Controversy’s favourite child

June 20, 2021

The confidence and maturity that Malala exudes on global platforms and while conversing with world leaders does not go down too well with her fellow Pakistanis, who claim that she is an impostor or a complete fraud

Malala Yousafzai has rocked the boat once again with her casual comment about the institution of marriage. Her comments about cohabitation or a civil partnership being a feasible option has spurred the trolls into action. A large number of Pakistanis, who are always looking for reasons to hate her, feel she is pandering to the West, which a lot of people feel is grooming her to lead this country. Some say she is a Western stooge and the attack on her was engineered by the CIA for their own vested interests. The vitriol against her continues and the trolls on Twitter have something new to munch on now.

People in Pakistan have a love-hate relationship with Malala, for lack of a better word. Many are jealous of the recognition she has achieved at such a young age, and believe that the shooting incident was a conspiracy hatched by the Americans in collusion with Malala’s father to catapult her to fame. She has her admirers also, who appreciate and acknowledge the trials and tribulations that she has endured. Love her or hate her, you can’t ignore her or deny the impact that she has had on the world.

Malala was only fifteen when the shooting incident took place. Thereafter, her life took a turn and she became a celebrity almost overnight. Subsequently, she underwent many surgeries in the United Kingdom, attended school in Birmingham and completed her undergraduate degree from Oxford. She has so many achievements at such a young age, after having survived a near-fatal shooting. The confidence and maturity that she exudes on global platforms and while conversing with world leaders does not go down too well with her fellow Pakistanis, who claim that she is an impostor and a complete fraud.

A lot of questions have been raised about the lack of concrete measures taken for girls’ education in her native Swat, which she has always been very vocal about. Many believe that she has been cashing in on her popularity and propagating a pro-West narrative. She has met with world leaders, discussed matters of mutual concern with leading politicians, published a book, is the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has been widely admired for her courage and fortitude.

When Malala was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, many Pakistanis felt that it was undeserved. Many hatched conspiracy theories in an effort to malign her reputation and lead a smear campaign against her. The pro-Taliban narrative is strongly woven into the fabric of this society. Malala, by standing up to the Taliban, incurred the wrath and angst of those in this country who see her as a Western stooge. Her recent comments about the institution of marriage have fuelled this sentiment.

Many Muslim men are dead-set against her and hold that her story was a Western conspiracy. While Malala’s popularity has soared in the West, she is still viewed with a jaundiced eye here, as the girl who was strong enough to challenge the authority of the Taliban and take them. Her popularity has not gone down too well with many fellow Muslims who say she is more Western than Eastern.

Of course, the Mullah brigade jumps into action when something like this happens, as it goes against their values and principles. According to some her casual comments about marriage can undermine the sanctity of the institution. Another young lady expressing her views on marriage or thinking out loud might not have caused such umbrage, but Malala is a global figure whom many young girls consider their role model.

As far as her recent statement is concerned, it is a classic case of zoning in on anything that will make somebody vulnerable. All the positive messages in the interview have been ignored. Maybe it was just a case of thinking out loud, rather than anything else. Reading too much into it or taking it out of perspective only serves to malign her reputation. Her father has since said that her comment was twisted and distorted by the media to paint her in a negative light.

My two cents’ worth for those reading this article is that there are more important issues in the world. What Malala says or doesn’t say does not really make such a difference in the larger scheme of things. There are more pressing issues in Pakistan alone, like corruption, honour killings, acid attacks and domestic violence, to name a few. The fact that a young girl was shot in the face for strongly advocating for girls’ education already paints Pakistan as an extremely regressive society.

The writer is an educationist and can be reached at [email protected]

Controversy’s favourite child