Malala — idol to the world, outcast at home

Published: October 10, 2014
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Malala Yousafzai. PHOTO: REUTERS

Malala Yousafzai. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, is hailed around the world as a champion of women’s rights who stood up bravely against the Taliban to defend her beliefs.

But in Pakistan, many view her with suspicion as an outcast or even as a Western creation aimed at damaging the country’s image abroad.

Malala, now aged 17, became globally known in 2012 when Taliban gunmen almost killed her for her passionate advocacy of women’s right to education.

She has since become a symbol of defiance in the fight against militants operating in Pashtun tribal areas in northwest Pakistan — a region where women are expected to keep their opinions to themselves and stay at home.

“The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born,” she told the United Nations last year.

“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him,” she said in a speech which captivated the world.

Malala has also won the European Union’s human rights award and was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Prize last year.

Now based in Britain, she is unable to return to her homeland because of Taliban threats to kill her and her family members. The current Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, was the one who ordered the 2012 attack against her.

Yousafzai has enrolled in a school in Birmingham and become a global campaigner for women’s right to education and other human rights issues, taking up issues such as the situation in Syria and Nigieria.

In her native Swat valley, however, many people view Malala — backed by a supportive family and a doting father who inspired her to keep up with her campaign — with a mixture of suspicion, fear and jealousy.

At the time of her Nobel nomination last year, social media sites were brimming with insulting messages. “We hate Malala Yousafzai, a CIA agent,” said one Facebook page.

She was a young student in the Swati town of Mingora in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when she became interested in the rights of female students.

At the time, the Taliban were in power in the strategic valley after they took control over the region and imposed strict rules, including their opposition to women’s education.

She wrote an anonymous blog describing her life under the Taliban controlled the region. In October 2012, after the Taliban were pushed out of Swat by the Pakistani army, she was shot in the head on her way to school by a Taliban gunman.

She survived after being airlifted to Britain for treatment and recovered from her life-threatening wounds.

“The wise saying, ‘The pen is mightier than sword’ was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens,” she told the United Nations.

“The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.”

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Jacques Hoff
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:02PM

    A slap in the face of all Pakistanis!

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  • wiserneighbour
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:06PM

    For all the wrong reasons Malala was created
    for all the right reasons she won the Nobel prize.Cant understand these barbarians who shot her,is it so cheap a human life who wishes to educate self?
    I am wondering about the paradoxes and eccentricities of life!!

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  • harkol
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:09PM

    Malala Hate campaign in Pakistan shows all that is wrong with Pakistan – Large section (not all) of the population being radicalized and suspicious of any hint of modernity.

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  • Malala's Friend
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:10PM

    What happened to Malala’s other friends who were also shot at? Did they get anything?

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  • DG
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:14PM

    The victory of Goodness over Evil.

    Congratulations Malala. We all are so proud of you

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  • Baloch
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:19PM

    That’s because the Pakistani people know her reality. She has done nothing in Pakistan except get shot in the head. How many schools has she built in Pakistan: Zero.

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  • just_someone
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:19PM

    Yep, absolutely.
    Nothing shows how unfortunate a nation we are than how Malala and our first Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam have been treated by us.
    Malala should be a shining symbol of our future yet somehow she has become the enemy of those very same people that she is trying to help!

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 3:27PM

    Pakistan. Maps

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  • Jacques Hoff
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:29PM

    A slap in the face of all Pakistanis.

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 3:34PM

    Thanx to the ubiquitous scourge…the mullah, we face economic and social regression.
    Never has Pakistan been so highly honored than today when Malala has received the Nobel Peace Prize 2014. Salams

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  • Moiz
    Oct 10, 2014 - 3:49PM

    A Pakistani is the youngest Nobel prize winner. This is a proud day for the country. And an opportunity to appreciate and not waste in pointless bickering.

    I urge the people and government of Pakistan to capitalize on it by driving the point she made by risking her life to its logical conclusion. A right to a basic education for all. Not just religious.

    A comprehensive education. To form the basis of a real informed democracy.

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  • AK
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:24PM

    @Jacques Hoff:
    I think its a slap on your face….freaking imposter

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  • zuhaib
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:32PM

    @Jacques Hoff: why is it a slap on the face of all Pakistanis?Can you explain it please..she was a Pakistani and we Pakistanis are proud of her..you western people the so called champions of human and women rights know nothing about PAKISTAN.I would advise you to do a little bit research(unbaised) about and you will know what Pakistan is and who Pakistanis are.

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  • Maryam Javed
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:38PM

    Proud to be a Pakistani!! Malala you have rocked the world! And this nobel prize is just simply proof of the fact that you are loved by millions and those millions have put their faith in you! Do not pay any attention to haters as they think they are strong only when they are placed behind a computer :D
    There is so much that you can achieve and your country will support you throughout the whole process. If not the country, then the children who share the same hopes, dreams and aims as you.
    LOVE YOU! BE STRONG!

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  • Abid
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:42PM

    We congratulate Malala on this great achievement. Majority of Pakistani’s think like that. Anything else is simply rubbish.

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 4:46PM

    Malala Yousafzai, a normal teenager from the Swat valley of Pakistan achieving the Nobel Peace Prize is just an example that hard work and dedication do not go unrewarded. Her love for education has simply made more teenagers like me feel blessed and thankful for all that God has gifted us.
    Malala, you have rocked the world, and hope you achieve all that is writtem for you. The whole country is behind you in the struggle for education and peace. If not the country, then the children and young adults who have the same dreams, hopes and aims as you.
    Love you! You’ve made Pakistan proud!!

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Oct 10, 2014 - 4:46PM

    Malala got the Nobel Peace Price. Buckle up to face the tirade of Malala haters. If the World in general and West in particular loves you, you deserve the severest condemnation back home. Its really a very simple rule. Be it Malala, Mukhtaran Mai or Dr. Abdus Salam

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  • Eddied
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:20PM

    Malala is an inspiration to all intelligent people of the world who know that education is the key to peace and prosperity….it will be interesting to see the comments by those poorly educated fools taught by mullahs who hate the west and promote radical ideologies…they will reveal their ignorance by opposing Malala, the shining star and pride of Pakistani women…

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  • THE
    Oct 11, 2014 - 6:39AM

    @Baloch:
    What a stupid comment ? She has to build schools in Pakistan ? Really is that her job ? You need to get a mental check-up since an education won’t do much good for you.

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