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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Nov 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Malala: A Profile in Courage




By New Age Islam Edit Desk

25 Nov 2012

Malala Yousufzai who beat the US President Barack Obama to rank sixth in a global thinkers list published by the Foreign Polity magazine, has taken many by surprise. Indeed she has made undeniable global impact by taking on the Taliban, before who even the Pakistani government surrendered two years ago, singlehandedly and that’s why this denies the theory that the Western world has been using this little girl to its advantage.

It takes a lot of courage and undaunted spirit to start a struggle against a monstrous group like the Taliban at the tender age of eleven. It was three years back when she announced her fight against the Taliban at the Peshawar Press Club. 

“I am an aggrieved girl of Swat, once a peaceful land surrounded by green fields to which the air was kind. It was the land of beautiful flowers that attracted tourists from all over the world. It was once called the Switzerland of the Eastern valley.”

“But now it’s all a thing of the past. Now lawlessness, fear and violence rule the roost here so much so that people cannot get their children administered polio doses and girls have been robbed of their rights to go to school. Our schools have been bombed. And worse, the schools of the boys have also been destroyed,” she had reportedly said.

She had boldly said to the press, “God and our prophet (PBUH) have bestowed me with the right to education. Why then are they hell-bent on robbing me of my right that has been guaranteed to me by my God and the prophet (PBUH).”

It was Malala’s demand. In reply, they stopped her school bus and shot her in the head. Tehreek-e-Taliban accepted the responsibility. Pakistan army and the government decided to execute the Waziristan Operation. But Qari Fazlur Rehman warned it not to build political castles with the blood of Malala. And Qazi Hussain Ahmad said, “I consider the attackers as savages but I also hold those using the innocent girl equally responsible for the crime so that people would forget the film based on blasphemy against the holy Prophet (PBUH).

The fatal attack on Malala, the metaphor of light, has been turned into a complex issue. Every section is trying to use it to its own advantage. That the educated section of Pakistan is a confused lot is evident from the fact that they have taken a divided position on Malala. A lone girl’s fight for education which is her birth right under the Shariah Law has been given political colour and some sections in Pakistan have indirectly opposed her mission on precarious grounds.

In any other society, a girl like Malala would have received the support of the whole nation irrespective of their political and religious affiliations of its people. But in Pakistan she feels alone in her jihad against the enemies of learning and knowledge, the Taliban. Worse, some so called scholars have supported the Taliban in a veiled way warning the government against a crackdown after the attack on Malala.

The so-called flag bearers of justice and Islamic Shariah raise a storm when a Christian, an Ismaili Muslim or a Hindu is falsely accused of blasphemy against the holy prophet (PBUH) to protect the sanctity of Islam and the prophet but when an outlawed outfit puts a ban on the girls’ education in clear violation and opposition to the ordainment of the Quran and the teachings of the hadith amounting to blasphemy, and pronounces death sentences against a girl who asserts her right to education, no religious scholar or political leader stands by her side. Isn’t opposition to education blasphemy against the holy Prophet?

Though the Pakistani government has shown support to her and has conferred an award on her, the acts seem to be of a token nature to show to the world that it appreciates her fight and cares for the education of the girls. If it was really sincere and serious about dealing with Taliban and ensuring the safety of Malala, her relatives and the girls of her age, it would have executed the crackdown it had intended and which it shelved due to threats from Qari Fazlur Rehman.

Since last three years, Malala had been fighting against the Taliban  and because of her grit, courage and determination, she earned a position in the District Child Assembly of Swat. National Youth Peace Prize has been conferred on her and the Canadian Minister of Citizenship has Jason Kenney has recommended her name for the Nobel Peace Prize. Last weekend her supporters celebrated Malala Day across the world. And most importantly, she has been ranked sixth by the Foreign Policy magazine in its 100 top global thinkers list ahead of Obama. Notably Aung San Suu Kyi is ranked first on the list while Obama is ranked seventh. They are a select group of people who have strived for excellence in their respective field.

All this is being seen by the Taliban as a global political maneuvering against it using the global sympathy for Malala and therefore it has also unleashed an ideological counter-offensive in Pakistan and in the UK where Malala has received the government support and is receiving medical treatment.

While the Taliban has active support among the clergy and religio-political circles in Pakistan (Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan refused to join an all party conference against terrorism last year saying it did not consider Taliban as terrorists) it has also succeeded to rope in the ideological support of an outlawed radical group called Al Muhajiroun in the UK. London-based Al Muhajiroun founder, Anjem Choudhary has issued a fatwa against her for ‘turning back on Islam’ and has said that the fatwa will be officially announced in a conference in London soon. The purpose seems to be making life hell for her also in the UK where she is supposed to spend at least two years for treatment and counseling.

It is a pity that on the one hand boys of Malala’s age are dressed with suicide jackets, on the other, girls like Malala are being targeted. In both the cases, the next generation of Pakistan is suffering. It’s high time that the mission of Malala was taken forward. In other words, the national priority of Pakistan should be the spread of education. Some wise soul in Pakistan has rightly suggested that the country should declare an ‘educational emergency’. But who will listen to a sane voice in a land of religious fanatics?