By Doris Strub Epstein
The headline read: ‘When Will Pakistan’s Unjust Enmity of Israel End?’ And further... ‘it is the basic right of the Jewish people to establish their own state and secure it from invaders.’ This was from a recent article in Weekly Press Pakistan, a bilingual newspaper in Urdu and English, whose founder is the respected, seasoned Pakistani journalist Tariq Khan.
His aim for the paper is unbiased, in-depth reporting and the astounding task of informing the 1.5 billion non Arab, Urdu speaking Muslims (Ajami Muslims) about Israel and the Jewish people, and encouraging their support.
He also publishes Hindu, Christian and Buddhist writers.
In the face of Pakistan’s rancid prejudice against Jews and Israel, including a persistent national tendency to blame America and Israel when anything goes wrong, Khan in moral outrage, founded the newspaper partly to promote recognition of Israel and respect for the Jewish people among the world’s non Arab Muslims. The Urdu-English paper regularly features positive articles about Israel and Jews for both local and international audiences.
Urdu is considered the fourth most spoken language in the world, after Mandarin, English and Spanish. India alone has more than 3,000 Urdu publications including 405 daily Urdu newspapers.
Khan believes non-Arab Muslims are not as a group hostile to Jews or Israel, but are uninformed and ignorant of Jewish history, even such shattering events as the Holocaust.
“I never came across newspapers, news releases PR about Israel. Even diplomats I met never talked about Israel. So when I came here I wanted to meet Jewish people. Israel is a Jewish state. It must be recognized by all Muslims. We are cousins/brothers. It is my mission.”
The paper is online and in print, published in Pakistan because “it is cheaper to print there”. When asked if he has been threatened he says no, but his co-editor in Islamabad was called in for an inquiry by the Pakistani Minister of Media.
Known in Pakistan for his outspoken views, his home in Karachi has been invaded six times. The last was to defend a Christian neighbour who was under attack for celebrating Christmas.
Khan is convinced that although only 16 per cent of Muslims are Arab, they are fuelling the hatred of non Muslims with their wealth. “They give money, fund madrasas (Muslim Schools) and mosques that preach their Wahhabi doctrine. We are like their slaves. Just before the l947 partition, Christians, Jews, Buddhists all lived together until the Arab money started pouring in.”
He added, “Most of the mosques funded in Toronto are funded by Saudi Arabia and nobody criticizes or checks on them to see what they are teaching or where their funding is coming from. There are more than 100 mosques in the GTA and Islamist Schools”
Khan arrived in Toronto in 2000. He quickly established a Christian-Muslim dialogue group with Pastor Tony Zekvelt, the New Horizon church in Scarborough. “I arrange the dinner, they arrange the place.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has grasped his proffered hand. “Weekly Press Pakistan-Canada newspaper has opened a new avenue of friendship between the Jewish community and non-Arab, (Ajami) Urdu speaking Muslims”, writes Khan.
“It was refreshing to meet with a representative of a group that the Jewish community typically thinks of as anti-Israel, and learn that the problem between our two peoples may indeed due to a lack of knowledge rather than hatred,” said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo. “We look forward to hosting a group of Pakistani Canadians at our Resource Center and offering a seminar on the Holocaust in the near future.”
Khan has begun a campaign, called Shalom Israel, for Muslims to call directly or use social media to spread this message to individual Israelis: “We love you, we respect you, and we recognize you as (living) in the Jewish State of Israel.”
He knows he is the first Muslim individual to do anything like this. He says he is not afraid of reprisals and sincerely believes he will succeed. “Nobody will kill me. I have a good feeling in my soul. I’m grateful I’m living in such a great country where I can be safe. Nobody can stop me from what I’m thinking and writing.”