On Thursday night Malala Yousoufzai appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the theatrical trailer for a new documentary, ‘He Named Her Malala’ was released. As always her appearance on the show led to universal support and acclaim. As always it also attracted massive amounts of vitriol from people in Pakistan.
I have been subjected to copious amounts of hate messages personally for posting messages supporting Malala on my page. I made an earnest effort to engage with all the Malala haters but none of their arguments held any weight. I have compiled the eight most popular arguments made by people who dislike Malala Yousoufzai and I wish to address why none of them hold much logic.
1. Why just Malala?
By far the most popular sentiment against supporting Malala is based on the opinion that she gets an undeserved amount of attention from the west. “Hundreds of children die every day in Pakistan, why do they not appear on television shows?” cry out the masses.
Malala is much more than simply the girl called Malala Yousafzai. She has become a global symbol for all those children, and many more around the world. Thousands of people died during the partition of Pakistan, why are all their names not plastered over our currency? It is because Quaid-e-Azam symbolizes all their sacrifices. When a person becomes a symbol for a cause, the symbol is always greater than the life of the person itself. A lot of people suffered a lot more than Martin Lurther King during the Black civil rights movement in America but MLK has become a symbol for non-violent protest around the world. What Martin Lurther King did, or did not do, during his lifetime becomes irrelevant. For the world Martin Lurther King is a symbol, and every time his image is reproduced it represents non-violence, not the life of the man.
Malala is now a global symbol for children’s education, not just children in Pakistan. We should be proud that she is a Pakistani. The ‘I am Malala’ campaign does not refer to Malala the person but it includes every single girl fighting for their right to education around the world. The hundreds of children in Pakistan may not be able to logistically appear on television shows but Malala speaks for and represents every single one of them.
2. Why Malala?
The naysayers and conspiracy theories then question why Malala Yousafzai was specifically chosen to be the symbol. If Malala Yousafzai was not a Pakistani, I am convinced most of Pakistan would have adored her just like the rest of the world.
Malala was thrown into the global limelight after the shooting but she was already a well-known activist and advocate for the right to education by then. In fact, she was specifically targeted because she was speaking out against the Taliban. Two other girls were also sadly injured during the attack, which is a travesty but the Taliban were not targeting those girls. Malala has been blogging against the Taliban since she was 11. By 2009, she had also started appearing publicly to fight for the right of girls to go to school. Long before the Noble Peace Prize, she was the proud recipient of the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan on December 19, 2011.
Hundreds of children have sadly suffered in our war against the Taliban but few of them made a conscious effort to take a stand against the Taliban, Malala did. She was fearless against all the threats on her life.
3. The assassination attempt is a hoax.
The official account of her getting shot by the Taliban is accepted by the state of Pakistan, the military establishment and all credible news agencies around the world. It is also worth noting that after getting shot Malala Yousafzai was shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar and the ISPR released a statement about her medical tests at CMH. If you believe every single institution in Pakistan, and around the world, is lying and is part of a global conspiracy then there is little I can say to convince you otherwise
If the doctors who operated on her have testified about the bullet wound and other surgeons around the world have not questioned their narrative, what expertise do people on Facebook possess that they can decide for themselves she was not shot based on simply looking at her face?
After the APS tragedy, every single person who claimed the Taliban would never shoot a child should have a serious look at themselves in the mirror.
4. The shooting incident is highlighted because it paints Pakistan in a negative light.
It was hoped that after the worst tragedy this nation has suffered in its history on 16th December last year that the narrative of the nation would change. Unfortunately, we might have changed how we phrase the problem but our core sentiments about it remain the same. We have problems that we continue not to acknowledge. It is always problematic to hypothesize but it is possible that had the nation heeded Malala’s warnings early on and changed our policies against the terrorists, the military operations against them would have begun much earlier and they would not have had the capacity to carry out many massacres that we have suffered from since.
The world has been reporting against the Taliban regardless of Malala. She is actually one of the only positive things about Pakistan for most westerners. She is the counter-narrative against the idea that everybody in Pakistan is a terrorist. She is the softer image of Pakistan for the world that we have been struggling to achieve. She is a god-send for the country.
Nobody has highlighted the Taliban issue more on the global stage than the state of Pakistan and the military establishment of Pakistan. Our wars against terrorism are the reason we are being funded and receiving massive amounts of military aid from the world. There is now no difference between the public position of our army and the position Malala took years ago against the terrorists.
5. Why are the APS shahuda not equally highlighted by the world?
The brave Shaheed of the APS tragedy did not go to school that fateful morning as an act of defiance against terrorism. The absolute travesty that followed is a failure of us as a nation, the little angels suffered due to no fault of their own. It is extremely unfair to compare them to Malala Yousafzai; her heart was equally broken that morning as the entire nation wept.
All the people who think the Malala incident misrepresents Pakistan by suggesting all school going girls get shot in Pakistan should logically also be against the world highlighting the APS incident since it misrepresents Pakistan by suggesting all children who go to school in Pakistan get shot. The reality is that both these incidents do not completely represent Pakistan but both of them are grim realities that our nation may not want to accept but are forced to combat.
No single story can possibly represent a diverse country of over 200 million. Malala is as much a daughter of the nation as any child that we have lost in our fight against terrorism in the country. If there are more stories that you feel the world should know, what is stopping you from highlighting them for the world to see? Rather than criticizing the world for what they are doing, why not do something yourself? You cannot berate anyone else for their choice of subject for their movies and documentaries. However, if you do disagree with them, you can go out and make your own movies and documentaries.
6. Malala is a CIA agent.
Most people do not have issues with what she says but rather question her motivations and her she truly is. It is impossible for me to falsify all the conspiracy theories.
It is true that the CIA has done covert operations throughout the history of Pakistan but there has never been any evidence linking the CIA to MI6 to Malala Yousafzai. However, what possible influence or power can any intelligence agency exert on the Pakistan state from a teenage girl?
Malala Yousafzai and her entire family have suffered tremendously. It is no privilege to be forced into a defacto exile after living for years under a constant threat for your life. She is not living a life of luxury instead she is using the resources available to her to head a global initiative to promote education around the world.
7. Why does she not come back to Pakistan?
The sad reality is that most people who say this would take the opportunity to move abroad in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the decision for Malala is not that straight forward. Pakistan is currently embroiled in a war against terrorism. There are terrorist outfits who still continue to threaten Malala’s life. She continues to speak about her longing to return and her love for Swat but no one can objectively think it is safe for Malala to return. There are mass protests against her in the country; it would take one crazy person to do something rash for her to lose her life. There has already been a failed assassination attempt on her life; she may not be that lucky the next time.
She is a teenage girl. Our love for our country should not force a young girl to die just to prove that she loves this country as much as all of us.
8. What has she done for Pakistan?
We are very territorial, even about philanthropy. We are not particularly moved to see Malala build schools in Nigeria or help Syrian refugees. All we are concerned about is her work in Pakistan. She does not need to be in Pakistan to continue to inspire thousands in the country. Even if we disregard all the positive work done by people inspired by Malala, the Malala fund has used a 45,000 thousand dollar grant to build schools in Pakistan. All her work for girls’ education in Pakistan is not highlighted either due to security or political reasons.
If you do not listen to the maliciously motivated speakers against her, and actually read what she says or listen to her interviews, you will realize that she always talks about Pakistan in glowing terms and attempts to give a positive image of Pakistan for the world to see.
If we continue to disregard all of this, and believe in conspiracy theories, If you are secretly convinced that she is being groomed to come back to Pakistan twenty years later to destroy all of us, If you believe that she will marry Bilawal Bhutto and become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, then there is little I can say to convince you otherwise.
However, if you do have a rational reason to hate her, I would strongly recommend at least attempting to read and research the other side to see whether the argument against hating her holds any weight. If all reason and logic tells you otherwise but you continue to hate her simply because she is Malala, please show some compassion and give this young girl a chance.
Even if you do not believe her, believe in the message she is promoting and promote her as a symbol for that message. Every time you insult her, you insult our country and you demean the cause she is fighting for. Do not hate her because she seems too good to be true. I am a hopeless optimist, much like Malala Yousafzai, and I do believe in Malala. I hope after reading this, you will too.