Hate campaign to welcome our Nobel Laureate
After almost six years, the ‘Gul Makai’ of Swat and the youngest Nobel Laureate of the world returns home for few days. She is welcomed by the State, makes an emotional speech on her return and is well received by many of her fellow citizens. Sadly, many others continue a tirade against her, doubting her motives, rubbishing her claims, belittling her achievements, because they think that she is a traitor, as if they themselves are the champions of patriotism.
Malala Yousufzai became a global symbol for human rights and a vocal campaigner for girls’ education after a gunman boarded her school bus in Swat valley in late 2012, asked ‘Who is Malala? And shot her. She was targeted because she had started writing a blog about her daily experiences. It helped give an insight in the then Taliban controlled region of Swat, who in horrific violations of human rights and defiance to the true spirit of Islam imposed many restrictions. This was the beginning of the journey of Malala Yousufzai.
From a school girl in a relatively underdeveloped area of Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala has now become a student of the prestigious Oxford University – an institution where former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also studied and incidentally is someone whom Malala idolises. But the price Malala has paid is very high. She had to risk her life, then the freedom to live in her homeland and now when the world recognises and appreciates her efforts to promote free education for girls, her own countrymen frown and raise eyebrows at her mention.
There are many who do not believe in the actuality of the near fatal attack she suffered at the hands of the Taliban. They search minutely in her post surgery photographs of the wound in her forehead and are not convinced that a bullet almost damaged her skull before passing through. They question the swiftness with which she was shifted abroad for treatment. They challenge the authenticity of the book she co-authored with a British journalist, where using the title of the book ‘I am Malala’, she answers the gunman who shot her in a louder voice. The sceptic Pakistanis doubt the sincerity of her cause and loyalty to her country, calling her an agent of the West, and have been thinking aloud why does she not come back to Pakistan? And now that she does, they have prepared receptions of their own for her.
Private schools who are members of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) were asked to mark ‘I am not Malala Day’ across Pakistan, unwelcoming the Nobel prize winner on her return after six long years. All teachers were asked to wear black armed bands during school hours on Friday and give special lectures to the children condemning Malala and her ideas. The association representing over 200,000 private schools planned the protest against the alleged anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam content written in the book by the advocate for education.
‘The purpose behind the decision is to reveal the truth of Malala’s real episode,’ said Mirza Kashif Ali, President APPSF while talking to media. In 2015, the association had launched a novel – ‘I am Not Malala, I am a Muslim, I am Pakistani’ – while banning Malala’s first book in all private schools and colleges calling her ‘a darling of the west and Shiv Sena’.
‘We found Malala’s book highly controversial, and contrary to the ideology of Islam and Pakistan,’ Ali said in a statement. ‘We are not against Malala but the ideology being imposed on us by such traitors and billions of dollars of Malala Fund are being used for this to introduce secular curriculum,’ he added.
The Association also declared its resistance towards making Malala’s book part of libraries or curriculum in private schools. ‘We would never want that our children follow Malala, no matter how many high awards she wins and that the gates of White House and Buckingham Palace remain open for her,’ Ali stated.
While Malala is championing a cause worldwide to promote free education for girls, many female teachers and senior staff members would have forced themselves to oblige to their parent association’s instructions, just to be able to save their jobs, businesses of running school or membership in the association. They may have willingly spewed venom to poison the young minds of their students, just as they were asked to. While Malala receives recognition worldwide and also by saner minds in the country, some not only condemn her but force others to follow suit.
When an association disagrees with the content of Malala’s book, it’s a personal opinion. The book is available in the market and any person with freedom of choice can purchase it. When the leader of an association says that Malala is an agent of the West, it’s his belief. But does the association have reliable proof to back the claim, on the basis of which it imposes its belief on others? Has Malala become so dangerous that children are being lectured about her ‘evil plans’? What maturity and what responsibility does the association promise when it engages in a hate based campaign towards children? On what basis does it violate the fundamental and constitutional right of freedom of expression of its members, when it forcibly gives instructions to them for condemning a personality? What personal actions can the members of this association claim to be highly patriotic and Islamic, on the basis of which it takes such a step?
Maligning a fellow Pakistani in a case of split opinion is not patriotic. Shunning a person due to comments on a controversial topic is not an Islamic act. In fact, establishing a hate speech in the name of religion and country is not in the interest of either. The constitution of Pakistan ensures that the curriculums of all educational institutions honour the integrity of the nation and its state religion. What difference would it make if the author of a book denied a place in curriculum visits the country? Many young Pakistanis may not even be aware of Malala Yousafzai, her achievements and her visit to Pakistan. But making it an issue and highlighting it in a biased manner may bring them at the center of a conflict, when they may come across someone praising Malala, while they are nurtured on the opposite which their school preaches.
But then we have a tradition of condemning those who do good, especially women
But then we have a tradition of condemning those who do good, especially women. When Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy wins a prestigious global award for her documentary, she is condemned for portraying her country in a bad light. When Dr. Abdus Salam wins the country’s first Nobel Prize, he is shunned for his belief. When Malala Yousufzai gains accolades in the name of her country, the very nation to which she belongs labels her for ‘connections’ in the West.
The journey of Malala Yousufzai has just begun. Despite the pain some Pakistanis give her, she will continue to walk the path destined for her. But the malicious acts, if not widely condemned, may deteriorate the minds of few others, who may today bear the courage and resilience of Malala. It may dampen the spirits of few, who believe that education is the key to change. It may hinder