Dhul Hijjah 21, 1435 | October 16, 2014
By Khalid Baig
“The US corporate media loves talking about the remarkable bravery and strength of Malala and the brutality of the Taliban forces that almost killed her. Such coverage fuels its racist, orientalist, neocolonialist narrative about “backward,” violent, misogynist Muslims and their need for “white saviors,” thereby legitimizing Western imperialist interests in South and West Asia. (Ben Norton in Dissident Voice)
The news of the award of a Nobel Prize for Peace to a Pakistani girl was accompanied by a condemnation of the Pakistani society in the mainstream media. Its crime: Its people were not dancing in the streets to celebrate the honor given. They even had the temerity to question the motives of the award givers and the actions of the recipient. They refused to take the attacks of the young recipient on Islam in stride. If it was trying to give a message to Pakistan, the Nobel committee must have felt that it was doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful. Poor, fanatic Pakistanis who cannot appreciate a good thing. “By winning the Nobel prize, Malala joins Pakistan’s loneliest club,” announced the Washington Post in a bold headline.
The distance between the make-believe world of the media and the reality can be seen in that headline itself. Did she win, as the headline says, or was she awarded? You win, say, a marathon race, by being the first to reach the destination. It reflects effort and achievement. You do not get it because of the largess of the judges. They do not declare you a winner to promote the diet and exercise routine that you had followed. A Nobel prize, on the other hand, is an award— a political decision made by the judges aimed at achieving a political goal. Even the award announcement makes it so clear. It says: “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.” This is loaded political language.
Obviously if one does not agree with your political goals, one will not support the decisions made to advance those goals. There will be no reason to celebrate the award, in contrast to the win in the race. The media showed a singular inability to understand the distinction by blaming the Pakistanis for not celebrating the “win.”
Education is a wonderful thing. But what exactly do you want to teach? In case of Malala the agenda is very clear. In the writings that have been published in her name, she looks down on the education in the core values of one’s faith. She does not like Islamic studies. She is concerned about the increase in the number of madrasahs. She condemns female students who were the victims of barbaric military atrocities including dropping of phosphorous bombs on their own school. So much for being a champion of universal education!
Beyond education she also has statements to make on important issues of the day in Pakistan, like Blasphemy laws, Islamization of penal code, Hudood ordinance, even Muslim protests against the intensely provocative insults of Salman Rushdie. And on all these issue she parrots the lines taught by her imperial mentors. It is obvious that all her utterances are scripted. Further, her script writers and those who have awarded her for reading from the script are certainly working in harmony.And then the pundits wonder with perfect disingenuity why the people are not rejoicing over her “win.”
But there was some consolation for the media. For some people did fall for the trap both in Pakistan and in the diaspora.
If you are suffering from a very low self esteem (itself a gift of the media) you would be excused for grabbing on to anything to raise it up, including a tainted award. They exhibited the signs of an inferiority complex: Denial, day dreaming and wishful thinking. Denial that a young girl is being used (Even when many of them agreed that her book is a case of that. No one defends her book and people in Pakistan are not rushing to the bookstores to get a copy.); daydreaming that the powers that be are choosing to honor a Muslim girl because of her goodness; and wishful thinking that some good can come out of the plans which are anything but good.
Their infatuation with the Nobel prize —itself a mark of colonization of the minds—led them to accept the Malala-for-education-versus-Taliban-against-education narrative. Little did they realize that this is a false dichotomy created by the propaganda machine. She is no champion of education and those questioning her status as a heroine are not against education. She did not build schools or help anyone get an education. She did not come up with any program for spreading education. She only allowed herself to be used by faithfully uttering the propaganda lines that she had been assigned. In a way she had been abducted. Her Nobel Prize award was a certificate that her abduction was complete.
After reading her book and her pronouncements the most charitable thing that can be said is that she is young and innocent and is unfortunately being used by powers with an agenda. This admission will lead us to pray for her liberation from the trap she has fallen into.
Let us mourn the abduction of a daughter of this ummah. And let us also mourn the celebration in some quarters of this abduction.