The announcement of Malala’s Nobel peace prize has unleashed a storm of nastiness that some of us seemed to have hidden away for very long. One maniac even went around asking on a popular chat group about the young girl’s contribution to sharia and Islam as a religion, totally forgetting that reading and learning were the two key principles that Islam started with. In any case, any good formula of humanity and religion (not mullahism) would propose human empowerment, for which education is certainly a means.
There are people visibly perturbed about how others like Abdul Sattar Edhi deserved the prize more than she did. Hence, they conclude that the 17-year-old young woman is an extension of a foreign conspiracy. Some even argue that with the tag of this prize around her neck, she will return to Pakistan to pursue some Western agenda.
To put things straight — the Nobel Peace Prize and similar awards are political, which are meant to recognise achievements that those, who choose to put their money aside for recognising individual or collective efforts, consider critical for the world. These awards are not meant as a definitive judgment on a land and its people. The five-member committee for this Norwegian prize, which decided to recognise Malala Yousufzai’s efforts and sacrifices were impressed, like many others in the world, by her courage and commitment to a cause that has brought her a lot of world attention, but has probably cost her, her childhood as well. Abdul Sattar Edhi is indeed a great man, but that does not mean we should not recognise a 17-year-old girl, who stands tall in her conviction and courage.
But then, what’s courageous about it since the entire Western world stands behind her? They all may be admiring her or eyeing her cause as an opportunity to spread the word regarding education for girls in the world (which is not a bad idea at all), however, has anyone dared fathom the tonnes of loneliness that might be there inside the child for having abandoned her home, hearth and, as mentioned earlier, childhood?
Furthermore, what stops the rest of the world from awarding Abdul Sattar Edhi or anyone else who sacrificed their lives for others? We certainly ought to do better than scaring Edhi and his family out of the country, which happened a few years ago when he had to take refuge abroad, fearing for his life. In any case, our accusations against Malala are not about her, but about our own sick, colonial mindset that believes we don’t deserve anything good and so, anything good given to us has to be some trick of the old master. Mightn’t it be possible that the 17-year-old Nobel laureate comes riding on a witch’s broom to take our nuclear arsenal away? After all, why else would they give her the prize? It is about our national schizophrenia that makes us want Western money, in fact, more of it, not less, and yet hate it when the rewards become individual.
There are some, who consider her award to be as sinister as Dr Abdul Salam’s for his achievement in physics, just because these people do not agree with his belief system. I had a woman endlessly argue why Dr Atta ur Rahman didn’t get a Nobel, without considering that the gentleman has not done anything that is earth-shattering and changes scientific principles.
There is a possibility that such arguments germinate from our national habit of watching people getting national prizes because their names were on a security-cleared list and not because they did something phenomenal.
Back to Edhi, could we have rewarded him in some way? Perhaps not, as there would be too much competition deciding whether he deserved it more or other state-sponsored stars of welfare like Hafiz Saeed or Maulana Ludhianvi, who are gradually outsmarting the good old Mr Edhi in establishing, what they and the state are too happy to declare their welfare networks in the country. The JuD only has to start a child-adoption service to fully qualify as the welfare guru from Karachi.
I have heard women, who have zero interest in education, stop the youngsters from their families from reading Malala’s book and have declared her an enemy. Is it because she lives abroad? The same women would give an arm and a leg to send their own sons abroad for good quality education. I have heard literate men look down upon her because, to them, she symbolises Western liberalism, which they despise. However, such criticism is done without considering that the young woman has not repudiated her national or cultural identity. She has often happily helped argue for Pakistan’s security perspective, of asking foreign leaders and dignitaries not to attack the Taliban, certainly to stop drone attacks, which she should be more naturally opposed to as the weapons often kill those who tried to kill her.
For all our love of humanity, which we claim was taught to us by our religion, we seem to be perturbed by some inner anxiety to see a young girl do so well. How many of us, who are ready to point a finger at her, have been through a near-death experience and yet held on? How many fathers would risk the life of their child like this for a cause, even if they were paid for it? Lest we forget, how many of the top jihadis, who get paid from all over the world actually, send their own children to the slaughter? Gul Makai is not Ziauddin Yousufzai’s greed, but his love. Unfortunately, there are few in Pakistan who would understand this expression of love. It is hard for them to understand how a father in Swat wanted his daughter to shine in the world by representing a cause that would earn her admiration, but also a lot of enemies. Some may not like Malala’s award, but it surely is a seal of the great love between a father and a daughter — a symbol of how dreams are worth fighting for.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.
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