In the light of the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, I am sharing something I wrote about Malala in 2014.
Malala’s struggle is just and sacred – she is also an incredibly inspirational brave young lady
By Muhammad Ahmedullah, 12 December 2014
Malala was recently awarded the Nobel Prize and she has also been getting a lot of positive publicity from the Western Media. The publicity that Malala is getting is not something new. It started when she was just twelve writing about her experiences, which increased when she was shot in the head in 2012 by the Pakistani Taliban and subsequently brought to the UK for treatment. She is being portrayed as a brave, extraordinary, young lady who stood up to the intolerant extremism of the Taliban, who was shot in the head by them to silence her. Her survival, subsequent defiance and commitment to continue the struggle for girls’ education everywhere have been presented as something extraordinarily inspirational. Malala is also seen as a role model for other young girls around the world.
In the story of Malala as presented, many Muslims see a western conspiracy. They accuse Malala of being naive and not knowing that she was being used by the West. Further, the West was using her story to divert attention away from the impact of what they were doing to Muslim countries with their bombings and drone strikes. Many thousands of children who were losing their lives from western bombings were not getting any notice, whereas one girl getting shot by the Taliban getting all the sympathy and publicity. They also accuse Western countries of being hypocritical and just using Malala for their propaganda purposes and not really concerned about girls education.
In 2012, Malala was in a school bus when she was shot by a gunman who specifically targeted her to take her life. However, she miraculously survived with the help of doctors in Pakistan and the UK. Why was an attempt made against her life? It was because the Taliban wanted to silence her for standing up to what they were doing in the Swat Valley, particularly their attempts to prevent girls from getting an education.
When she was shot she was just fifteen years old and was already into several years of thinking about and challenging Taliban activities in the Swat Valley, which started when she was just twelve. When I think of how I was when I was twelve or fifteen I know I was nowhere near as brave as Malala. But Malala is not alone and there are hundreds of thousands of other children in the Taliban areas of Pakistan who are braving daily the dangers to their life, both from the Taliban and western bombings and drone strikes. Many children are being obliterated frequently by western bombings from the air and Taliban shooting, bombing and suicide attacks from the ground. The number killed and wounded so far runs into many thousands.
How should one respond to the accusation that the West is just using Malala and that Malala’s struggle is diminished by her naivety and western hypocrisy? It is often implied and sometimes stated openly that Malala is really nothing and that she has no real quality as a woman but it is the western media and institutions that are promoting Malala as something amazing, extraordinary and brave, and doing this for their evil purposes.
My responses to these accusations are that, first, it is not Malala’s fault that the western media is not focusing on other victims of violence in Pakistan with the same levels of interest as that of Malala. Second, most individuals, which includes Malala, cannot focus on everything. We all have our own special areas of interest where we feel passionately about something. Malala’s particular interest is education for girls who feel passionately about it. She was shot because as a twelve years old girl she could not remain silent at the barriers being forced on by the Taliban for to prevent girls from getting an education. As a human being, she could not remain silent although many of us would have kept our mouths closed, fearing the consequences.
Some human beings are just made in a way that they cannot accept silence and some of them are ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of something they hold very dear. Malala was shot because she has a brave spirit that could not stay silent at what she thought was simply wrong. Malala also has a very attractive personality, some kind of leadership qualities and can articulate well. Combined with these qualities, her sufferings at the hands of Taliban gunmen and her subsequent defiance/fearlessness have made her into a household name of inspirational human beings. Third, rather than criticise the awarding of Malala the Nobel Prize, why not spend more time and focus on exposing criminal and inhuman drone strikes by the west. Separate the two issues even if the West is using her for propaganda purposes because Malala’s struggle is not a wrong cause.
If girls getting an education is a birthright of every girl, just as boys have the same rights to education, then one should support Malala’s struggle and be inspired by what she faced and how she is conducting herself in the context of the attempted murder. Trying to diminish her or her struggle by showing western hypocrisy and double standards will not produce any real dividends. Those who criticise western double standards and link that to Malala’s public profile and struggles for girls education around the world to diminish her, and because they do not also argue strongly against Taliban extremism, they become similarly hypocritical who employ similar double standards as the West.
Malala is not diminished by western double standards. Her struggle is sacred who wants all children to get a chance of getting an education or at least not prevented deliberately from getting an education to develop their God-given potentials. Because traditionally girls suffer more from discrimination in this regard, particularly in the Swat Valley where she comes from, her focus on girls education should be seen as highly inspirational.