a Punjabi Muslim family that migrated to Karachi from Bombay after the Partition of India in 1947.

Fatah completed his education with a degree in biochemistry from the University of Karachi. He initially pursued journalism as a career, working as a reporter for the Karachi Sun in 1970, and later as an investigative journalist for Pakistan Television.

Fatah was a left-leaning student activist during the 1960s and 1970s, and faced imprisonment twice by military regimes. However, his involvement in activism took a hit in 1977, when he was charged with sedition and forbidden from practicing journalism by the General Zia-ul-Haq regime.

Fatah became well known as a Canadian author, broadcaster, and political activist of Pakistani origin who was widely recognized for his controversial views on Islam, and especially for his outspoken criticism of religious extremism.

Fatah's personal experiences with religious intolerance and extremism in Pakistan played a significant role in his later activism. As a liberal and secular Muslim, he found himself at odds with the increasingly conservative Islamic society in Pakistan.

In Canada, Tarek Fatah emerged as a prominent voice on issues related to human rights, immigration, and religious freedom. He is known for his criticism of Islamic fundamentalism and his calls for a modern, liberal interpretation of Islam.

Fatah believed that Islam, like any other religion or ideology, must adapt to changing times and evolve with a new vision, free of extremism and violence.


Fatah's outspoken views on Islam made him a controversial figure, with critics calling him a provocateur and a divisive personality. However, he consistently argued that he was only promoting an honest and open dialogue on sensitive issues that cannot and must not be ignored.

Tarek Fatah was a firm believer in free speech and often spoke out against censorship, particularly when it came to issues related to Islam. Fatah had been active in many human rights and social justice causes, particularly those related to the Muslim community in Canada. He worked to expose the radicalisation of young Muslims in Western countries, advocating for proactive measures to counter this phenomenon.

Fatah had also been involved in efforts to promote interfaith dialogues and understanding between Islam and other religions. He authored several books on Islam, including "Chasing a Mirage," "The Jew is Not My Enemy," and "The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State." These books sparked controversy and debate, with critics accusing Fatah of misrepresenting Islam and promoting an Islamophobic agenda.

But Tarek Fatah defended his work, arguing that he was simply calling for a more honest and critical examination of Islam, and of its place in modern times.

Fatah was a polarizing figure whose views on Islam and religious extremism have stirred considerable controversy in Canada and beyond. Though his critics accuse him of promoting hate and intolerance, he had seen himself as a voice of reason and an advocate for a more moderate, liberal interpretation of Islam.


Whether one agrees with his views or not, there is no denying that Tarek Fatah had played a significant role in advancing the debate on Islam in modern societies.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.