Fareed Zakaria was born and raised in Bombay (now Mumbai), India before moving to the United States to attend university. His father was a politician and his mother a newspaper editor. Zakaria was raised a Muslim and his father was a prominent Muslim scholar.1 Nevertheless, Zakaria’s religious upbringing was liberal and diverse. He grew up celebrating Hindu, Muslim and Christian holidays2 and despite being widely tagged as a Muslim3 as well as being one of America’s most trusted middle men between the Muslim world and the West, he’s actually not a religious person. He said, expressing slight discomfort at being America’s go-to Muslim commentator:

I do know a lot about the world of Islam in an instinctive way that you can’t get through book learning. I occasionally find myself reluctant to be pulled into a world that’s not mine, in the sense that I’m not a religious guy.4

And in response to accusations that his commentary didn’t always paint Muslims in a favorable light, he said:

By and large, there is a suspicion that I’m betraying my roots, whatever that means. The only way I can respond is to say I’ve simply never been defined by religious identity, so I can’t be defined by that now just because it has come into the question.5

There appears to be some speculation that Zakaria is an atheist,6 though I can’t find anything definitive to corroborate that.

Politics in the real world

There are two ways to look at the political views of Fareed Zakaria: 1) It has changed over time, or 2) he’s sees the world in all its complexity, realizing that nations rise and fall in their endless jockeying for power and resources and won’t subscribe to any prefabricated ideology. I tend to lean toward number two. People might assume he’s a flip-flopper considering he was a self-professed Reaganite in the 80’s, something he chalked up to being raised in India:

People often say, ‘How could you, living in India, end up a Reaganite?’ Well, the answer is, live in India… the degree to which a highly regulated economy produces masses of corruption because it empowers bureaucrats. It just has to be seen to be believed.7

So, Republican then? Not so fast. He said in 2008:

The Republican Party has gone insane on national security issues in general and needs to have a kind of nervous breakdown… The Republicans have lost their essential moorings and morphed into a party whose heart seems focused entirely on religion, hyper-nationalism and a kind of xenophobia.8

This probably explains why he endorsed Obama for president that year.9 Zakaria explains that it’s not him that’s changing, it’s the world. He’s dubbed himself a “centrist”10 and was particularly disturbed by what he saw as a general “shift to the right” in American politics during the Bush years.11 Zakaria’s books, perhaps most notably The Post-American World, illustrate how globalism, the rise of industry, enterprise and innovation in countries other than the U.S. could end up leaving the once-great superpower behind–but not if America can let go of its exceptionalist attitudes and open its collective mind to change and adaptations.12 In this sense, I see Zakaria as a bit of a patriot, with a truly realistic view of society and global politics. He roots for America in his own way, cheering her on to hard truths and tough realizations in hopes for redemption.

  1. No Joke: Muslim Brother Fareed Zakaria on Obama Short List For Secretary of State? Sheik Yer Mami. []
  2. The Interpreter. Village Voice. []
  3. Fareed Zakaria. NNDB. []
  4. The Interpreter. Village Voice. []
  5. Fareed Zakaria. Celebrity Atheist List. []
  6. Fareed Zakaria. Celebrity Atheist List. []
  7. Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria. NY Mag. []
  8. Message: Playboy Interview Fareed Zakaria. Yahoo. []
  9. Transcripts. CNN. []
  10. The Interpreter. Village Voice. []
  11. The Interpreter. Village Voice. []
  12. Message: Playboy Interview Fareed Zakaria. Yahoo. []