Malala Yousafzai, wearing a white shawl that had belonged to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, gives her first speech since the Taliban in Pakistan tried to kill her for advocating education for girls, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York AFP.
When little Malala Yousafzai spoke at the United Nations Youth Assembly last Frdiay, stressing the need to empower the girl child in her mother country, Pakistan, and every other country where the girl child is a victim of poverty and extremism, a big question mark hung over her speech.
Was she reading out from a text she herself wrote, or one that was written by someone else? In either case, the speech had a big hole though it had everything a western audience would love to hear and give a standing ovation to. Malala spoke of other Malalas, who are victimised by the Taliban, Taliban-like extremists or by some kind of social injustice. But her speech deliberately or otherwise failed to note that there are thousands, if not millions of other Malalas, who are victims of the Western military misadventures in her own country, in neighbouring Afghanistan and in the not so far away country Iraq. Either she did not know that the civilised West also kills children and victimises children or she did not include it in her speech at the behest of those who had some say in the final text which she delivered.
We cannot find fault with Malala for the serious omission. After all she just turned 16 on Friday and was still recovering from the shock of the near-death experience after she was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen in October last year.
Malala is her father’s daughter. According to TIME, her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai is a “folk hero in Swat, where Pakistan’s Taliban ordered all girls schools to be closed. Ziauddin is a deeply religious man and he constantly talks about his Islam which he says tells him to get his daughter educated and to make sure that women get the same rights as men.
Ziauddin defied the Taliban order and started a school which his daughter attended. He comes from a middle class peasant family. The Taliban believed that he got money from the Americans and the Zionists to run the school. Thus he became a Taliban target.
Malala was trained by her father to be an activist. Ziauddin told close friends, according to TIME, that he wanted his daughter to be a politician. But the little girl wanted to be a doctor. Later in a video clip, she said she wanted to be a politician to create a just society. With the Taliban forcing the closure of girls’ schools in Swat and other places they dominate, Malala began her activism – her own Jihad – at the tender age of 11.
Under a pseudonym, she started to write a diary for BBC’s Urdu website, giving a detailed commentary on life under Taliban rule. When her cover was blown, the Taliban threatened her, but it only strengthened the girl’s resolve to fight for her cause – education for girls. She shed her pseudonym and wrote under her real name. Soon she became popular and an inspiration to many Pakistani girls of her age group.
Appearing in a television talk-show three years ago, the little girl even had the courage to discuss the possibility of her own death at the hands of the Taliban.
“Sometimes I imagine I’m going alone and the Taliban stop me. I take my sandal and hit them on the face and say what you’re doing is wrong. Education is our right, don’t take it from us. There is this quality in me – I’m ready for all situations. So even if (God let this not happen) they kill me, I’ll first say to them, what you’re doing is wrong.”
In a strange twist to the Malala affair, the Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday sent her a letter expressing shock that she was shot by Taliban gunmen last year. Adnan Rasheed, a Pakistan Taliban leader, in the letter says Malala was shot not because she was promoting education but because she was running an anti-Taliban smear campaign. But he expressed no remorse for the attempted killing. “You have said in your speech (at the UN) that the pen is mightier than the sword, so they attacked you for your sword, not for your books or school,” he writes.
Rasheed finishes by telling Malala to “come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture and join any female Islamic madrassa, use your pen... and reveal the conspiracy of the tiny elite who want to enslave the whole of humanity”.
However much the Taliban leader tried his hand at damage control through this letter at a time when the Afghan Taliban and the United States are preparing to hold talks aimed at finding a solution to the political conundrum in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s policy on women has no place in civilized society and definitely not in Islam which they have hijacked and distorted.
Thus in the Islam the Taliban practise there is little recognition that Islam’s prophet was a women’s rights activist. Prophet Muhammed preached his reforms among men who buried the girl-child alive, for she was a symbol of shame to the family and he made seeking knowledge mandatory for every Muslim man and every Muslim woman. This was the message Malala wanted to give the Taliban before she was shot.
But sadly, the story of Malala has taken a Western twist after she recovered from the gunshot wounds. In her UN speech last week, the young girl said: “Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.”
If only she had said that the Taliban kill children, so do the Americans, the Brits and other western forces, her speech would have got universal applause. Perhaps, her speechwriters or those who are coaching this teenage international celebrity apparently did not want her to tarnish the West. If she could speak of child labour in India, closure of schools in Nigeria, poverty, child marriage and other social injustices, surely she could have also spoken of the hundreds of children who had been killed in US drone attacks in her own country and that too close to her home district, Swat. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, more than 200 children, including girls, have been killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. In neighbouring Afghanistan, 4.8 children are killed every day in violence linked to the US occupation of the country.
She said the Taliban bomb schools, but she should know that invading American troops also had little respect for schools in Iraq. How can Malala or her speechwriters ignore the fact that the War in Fallujah, Iraq had its origins in a protest launched by parents demanding that some 900 US troops who had been occupying Al-Qaid primary school vacate the premises and let the children go to school? The American troops killed seventeen Iraqi parents who were fighting for their children’s right to education – a cause Malala is now championing.
Malala should also know that in Swat and other Taliban-infested areas, children are born, they grow up, they play and they reach adulthood, education or no education. But in Fallujah, every other child is born with a birth defect. This is because the Americans used bombs containing cancer-causing depleted uranium and white phosphorous to repress the freedom struggle there. An Iraqi doctor says it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders … babies being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye – “really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects”.
As the Americans marked the tenth year of their invasion in March this year, Dahar Jamail, an Al-Jazeera journalist, who visited Fallujah and spoke to doctors, said the current rate of birth defects for the city of Fallujah had surpassed those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II.
The Pakistani teenager can be excused for not knowing what the US-led foreign troops did in Iraq in their war for oil. She was just a six year old child when the Americans launched their illegal war on Iraq. She was born at a time when hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children had died or were dying due to crippling economic sanctions which the UN Security Council had slapped on Iraq at the behest of countries which now want to take Malala to all the amusement parks in the world.
Malala was just a nine-year-old girl when in 2006, 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi was gang-raped by five US soldiers in Mahmudiyah, Iraq before she and her parents and her six-year-old sister were killed by them. Evil has many manifestations. The Taliban horror is one. The horrors committed by those who go fight the Taliban are another. Yet the evil that triumphs presents itself as the paragon of all virtues. In this deception, injustice is seen as justice, invasion as liberation and robbery as charity.
We only wish that young Malala in her speech had included these horrors, warned of the deceptions and denounced invasions, occupation, violence and war. One hopes at least that she would do that in her next speech, probably the next Malala Day on July 12, her birthday, which the UN has dedicated to the cause of promoting the right to education for the girl child. We hope that when she writes her next major speech, she will have the full freedom to decide what to write. The UN ceremony where Malala spoke was, to all intents and purposes, aimed at a good cause. But what is reprehensible is the move by some countries to use this little girl, who is one of the contenders for the next Nobel Peace Prize, as a catspaw to hide their horrors committed by them in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I admire Malala. Do not politicize by bringing in all sorts of other issues. the fact is that she has almost gone to the other world and come back.
Polo Sunday, 21 July 2013 09:07 AM
At least, she could have mentioned US drone attacks which killed hundreds of children in her own country
korala Sunday, 21 July 2013 06:52 PM
This article talks about balancing child abuses and killing from both sides instead of rejecting the wrong doing which is a mere attempt of white washing.
fazel Saturday, 20 July 2013 07:58 AM
Very well analyzed article. Did any one like Malala invited from Falluja or Afghanistan. Why is UNO partial to some part of the world. Can World Peace achieved by This Organization?But firmly Islam encourages education for girls like Boys.
jayantha silva Friday, 19 July 2013 10:15 AM
Malala spoke of her own first hand experience in Pakistan , as a young girl growing up in a Taliban controlled region. One could not expect her to talk of Iraq , and other areas of conflict , as they are not significant if her case.
mercy Friday, 19 July 2013 11:04 AM
The UN Is stooge of the US and illegetimate Israel secretly created by Puppets arab monarchs of the early 1900
abdul wahab. Friday, 19 July 2013 11:39 AM
Very informative and truth revealing article as usual.The British famous journalist Ms YONNEY RIDLY who embraced Islam after an encounter with Taliban in Afghanistan will tell more about TALIBAN.
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