Epicentre of the Malalaquake


Which teacher, which pen and which book should change the world?

It’s quite a daunting task to figure out who’s more absurd between those who believe that Malala Yousafzai is a Western agent and those who believe that she was targeted by the Taliban because she wants education. Both arguments have their respective demerits, abundance of ignorance and volumes of hypocrisy. Saying that the Malala episode was a “staged drama” fits in seamlessly with the popular opinion in our neck of the woods, where people dutifully buy the conspiracy theories Zaid Hamid and his creed earn their rather expensive bread and butter from. While saying that the Taliban couldn’t stand a girl wanting education, despite resulting in a noble international campaign for female education, reduces a grave reality into its rather simplistic – and misapprehended – undertone.

A 15-year-old girl being shot at sent down shockwaves both domestically and globally. Whether it was the bewilderment regarding the “hoax” or the disbelief with regards to the “heinous act”, the tremors were – deliberately or inadvertently – forced to divert away from their epicentre. It was neither a staged drama, nor a terroristic manoeuvre to curb female education; the epicentre of the Malalaquake can be traced above an ideological fault line wherein two contrary belief-systems are relentlessly at loggerheads.

Taliban commander Adnan Rasheed’s letter to Malala published on the web on Wednesday, which echoed Ehsanullah Ehsan’s open letter dated October 16, 2012 – written a week after the attack on Malala – reconfirms that she was never targeted owing to her stance on education. It was because of her leaning towards the “wrong” side of the ideological fault line, which led to the shooting and in turn the international convulsion.

Probably the most famous line from Malala’s speech at the UN was, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” And this is the bizarre smokescreen that the poor child doesn’t even know that she’s fueling. The Taliban do not have an issue with teachers, pens or books, their concern is: what is being taught, what is being written and what is being read.

An excerpt from Adnan Rasheed’s letter reads: “You say a teacher, a pen and a book can change the world, yes I agree with you, but which teacher which pen and which book? It is to be specified, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said I am sent as a teacher, and the book He sent to teach is Quran. So a noble and pious teacher with prophetic curriculum can change the world not with satanic or secular curriculum.” And voila! Herein one can trace the aforementioned epicentre: which teacher, which pen and which book should change the world, the ones that follow the “divine” guidelines or the ones that extol ideals propagated by human intellect? For, rest assured, these two are virtually disjoint ideological sets.

Ehsanullah Ehsan’s seven-page letter elaborated the reasons behind the attack on Malala and comprehensively justified it according to the Shariah, Islamic scriptures and historical precedents. Her writings against the “Mujahideen-e-Islam” and in favour of the leaders of Dar-ul-Harb sufficed in forcing the Taliban to fire a bullet with Malala’s name on it. And Ehsanullah Ehsan, after quoting many noteworthy examples, argued whether the universally extolled leaders of Islamic history would’ve reacted any differently to a “conspirator”. The honest answer to that question should instigate a rude awakening.

As invigorating as it sounds, the Taliban-Malala battle is not one between the bullet and the pen. The Taliban’s conflict with Malala, much like their combat against all their adversaries, is a clash of religious teachings and humanistic viewpoints. It’s a battle between orthodoxy and modern-day nonconformity, a tussle between enchainment and freedom, a fight between bigotry and universal brotherhood and seemingly an unyielding war between the 7th century and the 21st century. The Taliban devoutly follow antediluvian theologies, while Malala stands for enlightenment. The Taliban adhere to the deity’s commands, while Malala on the face of it challenged their adherence. The Taliban represent blind faith, while Malala opposes the status quo. And when you try to force these contradictory viewpoints to coexist, or try and merge them into one, you formulate a fault line, which eventually leads to epoch-making upheavals.

Which teacher, which pen and which book should change the world? It sounds mundane, but Adnan Rasheed’s question to Malala, puts all of us in the line of fire, facing an ideological shotgun, one that the West successfully overcame during the Reformation and the ensuing Renaissance. Many an imperialist has posed as a teacher, using swords to pen down fallacious books brimming with the legacy of their veneration. The blood of the opponents and sceptics was used as the ink, while an intangible, superhuman dictatorial clout was used as justification, as they indubitably changed the world. This kick-started centuries’ worth of devout following, the Taliban are the most bona fide offshoot of which.

The Taliban are following the ideology their teachers promoted, and using the proverbial pens and swords to propagate the message of their books as every TTP press release showcases. It’s now up to us to earmark our teachers, our pens and our books, which can’t obviously be the same as the Taliban’s if we plan on countering their threat. This is precisely why it is pivotal to identify and be honest about the epicentre of the Malalaquake and the fault line that divides the Taliban and their genuine opponents. For, the fault lines are becoming more conspicuous with every passing moment and every single one of us would have to pick a side sooner rather than later.

The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @khuldune


  1. The choice is crystal clear — the world can no longer tolerate the fanaticism of the Muslim religion.

  2. More of the same hogwash from the pen of this militant atheist. While you may be trying to become the Richard Dawkins of Pakistan, rest assured that your fallacious and shallow condemnations of a religion only reveal your utter lack of humanity and good sense.

  3. Well done, Kunwar, it is encouraging to see Muslims (including those who may question the faith) from Muslim dominated countries separate themselves from the fanatics.

    @Razi, I assume you believe in the devil, and that the devil is clever. Thus I ask you, who would approve of the killing or shooting of a girl like Malala? The devil or Allah? The moderate Muslims or the Taliban? Malala's words (and Kunwar's) are full of humanity. The moderate Muslims (the majority) and Allah would never shoot a girl. The devil and the Taliban judge as if they think they are Allah. But they are not Allah. The Taliban follows the devil.

  4. Let's focus our energies on what is good for us as Pakistan. We must put our energies in educating our children who can compete with the children of other educated nations. That is raising education standards and improve our living standards and our lives. Taliban say something and do something else. We live in Pakistan in an isolated world wasting our time in petty useless discussions. Your article is a clear example of that. Malala got the opportunity to address the international forum and we can turn that in to Pakistan's advantage to improve rock bottom standing in the world. If we as Pakistanis act smart we can convert advesaries in to our advantage. There is an adage, where there is a threat there is an opportunity. Let's focus on opportunity and not threat.

  5. @Caleb Powell

    I think you are well-meaning but really don’t have any idea of where the author is coming from. Do a bit of research and you’ll discover that he’s an atheist (and a very rabid one at that) who has made it his passion to bash Islam. So your discussion of and distinction between “moderate” Muslims and others is futile in his estimation.

  6. Islam is a moderate religion , which does not impose to anyone.. who knows about the origion of TTP, are these muslims or using the name of muslims to disgrace the Holy Religion. All i need to say is that , US, USSR and India are ingredients of Taliban and conspiring to disintegrate pakistan, This will not happen ever InshaALLAH..

    • The US and the former USSR have always been ideologically opposed. Your conspiracy hypothesis fails on a cursory glance.

      Also, no need to "disintegrate Pakistan." Tribal ties and ethnic clashes have already done plenty.

      Go talk to someone from TTP. Ask them to their face if they think they are Muslims. The fact that they actively support attacks against the US and, in the past, did so against the USSR, might make you reconsider.

      I'm not taking the TTP's side here. I'm merely saying that it's too easy to buy into paranoid conspiracies based on nothing but a hunch and that itself is prone to disintegrating the unity of a people.

    • Islam is disintegrating.

      1) Islam is a moderate religion.

      This is so far from the truth. Refer to these citations from your Holy Book and Sunnah.

      Qur'an [66:6]: "O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded."

      Qur'an [22:19]: "These are two adversaries who have disputed over their Lord. But those who disbelieved will have cut out for them garments of fire. Poured upon their heads will be scalding water"

      Qur'an [14:49-50]: "And you will see the criminals that Day bound together in shackles, their garments of liquid pitch and their faces covered by the Fire."

      Qur'an [47:15]: "Is the description of Paradise, which the righteous are promised, wherein are rivers of water unaltered, rivers of milk the taste of which never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of purified honey, in which they will have from all [kinds of] fruits and forgiveness from their Lord, like [that of] those who abide eternally in the Fire and are given to drink scalding water that will sever their intestines?"

      Qur'an [4:56]: "Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses – We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted in Might and Wise."

      Qur'an [40:70-72]: "Those who deny the Book and that with which We sent Our messengers – they are going to know, when the shackles are around their necks and the chains; they will be dragged in boiling water; then in the Fire they will be filled [with flame]."

      For a God – and an apparently merciful one too – that conjures up a dimension in which is children are left to experience a perennial tribulation is a God that does not warrant moderation. What is moderation?

      Moderation: Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme.

      And the qualities portrayed within the Qur'an depict a God that is not moderate, or merciful, but a God that is keen to torture his own children BECAUSE they decide – may it be of ignorance or arrogance – to not worship him. My grandmother, a sweet and innocent woman, is having her skin roasted consistently whilst I can hear her cries (if I do end up in the Islamic-prescribed heaven: which, by the way, is almost a direct replica of this dunya – reflecting the primal and basic human desires of 7th century desert wanderers).

      How about the Sunnah?

      Sahih Bukhari:
      Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57
      Narrated 'Ikrima:
      "Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

      Volume 4, Book 52, Number 259
      Narrated Abu Huraira:
      "Allah's Apostle sent us in a mission (i.e. am army-unit) and said, "If you find so-and-so and so-and-so, burn both of them with fire." When we intended to depart, Allah's Apostle said, "I have ordered you to burn so-and-so and so-and-so, and it is none but Allah Who punishes with fire, so, if you find them, kill them."

  7. Honestly, there are people who share the mindset of the author of this article and there are people who are either apologetic or are adherents to the mindset of the Taliban… Unfortunately our society is falling alarmingly short of balanced people… We are stuck between pseudo liberals, pseudo intellectuals, proudly self-proclaimed atheists on one side and the Taliban on the other side… The breathing space is shrinking rapidly for the sane and discerning in this society

  8. With all respect to the author and the so much time and effort he has put in to write this ..I have concluded one thing about him…that at the end of the day … he is sadly just another of those liberal sdaeh kcid whose only dream and objective in life is to legalize booze in Pakistan.

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