Malala factor a prelude to the Peshawar’s Tragedy and the Pakistani Public’s role
Syed Rizvi (California. USA)
A lot of outrage has been vented against the recent brutal actions of the Taliban when they massacred over 140 school children in Peshawar in the northwest region of Pakistan.
Tragedies like this do not just come out of nowhere; they are carried out by people with ideologies, which in this case is the Taliban’s mission to bring back the old glory of Islam in its purest form.
Just a few years ago, in the same region of Pakistan, the same Taliban shot at three school girls in the same age group as the Peshawar victims. Considering the ultimate mission of the Taliban, there was hardly any condemnation voiced from the mainstream public at that time. On the contrary, one of the girls, Malala Yousafzai, who was the prime target of the Taliban and who almost lost her life, was cursed, mocked, and ridiculed by the Pakistani public. She was called a bitch, a whore, and a tool of the west hired to bring western values into Pakistan, as if the west had not seen the posh and highly westernized districts of Karachi, Lahore, or Islamabad, and needed to recruit some 16-year-old girl from some remote corner of Pakistan to do this job. In addition, many Pakistanis believed that this whole theater was orchestrated by the CIA, and thus they gave Malala the title of “drama queen” even while she was still hanging between life and death, and her doctors were trying to repair her partly fractured skull.
It is to be noted that immediately after Malala was shot, the machinery of Malala-bashing went into high gear. This was well before Malala became a world figure capable of attracting the media spot-light. At this stage, not much was known about her – certainly nothing that could be attributed to any anti-Islam or anti- Pakistan sentiments – yet this was the frame that was taking shape. This was much before her book I am Malala came out, and before she was nominated for the 2013 Noble Prize, two points that later served as markers to be used against her for being anti-Islam, an enemy of Pakistan, and for playing into the hands of the west. The only thing known about Malala at the time was that she had been in confrontation with the Taliban on the issue of girls’ education since she was 13.
One cannot doubt that this hatred against Malala among the Pakistanis arose as a result of the solidarity with the Taliban the Pakistani people have harbored for quite some time. Muslims saw the Taliban as the saviors of Islam in its purest form. The word “Islam” is a magic wand that comes in handy to arouse emotions, especially in the Islam-obsessed society of Pakistan, and incite Muslims to do most dire deeds with neither shame nor remorse.
While still in her early teens, Malala continued her struggle against the barbaric and ruthless forces of the Taliban, fully knowing that she was on a firing line that could end her life at any time. She certainly did not embark on her mission with an expectation of receiving world’s most prestigious award. I do not know of any child (or adult, for that matter) in the history of the world who, with such odds against her or him, stood up as strongly for the cause of education for all children.
Yes, there are lots of bearded Taliban, and they do things and talk the talk that is expected of them; there is no surprise there. However, a shocking and rather painful aspect of this story lies in the fact that so many Pakistanis did put Malala down, if not outright disgraced her, simply because she was a thorn in the side of the Taliban.
As it became apparent that the Malala-Taliban conflict alone would not sell well among certain sectors of the Pakistani mainstream, more direct evidence associating Malala with a touch of anti-Islamism had to be carved out.
Malala’s book I am Malala came out, in which she referred to the Prophet Muhammad as “Prophet Muhammad” without attaching the qualifier PBUH (peace be upon him), a practice that has become de rigeur since the launch of the Project Islamization of Pakistan by the former dictator, Zia Ul-Haq. In her book, Malala also expressed her reservations regarding the forethought of some Imam sentencing a Fatwa of death to the author Salman Rushdie for his fictional work Satanic Verses where the Imam himself had not seen the book (neither had the Muslims anxious to carry out the Imam’s Fatwa).
Hence the book gave the Malala bashers, or haters, some ground to stand on, since until then there was nothing in their arsenal to justify their extreme hatred for Malala if you take the Taliban factor out of the equation.
Malala’s nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize created a bit of anxiety among the Malala-hating community of Pakistan, since such recognition of Malala would naturally tarnish the Taliban’s public image. News of Malala not receiving the 2013 award brought a sigh of relief among the Talibans’ sympathizers.
The following year, however, the award did go to Malala, and that was a pill too hard to swallow for those who never wanted to see Malala rise to stardom. The buzz labeling Malala a tool of the West began to resonate again; and this time it was done by citing names of other Pakistanis, who could also be qualified for the award but were not the so called darling of the west. Numerous videos about girls thought to be equally qualified for the award, began to appear under titles such as: “. . . and what about her?” or “The other Malala” etc. The motivation for citing these names and showing their faces was not from any genuine concern for deserving candidates who were overlooked by the Nobel Committee, but primarily to diminish or dilute Malala’s standing in the eyes of the world.
The name of Abdul Sattar Edhi, a highly respected philanthropist known for his charity work, was widely exploited as someone to whom the prize should have been awarded. The impression was created in the public’s mind that if the award had not gone to Malala, it would have gone to someone from Pakistan next in line, and that could certainly be Edhi. This simplistic view of the process of award selection is laughable if not outright ridiculous. The Nobel committee does not assign quotas to countries, and Malala did not take the award away from Edhi’s hands. Edhi did not receive the award in the previous year either, and Malala was not a factor there. Neither did Edhi get the award the year before, nor the year before that, when there existed no trace of Malala on any book or register at the office of the Nobel committee. In fact, both Edhi and the Nobel committee have been around a whole lot longer than Malala has been on this earth. Before her birth, she could not have had any influence on the committee’s award selection process.
While still on the topic of Abdul Sattar Edhi, it is worth mentioning that very recently Edhi was robbed of over 200,000 dollars of his charity money at a gun point in broad daylight, and there was hardly any sympathy or concern expressed by the same Pakistani community that was so saddened to see Edhi not getting the award this year.
Even today, newer accusations are being fished around in order to dishonor Malala. The latest one is that while Malala has been traveling all over the globe, she has no time to visit her native country. Once again, this is a sheer nonsense, considering the fact that Malala has clearly stated that she will come to Pakistan as soon as she finishes her schooling, which will be within a year. Malala also has stated that all her prize money will go to building schools in Pakistan.
While it is good to know that Malala intends to spend all her prize money on the education of children in Pakistan, she herself coming to Pakistan even for a short visit cannot be recommended under any circumstances, since there remains a great degree of hostility against her in Pakistan, where her life could be in real danger. It was not too long ago when an anti-Malala week was observed with great gusto in parts of Pakistan. Malala’s book still remains banned in many parts of the country. A medical school could not be named after Malala due to fierce opposition from Taliban sympathizers in Pakistan. These are just some examples of anti-Malala sentiment that still prevails in Pakistan. It may be true that Malala also has many admirers in Pakistan, but even a small minority of zealots fueled by the Talibanic mindset can make Malala’s life difficult, if not end it. Malala’s work in Pakistan is more likely to be jeopardized or hindered by her physical presence in the country. Malala’s prize money, however, can still be used to fund projects and programs in Pakistan as she would like to see done.
Malala is a world figure now, and her aspirations for world peace are not restricted to any corner or region of the world, as is reflected in her Oslo speech. Malala could be a whole lot more valuable if she worked for some world-body like the UN or any such organization rather than come to Pakistan and get involved in Pakistan's politics where every party will try to grab hold of her and manipulate her for its own agenda, leading to attacks on her integrity and altruism by the opponents of whichever side she chooses.
If Malala stays away from Pakistan and her vision expands to address global issues, she may even in her later years receive another Nobel Peace Prize and set another record, since no one has ever been awarded the Nobel Prize twice in the same field. Needless to say, Malala has already set a record as the youngest recipient of the award – a record that is not likely to be broken for years to come, or maybe never.
Author: Syed Rizvi
Syed Rizvi is a Physicist and Founder/President of Engineers and Scientists for Animal Rights. He is a vegan and writes on ethical issues that relate Humans, Animals, and the Environment. Syed lives with his two cats Navaz and Tiger in his two-bedroom house in the heart of the Silicon Valley, California, USA.
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