Malala Haters Need To Take A Long Hard Look In The Mirror
I am always proud of Malala when I see her face on posters outside western book shops. I look at her quietly and feel pride that there is our Pakistani girl up there with the likes of Maya Angelou and other powerful women leaders of the world. I was impressed to see a Cameroonian film on Netflix inspired by her. Most recently, she was featured by a fashion magazine, where she hit home the point that her decision to cover her head was part of her cultural and ethnic identity. Of course, the naysaying brigade in Pakistan latched onto anything they could spin in their own hateful image.
This is the lot that defends the likes of Amir Liaquat Hussain even when a video surfaced a few years ago of his using foul language on the set of Aalim Online. Nothing could faze their belief in him, and they made up one excuse after another to exonerate him. Today, he continues his religious programs with Aamir Online despite his makruh (detestable) theatrics with the latest vulgar dance. The same mindless defense of Aamir Liaquat has its counterpart with the mindless criticism of Malala. Even as she raised concerns on drone attacks with President Obama, offered aid to Gaza, spoke out for the Rohingya Muslims along with her usual work on the education of girls across the globe, they pinpointed one issue after another. For both the left and the right, she is a western puppet without an agency of her own.
For the most recent interview with the fashion magazine, they sidelined her remarks on her covering the head as part of her identity and other aspects of her life. Instead, they chose to focus on her musing on marriage. She expressed:
I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership? she said.
Of course, the laan taan (curses) were hurled on social media without restraint. Now, these are the musings of a young person who is thinking out loud for a fashion magazine. The hateful people execrating her need to take a hard deep look within to question whether they seek moral guidance from a British fashion magazine. Alternatively, are they so insecure that they are shaken by any young person who questions the existence of God, the institution of arranged marriage or other cultural and religious norms?
Instead of having an unhealthy obsession with Malala, who is thinking out loud on marriage as any young person, they need to really focus on their shame and guilt as they grapple with their sexual frustration.
Young people should be free to question marriage and cultural norms otherwise we end up creating a nation of hypocrites who have secret sex even as they dutifully go through the motions of the 5 daily prayers. We already have! Additionally, we need to nurture a culture of critical thinking without taboos, for we are already witnessing the repercussions of repressed thoughts in Pakistan. This is a place where university students mob lynch their peer Mashal Khan, where a young bright scholar, Junaid Hafeez, languishes in solitary confinement, and where unthinking mobs wreak havoc in the lives of minorities. No amount of feel-good Coke Studio videos on minorities can diminish the pain and suffering of such people.
Coming back to Malala’s comment, it is true that the family system has been thoroughly weakened in western countries. As Ghamidi would say the values of an Islamic nation rest on ubudiyat (belief in God), hisab (accountability), and hifz furuj (chastity), and emphasizes the significance of the family system for the well-being of children. This is something that cannot be taken lightly, even if historically Muslim social values depended on the marriages of minors and men keeping unlimited concubines. Yet, within the Pakistani middle-class consciousness, the sacredness of Ammi and Abbu has no substitute and cannot be easily translated to other languages. Therefore, the challenge before the Pakistani people is to uphold the sanctity of that institution. This happens not by obsessing with what Malala or someone else says but by taking a deep hard look within to question why I am being so hateful, what I can do to perfect my morals, and what positive work I can contribute to helping humanity instead of engaging in idle gossip and hate speech.