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Tariq Ali c. 2006

Tariq Ali (Punjabi, Urdu: طارق علی) (born 21 October 1943) is a British-Pakistani historian, novelist, filmmaker, political campaigner, and commentator.[1][2] He is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review and Sin Permiso, and regularly contributes to The Guardian, CounterPunch, and the London Review of Books.

He is the author of several books, including Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State (1991) , Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope (2006), Conversations with Edward Said (2005), Bush in Babylon (2003), and Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (2002), A Banker for All Seasons (2007) and the recently published The Duel (2008).


Early life

Ali was born and raised in Lahore. The city was part of British India at the time of his birth in 1943, but became part of the newly-independent nation of Pakistan four years later. He is the son of journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and activist mother Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan (daughter of Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan who led the Unionist Muslim League and was later Prime Minister of the Punjab in 1937).

Ali's parents "both came from a very old, crusty, feudal family".[3] His father had broken with the family's conventions in politics when he was a student, adopting communism, nationalism and atheism. Ali's mother also belonged to the same family, and became radicalized upon meeting his father. However, Ali was taught the fundamentals of Islam in order to be able to argue against it.[3]


Emerging activism

While studying at the Punjab University, he organized demonstrations against Pakistan's military dictatorship. Ali's uncle was chief of Pakistan's Military Intelligence. His parents sent him to England to study at Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.[4] He was elected President of the Oxford Union, in 1965.


His public profile began to grow during the Vietnam War, when he engaged in debates against the war with such figures as Henry Kissinger and Michael Stewart. As time passed, Ali became increasingly critical of American and Israeli foreign policies, and emerged as a figurehead for critics of American foreign policy across the globe. He was also a vigorous opponent of American relations with Pakistan that tended to back military dictatorships over democracy.

Active in the New Left of the 1960s, he has long been associated with the New Left Review. Drawn into revolutionary socialist politics through his involvement with The Black Dwarf newspaper, he joined a Trotskyist party, the International Marxist Group (IMG) in 1968. He was recruited to the leadership of the IMG and became a member of the International Executive Committee of the (reunified) Fourth International.

During this period he was an IMG candidate in Sheffield Attercliffe at the February 1974 UK general election and was co-author of Trotsky for Beginners, a cartoon book. In 1981, the IMG dissolved when its members entered the Labour Party: the IMG was promptly proscribed. Ali then abandoned activism in the revolutionary left and supported Tony Benn in his bid to become deputy leader of the Labour Party that year.

In 1990, he published the satire Redemption, on the inability of the Trotskyists to handle the downfall of the Eastern bloc. The book contains parodies of many well-known figures in the Trotskyist movement.

His book Bush in Babylon criticizes the 2003 invasion of Iraq by American president George W. Bush. This book has a unique style, using poetry and critical essays in portraying the war in Iraq as a failure. Ali believes that the new Iraqi government will fail.

His previous book, Clash of Fundamentalisms, puts the events of the September 11 attacks in historical perspective, covering the history of Islam from its foundations.

A former Marxist,[5] Ali has remained a critic of modern neoliberal economics and was present at the 2005 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil where he was one of 19 to sign the Porto Alegre Manifesto.

He has been described as "the alleged inspiration" for the Rolling Stones' song "Street Fighting Man", recorded in 1968 [6]. John Lennon's "Power to the People" was also inspired by an interview Lennon gave to Ali.[7]

In an article published in CounterPunch, he responded to the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy and said, "The Bavarian is a razor-sharp reactionary cleric. I think he knew what he was saying and why. In a neo-liberal world suffering from environmental degradation, poverty, hunger, repression, a ‘planet of slums’ (in the graphic phrase of Mike Davis), the Pope chooses to insult the founder of a rival faith. The reaction in the Muslim world was predictable, but depressingly insufficient."[8]


Tariq Ali's The Leopard and The Fox, first written as a BBC screenplay in 1985, is about the last days of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Never previously produced because of a censorship controversy, it was finally premiered in New York in October 2007, the day before former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned to her home country after eight years in exile.[9]

Personal life

He currently lives in Highgate, London with his partner Susan Watkins, editor of the New Left Review. He has three children: Natasha, Chengiz, and Aisha.

Bibliography (partial)

  • Pakistan: Military Rule or People's Power (1970)
  • The Coming British Revolution (1971)
  • 1968 and After: Inside the Revolution (1978)
  • Chile, Lessons of the Coup: Which Way to Workers Power (1978)
  • Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
  • Can Pakistan Survive?: The Death of a State (1983)
  • Who's Afraid of Margaret Thatcher? In Praise of Socialism (1984)
  • The Stalinist Legacy: Its Impact on 20th-Century World Politics (1984)
  • The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty (1985)
  • Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties (1987)
  • Revolution from Above: Soviet Union Now (1988)
  • Iranian Nights (1989)
  • Moscow Gold (1990)
  • Redemption (1990)
  • Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State (1991)
  • Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1992)
  • Necklaces (1992)
  • Ugly Rumours (1998)
  • 1968: Marching in the Streets (1998)
  • Fear of Mirrors (1998)
  • The Book of Saladin (Novel) (1998)
  • Trotsky for Beginners (1998)
  • The Stone Woman (2000)
  • Masters of the Universe: NATO's Balkan Crusade (2000)
  • Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (2002)
  • Bush in Babylon (2003)
  • Street-Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties (2005)
  • Speaking of Empire and Resistance: Conversations with Tariq Ali (2005)
  • Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror (2005)
  • Conversations with Edward Said (2005)
  • A Sultan in Palermo (2005, features Roger II of Sicily)
  • The Leopard and the Fox (2006)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope (2006)
  • A Banker for All Seasons: Bank of Crooks and Cheats Incorporated (2007)
  • The assassination: Who Killed Indira G? (2008)
  • The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (2008)
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom: and other Essays (2009)
  • The Idea of Communism (Non-fiction)(2009)


  1. ^ Tariq Ali Biography, Contemporary Writers, accessed October 31, 2006
  2. ^ "As 250 Killed in Clashes Near Afghan Border, British-Pakistani Author Tariq Ali on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Ongoing U.S. Role in Regional Turmoil". Democracy Now!. 10 October 2007. Retrieved on 11 October 2007.
  3. ^ a b Conversation with Tariq Ali, 8 May 2003.
  4. ^ "Tariq Ali profile". BBC Four Documentary article. Retrieved 2007-04-26.  
  5. ^ Ahmed, Akbar. "Review: Islam and the West". The Guardian. 4 May 2002. Retrieved 9 March 2009.
  6. ^ Christopher Hazou Journalism and jingoism: Ownership and gullibility are two recurring problems for the Western press, says author and activist Tariq Ali Montreal Mirror
  7. ^ Thomson, Elizabeth and David Gutman (eds.) (2004). The Lennon Companion. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-306-81270-3.  
  8. ^ Papal insults – A Bavarian Provocation by Tariq Ali for CounterPunch. 17 September 2006
  9. ^ The Leopard and the Fox: Our new season begins

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali (born 1943-10-21) is a British-Pakistani author, filmmaker, and historian.


  • The government of the US has no moral authority to elect itself as the judge over human rights in Cuba, where there has not been a single case of disappearance, torture or extra-judicial execution since 1959, and where despite the economic blockade, there are levels of health, education and culture that are internationally recognised.
  • We live, after all, in a world where illusions are sacred and truth profane.
    • Commentary essay, "For one day only, I'm a Lib Dem: We must take the politics of the anti-war front into the electoral arena," The Guardian, March 26, 2005.
  • For all their incoherence and senseless rage, their message is attractive to those layers of the population who yearn for some order in their lives. If the fanatics promise to feed them and educate their children they are prepared to forgo the delights of CNN and BBC World.
    • Referring to the Taliban. The Clash of Fundamentalisms (ISBN 1-85984-457-X), pg. 200.
  • Even if you reject everything, it is always better to know what it is you are rejecting.
    • The Clash of Fundamentalisms
  • Let's discuss the world. To answer the question, "is globalisation possible without God", the simple answer is "yes". Globalisation is after all itself a code word, a mask, for not using the C-word, capitalism. Globalisation is basically the latest phase of expanding capitalism. This not something which is neutral, this is a capitalism that has its rules: it has its economic rules, it has its political rules, it has its cultural rules and it has its military rules. It is a system. At the heart of this system is the United States of America, the world's only existing empire today. The first time in the history of humanity that you have just had a single empire, so dominant, whose military budget is higher than the military budgets of the next 15 countries put together, and whose military-industrial complex itself is the eleventh largest economic entity in the world. This is the reality we live in, and this is the reality which confronts us in different ways.
    • 10th Globalisation lecture, VRPO. [2]


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