In this climate of agendas, I admit to some confusion about what I am being told and it is never always absolutely clear what is the truth; and what is blatant propaganda. Over the years, and particularly since I began this blog I have been offered many loose ends and have read way too many conflicting accounts to be sure all the time. This makes the events surrounding Malala Yousafzai's shooting all the more tragic. Primarily I pray for her speedy recovery and condemn the bigotry that led to her shooting. May Allah bring peace and justice to all those caught up in the ongoing war and the acts of terror in the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt. May people be afforded the right to go about their business according to their faith and conciousness free from the threat coercion or attack. Ameen.
Part of me cannot escape noticing the ring of political and media exploitation surrounding Malala's life, or even the fact that the girls who were shot with her, Kainaat and Shazia, are all but forgotten. There is no doubt that these are remarkable individuals and I keep them all in my prayers. Out of the tragedy, I wish to see these girls strong in their resolve - to acquire the education that has been the cause of the controversy in Swat and to be part of that change that will allow them as Pashtun women to be the social equals that men and women in Bacha Khan's vision were meant to be.
This is an important parallel. Bacha Khan recognised the crucial need for education amongst the Pashtuns - for both men and women and Malala would embody that. She bravely stood up to intimidation when girls' schooling was banned in Swat and in doing so adopted a very political position. I offer this with a little caution however. To be political is one thing; to be caught up in someone else's politics is something else. Since the fall of the Taliban in Swat, Malala has been courted by the Pakistani and the world media with their varying views - all wishing to push their own messages through her.
Note this quote from BBC World TV documentary about her made two years ago. She is twelve years old at the time.
Malala: “I want to ba a doctor but my father told me you have to be a politician. But I don’t like politics.”
Father: “My daughter can be better than a doctor.”
Malala's desire for an education was genuine and highly commendable; but she was thrust into the firing line by an ambitious father and an ambitious documentary maker apparently unconcerned by her direct statement that she was being manipulated against her will.
Having been shot, Malala has now been airlifted and is receiving world class treatment in Birmingham, England. I hope that she recovers and in the long term goes on to a happy and fulfilled life as a doctor. For most children caught in the 'War on Terror', however, the story is very different. The truth is that Malala is not getting this treatment because that is what is done for children attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She is getting this treatment because she became, and remains, an exploited propaganda symbol. If people really cared about Pashtun children, Malala would not be a public figure in the way that she now is. Pashtun children would not have to 'fight' for their right to education and nor would they be filmed fighting for their lives in hospitals.
Read this view for more thoughts on this story.
Link: Swat Educational Society