By Sonya Fatah
Jul 22, 2013
Poor Malala! It's not enough that a team of vicious lunatics targeted, shot and impaired her for being an outspoken teenager. The fact that Malala has the courage to stand up before world leaders and exude the confidence of a seasoned public speaker should make her a cause celebre in Pakistan, too. Yet, the oddest outcry is coming from a crew within the flailing liberal movement, arguing against Malala's growing stature in the world of politicized and projected women.
Naturally, conspiracy theories abound. After all, Gordon Brown emerged as her ballroom dance partner in the Malala Soiree, Ban Ki-Moon was all ears, and in the sombre and riveted audience quite a few were shedding tears. This is the sort of surface-level stuff that drives cynical Pakistanis (and there are lots of them) a little over the edge.
Statistically, Malala doesn't count for much. She's just one of million yetto-be-18 women suffering from lack of access to education in Pakistan. The spotlight is shining down a little too hard for her to share the glare with any of her compatriots, especially others injured in the attack. This however, is hardly Malala's fault.
For one thing, the girl has courage, which many people from Pakistan — judging from the general quiet in response to right-wing hoodlums pretending to be God’s messengers — hasn’t demonstrated. She's not masking her long-term goals. This episode confirms she will emerge — as her ambitious father had hoped — to follow in the footsteps of her mentor: Benazir Bhutto. That she adorned herself in Bhutto's shawl was a symbolic, rather public, admission of her commitment to this career path. Those angered that she is merely a pawn of the western empire, should remember that Malala, too, is a politician.
If Malala's critics care so much about Pakistan's girl children, why not devote local efforts into fighting the encroachment of public schools for girls, which is happening all over the Karachi district of Manghopir.
The tragedy is that critics in Pakistan sound very much like the Taliban whom they say they abhor. Like the letter written to Malala by a sort of 'fan,' a gentleman from the Taliban brotherhood who befriended her post the attack. The fellow, Adnan Rasheed, politely suggested Malala is just a tool of a long-articulated western attempt to colonize the 'savage' mind. To make his point, he refers to T B Macaulay's 1835 address to British parliament on developing an education system in India: '" We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern — a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect."'
Since Malala became one of them, he explains, she was targeted. Why, the Taliban fan asks, is there a Malala Day when there is no Rachel Corie Day, no Afia Siddiqui Day, no way to commemorate those who fall for a cause the West doesn't care for. The liberals in Pakistan , who are critiquing the Malala affair, are saying much the same.
I think they have the wrong lenses on. Indeed, there is deep hypocrisy in the stories and people celebrated. Indeed, western leaders are finding Malala a good cause to celebrate in the face of a fairly loss-making expedition in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Why make that relevant? Malala is 15 years old. She is brave and confident. She, unlike many of Pakistanis, has asserted her rights. Good for her.
Sonya Fatah is a New Delhi based Pakistani journalist