On Thursday, April 11th, the Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia invited Mr. Tarek Fatah, a Pakistani-Canadian writer, to speak on the topic “Whither Muslims in Contemporary World.” However, on the day of the event, Jamia sent out a notice informing all that the event had been cancelled for “unavoidable reasons” giving the impression that it was Fatah who had cancelled it.
What at the time seemed like an innocuous cancellation of a speaking event, later turned into bit of a controversy.
Just like they did in the case of Shashi Tharoor’s cancelled visit to Jamia on February 25, 2013, Jamia tried to hide the reason behind Tarek Fatah’s cancellation and failed at it miserably. Just like they did with Shashi Tharoor, they underestimated the intensity and the reach of Tarek Fatah’s voice. Just like Tharoor, Fatah told the world about his cancelled visit to Jamia.
What Jamia apparently did not know, or did not take into account, is that, just like Tharoor, Fatah is an avid tweeter with a significant fan following online; not to mention the fact he’s a columnist for a newspaper and thus would have access to the media.
Fatah soon told the world on twitter that it was Jamia who had cancelled his visit fearing a backlash from “angry Islamist students,” as he put it.
Similarly, when Jamia Journal asked Fatah about it he said: “What I know is that jihadis or Islamists on campus threatened to disrupt the event and heckle me for my opposition to Sharia Law in Canada and Muslim Personal Law in India.”
For Jamia Journal, Fatah and his views are not of interest. It could have been anybody in his place and that would not have changed anything.
What shocks us in the extreme, is that an event in Jamia got cancelled because a bunch of students managed to frighten the university administration into submission.
There is no denying Jamia students have done amazing things in the recent past; for instance, they reached the finals in the national University Cricket Championship, they won two national football tournaments, they built a hybrid rickshaw and won a cash prize of one lakh rupees for it, and so much more. But what they have not done — and we believe cannot do — is coerce the administration into accepting their demands for anything. That just doesn’t happen.
It’s not like they haven’t tried. Earlier in 2011, a group of students went on a hunger strike for several days in blistering heat with the hope of compelling the university to let them take their final exams, which they were not being allowed to on account of shortage in their class attendance. The administration held steadfast, and eventually the students had to give up. Then in another instance in 2012, dozens of hostel students protested against a hostel fee hike, but as expected could not get the administration to budge from its position. One even took Jamia to court to get the students union reinstated, won the case, and still could not force Jamia to comply. The university administration is like a giant solid rock; nobody can move it.
So that being said, how do we reconcile with Mr. Fatah’s claim that Jamia cancelled his visit fearing a group of its students. We could have believed if the people they feared were outsiders, and not Jamia students. That is a plausible scenario. But we cannot, in all sincerity, believe the university administration cancelled an event because it feared a bunch of students. Jamia could end all of this speculation if it were only to release a statement setting the record straight. But for whatever reason, Jamia currently wishes to stay silent on the issue. So until they break their silence, we are left with only one option, and that is to come up with our own explanation.
And we believe there is only one logical explanation to this conundrum, and that is: Tarek Fatah is a liar.
Addendum April 17, 2013:
Jamia broke its silence on the issue in an interview on NDTV with Mr. Tarek Fatah on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Jamia refuted Mr. Fatah’s allegation that they cancelled his vist due to any threat from the students. The reason stated by Prof. Akhtarul Wassey on NDTV was that students were busy in their examination and they did not think there would be many students to hear Mr. Fatah speak and therefore they cancelled it.
You can watch the interview in full here: NDTV Interview