Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Young Malala Yusufzai Shot: praying for her safe recovery

My Facebook feed and my Twitter wall are both filled with news report about Malala Yusufzai's attack, and, really, sometimes nothing is worse than waking up to such tragic news. According to news reports, she was shot by a group of Pakistani extremist and violent organization known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) today, Tuesday, October 9th 2012 as she left school with friends. The "reason" of her shooting was apparently that she is "a secularly-minded lady"--and the shooters intend to re-attack her if she survives this almost lethal shooting.She was hit in the head, but the bullets missed her brain, and the doctors say that she has a chance of recovery. I ask friends of peace and humanity to please pray for her safe and quick recovery because her loss, may God forbid it, will be a major loss for the whole world, not just for her race, the Pashtuns.

Malala is from Swat, a district in northern Pakistan.
Malala Yusufzai, now 14 years old, earned international fame when, at the time of the peak of the Taliban in Swat, Pakistan, in 2008-2009, she kept a diary that she shared with BBC News, using the pen name "Gul Makai." Her real name, Malala, means "grief-stricken," but in Pashtun history, several women with her namesake have made history: there is Malala of Maiwand (fought the British in the Second Anglo-Afghan war and who died in 1880), Malala Kakar (killed for her work for women's rights and safety in 2008), and Malala Joya (has survived several attacks on her life for her work, fortunately alive and still struggling for peace and equality in Afghanistan). Excerpts from young Malala's diary can be accessed here. Her father, Ziauddin Yusufzai, has been extremely supportive of her work and is in fact Malala's major inspiration and motivation behind her struggles for peace. In a documentary made about her, called "Class Dismissed in Swat Valley" produced by the New York Times," Malala Yusufzai sits by her father as she and her father discuss the terrifying circumstances of the time, the new laws being made about girls' education in Swat by the Taliban, and the even more terrifying consequences of those laws. In the documentary and in many interviews that profile the father and daughter, the father consoles his mourning daughter as she silently weeps over the situation she and many other Pashtun girls are stuck in and what this cold mean for the girls'--and hence the nation's--potentially bleak future. She has earned several awards for her work for peace.

Once the Taliban were defeated in Swat (and there are different, variant versions of how this happened), and girls could go back to schools and the beheading of innocent men and the merciless killing of innocent women and children (I don't think any females were beheaded; it seems as if only men were being beheaded on a daily basis, their heads hung to poles across the main towns and intersections/chawaks, such as Mingora) came to an end, and the people of Swat came back to their homes--many of them to destroyed homes and families--it looks as though there was some peace in the region for a while, and for the most part, I think the region is still relatively at peace. But it's challenging and scary being a Pashtun woman, no matter how old you are, who wants to bring peace into the world, who wants equality for her sisters, and who is renown for struggles in the struggle to bring peace and equality. In July of this year, for instance, we lost a Pashtun human and women's rights leader named Farida Afridi, who belonged to the FATA, all the way in southern Pakistan, may she rest in peace and may her legacy continue to live on. In many parts of the world, attacks against women who speak up and fight for gender equality and for social justice and peace overall are not uncommon; I don't think it'd be an exaggeration to point out that such attacks happen on a daily basis for many brave women, but we simply don't hear of all of them. 

Which is why I'm relieved and grateful that so many people on so many different social networks are discussing Malala's case.

As I explained in my article on Farida Afridi's murder, may she rest in peace, attacks against women champions of peace and justice are not going to end any time soon. Much of the time, the purpose behind these brutal and cowardly attacks is to send a message to other women interested in the same things: "stop it, or we will kill you." Sadly, these threats do convince many women to step back, to stay at home, to quit dreaming, to serve their "purpose" in life--which is of staying at home, cooking and cleaning, serving their families, getting married, and having children.

Malala (in orange), receiving the National Peace Award
But Malala Yusufzai is not one who is going to stop just because she is being threatened. Her father told me in an email once that they keep receiving threats from enemies of peace and justice, but they have no plans to stop. The mere fact that he and his daughter and the rest of their family chose to remain in Swat while most other people of Swat fled the region in fear of the Taliban's brutality speaks enough about their valor, although that is not to dismiss the other people of Swat as cowardly at all; it is only to show how fearless they truly are. 

I would like to suggest that we refrain from dismissing the attack on Malala solely as a "cowardly" act against a champion of peace. I am slowly learning that there is more to this act of "cowardliness" than we might realize, considering how staunch these violent attackers are about their beliefs. In Malala's case, it's not just that she is a female who is showing signs of growing up to be an "non-traditional" Pashtun woman, but it's also, as her attackers are saying, that she is secular-minded" (because she has stated at one point of another that she admires Barack Obama). Pakistan is one of the countries presently suffering from an unjust interpretation of Islam that allows pretty much just anyone to attack and even kill anyone who understands or practices Islam differently (re: Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the recent controversies over them).

So why exactly was Malalai gula shot? Why did her attackers try to kill her (God forbid!) and have warned that when she gains recovery, she will be shot again? It's more than just the "secular" values they believe she flaunts, supports, and promotes in a "religious" society that is falsely accused of being run by violent beasts like these attackers, who are seen as ordinary people, who are portrayed as the average Pakistani, average Pashtun, or average person in the society. But that's not really the case. The majority of the people of Pakistan and a majority of the Pashtuns actually are not this violent, and they do not go around killing people they disagree with. And why do they think she's promoting secular values in the first place? Well, there are more reasons than just her saying that she admires American President Obama: she became an international icon for her anti-Taliban diary entries she wrote back in 2009; she has been adamant about standing against violence against innocent people (whom people like her attackers actually don't see as "innocent"; they see them as a threat to *their* beliefs and understanding of religion and of how society should be led); she has earned several international peace awards and is thus internationally recognized; virtually everyone in the west who knows of her supports her and applauds her. All of these points make her an excellent target of attack by those who see the west as the biggest and worst enemy ever (although I personally think that they actually don't hate the west like they claim they do; after all, where are many of these violent people get their education? Where do they send their kids off to for a "good, quality" education"? For more on this, feel free to read my response to the book The Islamist: Why I Became a Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left by Ed Hussain. So these terrorists' perceived negative and harmful relationship with the West needs to be discussed more seriously and analytically because it's not as simple as "hatred for everything and all people West"). This explains why she is being attacked even as a 14-year-old, since many people, including myself, are sincerely shocked that these Taliban saw Malala as a threat and attempted to get rid of her. But it's not the age that matters - it's her efforts that are a threat. The way they see it, I believe, is this: "Oh, no - if a young girl of hardly 14 has the space and opportunity to do what she does, then that means older people would have no difficulty at all! We must rid ourselves of her." And the best excuse is always religion and God: "God doesn't want you here; our religion commands that we killed you, so in the name of God." And thus, religion is manipulated cunningly, regardless of their intentions, to kill anyone who does not uphold the values and beliefs the attackers uphold.

My prayers and good wishes are with Malala and her family. My dear Malala, Gul Makai, may God bless you with a speedy and healthy recovery, may you gain your health back, and may your family be blessed with the patience to deal with the wounds they have only temporarily been cursed with. No one can take you from us because God is on your side--you are doing nothing wrong, you have done nothing wrong, because you recognize the fact that Islam is actually not against peace, that boys and girls have a right to equal education and to peace, and you have done--and will continue to do--everything in your control to fight the religious mandated jihad for the purpose of social good for your people and hence for the larger humanity. God bless with, God be with you, and God reward you for all of your efforts. We, all of humanity and not just Pashtuns, love you and support you, and we're all praying for you, even though only a few of us have had the privilege to meet with you personally. You are going to survive this, inshaAllah, and you are going to grow up to continue doing great things for Pashtuns and the world (no pressure, though, I promise!). We're all praying for you and sending you well wishes from all over the world. God bless you infinitely, aameen! May God grant you a long, healthy, safe, and successful life, one filled with more and more of your achievements for peace and justice for humanity, and may your family continue being blessed with your presence, aameen.

To speak from the perspective of a Pashtun woman who truly admires Malalai gula and her father:  this is just humiliating. Like the attack on Farida Afridi's life recently, this attack on Malala by enemies of justice and peace make us Pashtun women want to bury our faces in the ground. They simply (although complicatedly, really) reinforce all the stereotypes about Pashtun women in the Pashtun society, although many people seem to miss the fact that her attackers aren't "ordinary" people and that a strong majority of Pashtuns actually love and respect Malala for her work. They find her brave, they support her, and they encourage her to keep on doing her work. She's the kind of girl many of us young adults wish we were and that many mothers hope their daughters will be inspired by, growing up to be like her. She is only 14 years old--she was about 11 when she first became an international icon--and if people can target a young child like her, seeing her as a threat despite her age, then it's really scary to think about the fate that older women and men who are friends of peace are likely to face in the same society with the same kind of violent attackers roaming the streets of our homeland.

As concluding remarks, I would like to remind everyone, especially Pashtun women that apparently, our society isn't ready for women like Malala or for women's activism in general. But hear me out: our society doesn't have to be ready for it for us to do it anyway. Our society will never be ready for it if we keep thinking, "For now, I'll keep myself on the low because my people just aren't ready for what I do. I'll make sure my daughters do it or my granddaughters or my great-great granddaughters." Stop lying to yourself. Stop fooling yourself. If you can't/don't do it today because of the threats that women you admire are receiving but you sincerely want t do it, then your great-great granddaughters will not be able to do it, either. They won't be able to do anything you're not able to do as long as we keep shooting women who do not conform to social and cultural norms--or, in Malala's case, also apparently "religious" norms! No great leader has ever been allowed to be a great leader with no obstacles facing her or him; being of service to your people comes with challenges, difficulty, and (death) threats, but continue being great anyway! Continue your work for peace and justice anyway! That's the only way we can push our society out of the darkness in which we find it difficult to achieve our dreams of peace, justice, and equality.

*Major applause for all women, and men, who continue to risk their own lives to bring peace and justice for their people, for the world. Thank you--for existing, for fighting, for risking your lives for us, for not conforming to expectations and standards set for you, for giving us hope for a better future and a better world for our children.*


  1. I am extremely saddened by the news and was thinking that how can someone shoot a 14 year girl because she thinks different than them. First of all we should understand that this act has nothing to do with Islam and these contractors(Tekadaaran)of Islam are using Islam's name. They even do not deserve to call human beings. These are barbaric entities, this is now the war between two mindsets and everyone of us whether man or woman should stand against this mindset. I pray for early recovery of this proud pashtun girl Malala.

    1. Thank you, Balarkhela, for your comment and for joining us in this tragedy.

      I agree with you that their acts and beliefs have nothing to do with Islam. This is one of those unfortunate moments when religion is manipulated for political purposes to get rid of people who do not fit the itty bitty box we have created for each individual to forcibly fit into.

      May she be blessed with a safe and speedy recover and may God grant her a long, healthy, and successful life full of more and more achievements for peace and justice for her people, aameen.

  2. There is nothing more these stupid people can do except killing and shooting innocent people. It broke my heart when I heard this news this morning... I hope she gets better soon InshaAllah!

    Dera de afsos khabara da che yewa 14 kalana mashoma weshtal kege because she was "pro-Western culture", Seriously? Islam aw pakhto har sa ye wosharmawalo de khalko... aw ghyrat ta kho gora kana che de yewe 14 kalane mashome skha darege. Khuday de doey tabah aw barbad ke.. ameen!

    1. Welcome to the blog, and thank you for your comment, NazDaney guley! The news tore me apart, too - though I misread and thought it was worse than what it turned out to be, and saa rapake na wo. Alhamdulillah she has a chance at recovery. May she be given back her good health soon, aameen!

  3. Btw, I love your blog! Keep it up!

    1. Thank you, NAzDaney :) That's very kind of you to say!

  4. They saw her as a major 'threat', if she has done so much already and is only 14 if she's allowed to live the 'secular-minded' lady can completely westernize the society and people?! Shameless, heartless animals.

    This broke my heart. Ameen to all your prayers. Now I am waiting for the news saying she has recovered and she's back! Everyone's praying for you, Malala. She's younger than my baby sis, this is so disturbing.

  5. I read TTP justifying her attempted murder with horror on the grounds that she was anti-Shariah. Murderers trying to find excuse for their unholy act.

  6. Malala is the candle, that gives light to people around her, so that they can read and get knowledge.
    The Mullahs are blowing hard to put down the flame
    O God, don't let the flame die.

  7. The Founder and Leader of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Mr Altaf Hussain has strongly condemned the attack on the award-winning student from Sawat Malala Yousufzai by armed terrorists. He has expressed deep sorrow on the injuring of Malala and one another girl student in the attack. He said that firing upon innocent students and injuring them was blatant terrorism, and the perpetrators behind this vile act should be swiftly brought to justice.

  8. This article alone speaks volumes for many people globally. It is excellent. Thank you for writing this. It needs to be printed mainstream because this is reality. Ameen.

  9. This article is an excellent full view explanation of many global confusions and I thank you for writing this. It needs to be mainstream so nore people understand at least one aspect of this madness. Ameen.

  10. Heart goes out to Malala jaan & inshallah she will make a full recovery.
    The Afghan people stand with her and what she represents on our side of the border and we know ourselves the barbarity of these mindless fanatics who carried out this act.

    It is great to see the public in Pakistan also rallying to her 'cause and expressing sympathy...but it doesn't go far enough. One cannot support this fanatacism in Afghanistan and yet deplore it in Pakistan. Sorry, but that's hypocrisy and until the Pakistani public realizes that, this menace will continue to spread in Pakistan.

    Time to speak up not only for Malala, but against the Pakistani Government and Army that has been formenting this for years in Afghanistan, Kashmir or Mumbai. Their two-faced crocodile tears fool no one, nor does the laughable "discussion" on right-wing Pakistani media. This cancer is spreading because the Pakistani government and army are playing a double-game and this is the natural result because these fanatic freaks cannot be controlled once they are out of the box.

    Time for the Pakistani public to turn off Zaid Hamid, stop blaming the US, India, Israel, Afghanistan, the Smurfs or Unicorns for this mess...stop making excuses...stop deflecting the issue...stop the hypocrisy...stop the reactionary mindless hyper-nationalism and lay the blame where it belongs: at the feet of Pakistans own government and army & demand a change...or keep up the delusions while Pakistan continues to burn & there are many more Malala's.

    I look forward to when I can see this in Pakistan:



    Your Afghan Brother.


Dare to opine :)

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