Busting All Conspiracy Theories About Malala Yousafzai
A courageous daughter, education activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has been declared “the most famous teenager in the world of the decade” by the United Nations (UN). This is such good news for Pakistan but how I can forget that most of us do not even own her let alone her achievements and everything she has done for Pakistan and many other girls living in war-affected and vulnerable regions of the world.
A few months, I posted a status on my Facebook profile praising Malala which offended the fragile beliefs and perceptions of some of my friends. Like many others, a good friend of mine raised some reservations regarding Malala and her claims in the book “I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” I decided to write an article on this because other than the conservatives, even some of the so-called liberals, seculars, and leftists have an undesirable image of Malala.
Through this piece of writing I want to pay a tribute to Malala on behalf of everyone who owns and honors her struggle and activism. Recently, I read the book “I am Malala” to pen down the answers to the frequent questions that I have heard since the book came out. In this piece, I have also attached the excerpts from the mentioned book to support my answers. I hope this detailed article will remove the misconceptions that were created through a very well-organized negative propaganda against Malala.
- Q. Malala criticized Pakistan & Islam. Malala claimed it would have been better for Pakistan to be a part of India.
- A. Malala has discussed the partition of India in her book but I have not found anything against the creation of Pakistan or ideology of Pakistan. There is no claim saying “it would have been better for Pakistan to be a part of India” in the book. Although, Malala has criticized various events that took place in Pakistan, such as the dictatorship in Zia’s era, extremism, violence against women, gender discrimination and Talibanization in Pakistan.
EXCERPT: “I am proud that our country was created as the world’s first Muslim homeland, but we still do not agree on what this means. The Quran teaches us patience but often it feels that we have forgotten the word and think Islam means women sitting at home in purdah or wearing burqas while men do jihad.”
In her entire book, Malala has nowhere criticized actual Islamic teachings but has criticized the radical interpretation of Islam by various terrorist-outfits and extremists. After thoroughly reading the book, it would not be wrong to conclude that Malala is a practicing Muslim and has a firm belief in true Islamic teachings.
EXCERPT: “At night I used to pray a lot. The Taliban think we are not Muslims but we are. We believe in God more than they do and we trust him to protect us. I used to say the Ayat al-Kursi, the Verse of the Throne from the second surah of the Quran, the Chapter of the Cow. This is a very special verse and we believe that if you say it three times at night your home will be safe from shayatin or devils. When you say it five times your street will be safe, and seven times will protect the whole area. So, I’d say it seven times or even more. Then I’d pray to God, ‘Bless us. First our father and family, then our street, then our whole mohalla, then all Swat.’ Then I’d say, ‘No, all Muslims.’ Then, ‘No, not just Muslims; bless all human beings.”
- Malala in her book defended “Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie by equating it with freedom of expression of Salman to write blasphemous content.
- While discussing the adulthood of her father, Malala shared a memory of her father in the book. So, that means Malala herself is not giving an opinion about the book but her father’s opinion that too in his college life. Even her father termed the book offensive to Islam and believed that Islam is not such a weak religion, he also suggested responding to Rushdie with a book instead of futile protests.
EXCERPT: “My father’s college held a heated debate in a packed room. Many students argued that the book (Satanic Verses) should be banned and burned and the fatwa upheld. My father also saw the book as offensive to Islam but believes strongly in freedom of speech. ‘First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,’ he suggested. He ended by asking in a thundering voice my grandfather would have been proud of, Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!”
- Malala in her book used the word GOD for ALLAH and did not write Muhammad and PBUH with Prophet.
- Yes, on many occasions, Malala has used the word GOD for ALLAH. But how does that make a difference? For Muslims GOD and ALLAH are synonyms, even in Quran and Hadith “KHUDA” is used for ALLAH on various occasions. Also, Malala has used the word of ALLAH for some events in her book.
Although, during her first interview for Express News after the attack, Malala apologized for not adding the phrase ‘Peace Be Upon Him’ when referring to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in her book ‘I am Malala’. “It was the publisher’s mistake, which will be removed in the coming edition,” she assured. Although, I personally believe that respect for any person lies in the heart not in words.
EXCERPT: “The time of year I prayed most was during exams. It was the one time when my friends and I did all five prayers a day like my mother was always trying to get me to do. I found it particularly hard in the afternoon, when I didn’t want to be dragged away from the TV. At exam time I prayed to Allah for high marks though our teachers used to warn us, God won’t give you marks if you don’t work hard. God showers us with his blessings but he is honest as well.”
- Q. Malala claimed that Pakistan lost all three wars against India
- Yes, it’s on record that Pakistan lost the war of 1971, though the war of 1965 was inconclusive. According to International watchdogs, none won the war since there was a great loss on both sides of the border. Then, after the intervention from the then Soviet Union, the Tashkent peace declaration was signed on January 10, 1966, to end the war. In 1999, the Pakistani military initiated the war without taking the then civilian government of PML(N) into confidence. Although, the forces apparently succeeded in capturing a large chunk of Indian occupied Kashmir but were called back due to constant pressure from the U.S. and crippling civil-military relations. As far as Malala’s claim is concerned, she meant to say that after reading Zia’s version of a history book, one might think that Pakistan won all three wars against India that is factually not true at all.
EXCERPT: “Our history textbooks were rewritten to describe Pakistan as a ‘fortress of Islam’, which made it seem as if we had existed far longer than since 1947, and denounced Hindus and Jews. Anyone reading them might think we won the three wars we have fought and lost against our great enemy India.”
- Q. Malala claimed that she used to wear colored clothes instead of a uniform to deceive the Taliban while going to school but her father claimed that he used to teach children on the 1st floor of his own home.
- A. First of all, this argument is self-contradictory. How come Malala could deceive the Taliban by wearing colored clothes because by doing so she would have been more prominent in front of the Taliban than other girls as every other girl used to wear a uniform. So, this claim is not true at all and even Malala has not claimed this in her book.
Secondly, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala used to teach in a number of schools including the one in his own home but after Talibanization in Swat, many of the schools were burned down. As far as Malala’s school is concerned, the school in which she studied was outside her home.
EXCERPT: “The school was not far from my home and I used to walk, but since the start of last year I had been going with other girls in a rickshaw and coming home by bus. It was a journey of just five minutes along the stinky stream.”
- Malala identifies herself as Swati, then a Pashtun and then a Pakistani. Also, she did not mention Islam in her identity.
- Malala herself has claimed that she is a proud daughter of Pakistan in the book. So, it does not matter how she introduces herself. She, like many Swatis and even Punjabis, prioritized her native area and culture in order of identification and there is no harm in it. The way one identifies oneself has nothing to do with patriotism. Many people in Pakistan believe that being a super-patriotic means to overshadow every identity and only be Pakistani. This is hyper-nationalism and it’s a disease that is running in the veins of many Pakistanis and Indians.
In previously mentioned excerpts, it is very clear to analyze the strong relationship of Malala with Islam, and she really does not need to mention Islam every time while introducing herself. In fact, no one needs to do so, faith and religion are just a personal matter. Have you ever mentioned your religion while giving intro in a class, presentation or in an interview? The way one identifies oneself does not reflect his/her relationship with the country or religion. So, please stop judging people on their way of introducing themselves.
EXCERPT: “So, I was born a proud daughter of Pakistan, though like all Swatis I thought of myself first as Swati and then Pashtun, before Pakistani.”
Once addressing her critics and people who call her a Western agent, Malala in an interview said “I don’t understand why they oppose me. I love Pakistan and I want a better future for this country. My focus is only working for the good, I do not even look at these comments.”
In the end, I would suggest everyone to read the book “I am Malala” and a blog “Another conspiracy theory, another anti-Malala day” by Nayyar Afaq to understand the other arguments I ignored to pen here. I guarantee you, the more you read about her, the more you will admire her.
The writer is a student of Masters in Development Journalism at University of the Punjab and can be reached on Twitter @jazibrehmankhan.