The Malala Conundrum
It was two years ago, on the 9th of this month that Malala Yousafzai was shot by a gunman from the Taliban. Malala survived the ordeal and since then her rise to global prominence and fame has been nothing short of meteoric and has culminated into her being awarded half of a Nobel Peace Prize on 10th October, 2014. The Nobel Peace Prize is just one of the many feathers that Malala has added to her cap since 2012. She has been the recipient of the Sakharov Prize and honorary degrees from Universities such as the University of Edinburgh and University of King’s College. She is perhaps the youngest person to address a UN assembly. The list of her accomplishments is long and diverse. It shows that Malala has been accepted by a large part of the world as an icon of peace and the struggle for the right of humans, particularly women and children, to education. Pakistan hasn’t readily or wholly accepted Malala as such because there are mixed views among the Pakistanis about her story and her struggle.
Pakistan has been on the verge of economic, social and political instability for quite some time now. The conditions of Pakistan are such that a large section of its citizens suffer from trust issues. They think about the negative aspects of people and situations before the positive ones. The negatives are usually enough to deter them from even thinking about the positives. Malala’s story has been questioned by many people with this mindset. Some say that Malala’s story is fabricated and unverifiable (at least accurately) and it seems that her fame has been manufactured to serve a dark purpose. Multiple conspiracy theories with regard to the attack on Malala exist. The names of intelligence agencies such as CIA along with terrorist organizations as well as enemies of Pakistan have been added to the mix. Malala’s family is accused of being fame and money hungry and the activities of Malala’s father in promoting her daughter or her cause have not helped in dispelling such a notion. The western world is accused of using Malala to justify their war crimes (drone strikes and what not) in Muslim countries and promoting a bad image of the religion of Islam, a religion that Malala herself follows. Some people question how a 12 year old was able to write about issues which kids of similar ages and coming from similar conditions, don’t have a deep understanding of in reference to her work for BBC (2008-2009). The list of questions and theories is seemingly endless and envy or jealousy may be the base of some of them.
People who aren’t necessarily against Malala question why the west ignores people who have actually died to bring an end to terrorism and Why, of the thousands of girls that have suffered similarly to Malala in the areas affected by terrorism, Malala is given preferential treatment. They say that Malala is given more than her share of attention and that celebrity endorsements such as the one from Madonna don’t really help Malala’s cause in the way they should. Some people including the author of this article believe that we haven’t gotten to know Malala on a more personal level and that with the large amount of information available for and against Malala, it is difficult to decide whether to support her or criticize her without knowing Malala herself. They believe that Malala remains cut off from most Pakistanis and it is likely that she may never return to her homeland or at least as long as the security threats to her in Pakistan remain.
There are some people who just do not care about Malala or her struggle and there are many reasons for that. One of the reasons is that these people haven’t witnessed or been exposed to the conditions in which people live in terrorism-stricken areas and just don’t have the context to understand Malala’s experiences. Another reason is that some of these people don’t have the time or the mind to sit back and talk about Malala because of their chaotic and stressful living conditions. Yet another reason is that Malala’s cause just isn’t something these people believe in.
Malala’s supporters say that Malala has given Pakistanis the opportunity to show the world how resilient they are as individuals and as a nation. They believe that Malala can help to clear the misconceptions that the western world, in particular, holds about Pakistan and Islam. They believe that Malala has opened the doors for Pakistanis to have their progress and development in multiple aspects and areas of life to be recognized by the world. They find her story to be an inspiration to the Pakistani youth.
Although the circumstances in which Malala came to prominence are suspicious in my honest opinion, I believe that Malala is now a much bigger phenomenon than her origins and that the focus of her being is seemingly geared towards a positive and progressive cause. I do believe that women and children everywhere have a right to education (a notion found in Islam as well) and that it is time to put an end to terrorism. In simple words, I support the cause of Malala. The support for the cause is regardless of whether Malala is at the forefront of the fight for it or not. Support for Malala the person is a separate issue and one that requires a large amount of information about Malala to be resolved.