July 14, 2013

My facebook feed - because as everyone would agree that does count as the geiger counter for societal opinion in the Islamic-Republic - has been on a Malala-buzz for days now. Ever since the announcement of a World Malala Day and the honor of being invited to speak at the United Nations. For the uninformed (because not everyone is nuanced into Pakistan's many obsessions), Malala is a little girl who took a stand against a barbaric dictate against girl's education. She did this by writing a blog all through the difficult Taliban years and feeding a small-but-sure rebellion against the anti-educationist-idiocy. Eventually she received what most people who decide to take a stand in the Islamic Republic do - a bullet in the face in lieu of a standing ovation. Nearly dead she was given medical treatment in the country and then flown out to the UK. After weeks of wondering, the news finally came out that the vigilante-educationist was going to be okay. And as the public rejoiced, a new legend was born.

Naturally, a lot of feeds announce citizens' pride that a Pakistani girl - that too a 16 year old - made it to that prestigious platform. Most applaud her courage and the cause she believed in enough to die for it. Frankly, for a nation filled with liberals-unwilling-to-die-for-anything, any sort of courage is somewhat inspirational - even if it simply the exuberance of the newly-created-PTI-supporter who attends unsecured rallies despite the fear of bomb threats. Fact is, Malala has certainly impressed a chunk of Pakistan's society and they will make sure - by (re)posting everything flattering about Malala they can get their hands on - that everyone shares their sentiments.

Sentiment sharing is also done at length by another interested group: Those who think that Malala has done nothing (really) to deserve the fame, acclaim and happy-British-citizenship she has received. While they may agree that getting shot-in-the-face may not be anyone's favorite thing, they put forward a number of equally conflicting justifications for why Malala-glorification is wrong and should be prevented at all costs. One ideological schism narrates gruesome stories of other people who died at the hands of the Taliban, in the region. In a self-defeating argument they point out that the death's of so many people have largely been ignored while this girl-who-lived has achieved Harry-Potter-esque acclaim? What of the mere muggles who perished at the hands of the enemy. Which, as you face-palm yourself, you acknowledge their concerns, but wonder how if victimization (or death) of other people at the hand of the Taliban have been ignored, it stands to reason that this one should also be ignored. But I assume it makes sense to the surprisingly large number of people putting this idea forward.

Also monopolizing the home-page are status updates from a completely different kind of animal. The kind that thinks that Malala is a key ingredient in every single conspiracy theory out there. Accused of being a CIA agent (because how else would she learn such good English? Definitely not from her father the teacher. Naturally the girl must be a spy), or worse a PPP supporter (courtesy the BB legacy wrapped in a shawl) or even - possibly - complicit in a plan to wreak havoc (a'la Amreeki drones) on the Islamic Republic. From heroine, Malala is cast squarely into the role of an adolescent villain. You can picture her closing her earnest UN speech, exiting the stage, heading the the privacy of her room and emitting a loud *muhahahah*, Dr. Evil style. And well she should, because it seems that she is well on her way to destroying the fabric of Pakistani culture and society (and values) in some strange and incomprehensible way that makes perfect sense to these idiots.

As I struggle with a desire to delete and ban people from my facebook depending on how ardently they choose to debate the issue, I wonder how in their furious debate about Malala-the-symbol, people have completely forgotten about Malala-the-person? The 16 year old girl who stared at death in the face and - for a cause she believed in - embraced a lifetime of publicity and - possibly - danger. Yes she was offered (and possibly accepted) British nationality, but one heinous attack should convince even the most ardent critic that somebody out there does want her dead. And until that somebody is removed from the equation, it really is probably not safe for her to return. In the meantime she has been given opportunities and she has been using each one of them to talk to everyone she can about her cause.

Who knows, this girl may be a CIA agent. Or she may be one of those unusual Pakistanis who are born with a spine, and the conviction to follow through on her beliefs. Or she may just be a 16 year old girl who has seen a lot of loss and has managed to put the best face on her pain and move forward as best she can. If you can't be proud of her, if you can't appreciate what she has done, the LEAST you can do as a Pakistani is take inspiration and support her cause. And maybe - just  maybe - give her the benefit of the doubt? 


Aneela Z said...

just for this post, aap ke sau gunah maaf. Seriously.

Furree Katt said...

Ah, this is a wonderful blog post and possibly the best piece I have read on the subject of Malala. After being swarmed from all directions with these 3 views about her, I have chosen - on most social media platforms - to remain silent on this subject. Now I think I should share your blog post since it speaks my mind so accurately.

Xeb said...

Aneela: You mean you will now allow me to scribble away oh the walls of historical monuments? :P

FK: Go for it :)

Aneela Z said...

Beshak. Be dhadak. Paas me hi Mehrauli ki kuch qabre hain. Bismillah karo