A British-Pakistani writer, journalist, historian, filmmaker, political activist, and public intellectual, Tariq Ali was born and brought up in Lahore. He is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review and Sin
A British-Pakistani writer, journalist, historian, filmmaker, political activist, and public intellectual, Tariq Ali was born and brought up in Lahore. He is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review and Sin Permiso, and contributes to The Guardian, CounterPunch, and the London Review of Books. He read PPE in University of Oxford.
Tariq Ali, became politically active in his teens, when he took part against the military dictatorship of Pakistan. His uncle, who worked in the Pakistani military intelligence warned his parents that Tariq Ali could not be protected. His parents, therefore decided to get him out of Pakistan and sent him to United Kingdom to study at Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
Tariq Ali was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1965. In 1967, Tariq Ali was one of 64 prominent figures, including the Beatles, who signed a petition calling for the legalisation of marijuana. Tariq Ali's tenure at the Union included a meeting with Malcolm X in December 1964 during which Malcolm X expressed deep consternation about his own risk of assassination.
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. He testified at the Russell Tribunal over US involvement in Vietnam. As time passed, Tariq Ali became increasingly critical of American and Israeli foreign policies. He was also a vigorous opponent of American relations with Pakistan that tended to back military dictatorships over democracy. He was one of the marchers on the American embassy in London in 1968 in a demonstration against the Vietnam War.
Active in the New Left of the 1960s, he has long been associated with the New Left Review. Tariq Ali inserted himself into politics through his involvement with The Black Dwarf newspaper, he joined 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. He also befriended influential figures such as Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
During this period Tariq Ali was an IMG candidate in Sheffield Attercliffe in the February 1974 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. Tariq 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. In 1999, Tariq Ali strongly criticised US and UK interventions in the Balkans in the piece Spring-time for NATO.
His book Bush in Babylon criticises 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. Tariq Ali believes that the new Iraqi government will fail. Tariq Ali’s previous book, Clash of Fundamentalisms, puts the events of the September 11 attacks in historical perspective, covering the history of Islam from its foundations.
Tariq 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 supports the model of Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. He has been described as "the alleged inspiration" for the Rolling Stones' song "Street Fighting Man", recorded in 1968. John Lennon's "Power to the People" was inspired by an interview Lennon gave to Ali.
Tariq Ali has also written in favour of Scottish independence. During the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, Tariq Ali was one of the few figures on the left to support Britain leaving the European Union.
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.
In 2009, Tariq Ali, alongside Mark Weisbrot wrote the screenplay to the Oliver Stone documentary South of the Border. This gave a favourable account of Hugo Chávez and other left-wing Latin American leaders. Interviewed in the documentary, Tariq Ali explained the role that Bolivian water privatisation and the 2000 Cochabamba protests played in eventually bringing Evo Morales to power.
Tariq Ali is the author of several books, including Pakistan: Military Rule or People's Power (1970), 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), The Duel (2008), The Obama Syndrome (2010) and The Extreme Centre: A Warning (2015).
Tariq Ali is the son of journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and activist mother Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, who was the daughter of Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, who led the Unionist Muslim League and was later Prime Minister of the Punjab from 1937 to 1942. His both parents came from a very old, crusty, feudal family. His father had broken with the family's conventions in politics when he was a student, adopting communism and atheism. Tariq Ali's mother also belonged to the same family and became a communist and an atheist upon meeting his father.
However, Tariq Ali was taught the fundamentals of Islam to be able to argue against it. He stated in Islam, Empire, and the Left: Conversation with Tariq Ali: I grew up an atheist. I make no secret of it. It was acceptable. In fact, when I think back, none of my friends were believers. None of them were religious; may be a few were believers. But very few were religious in temperament.