Malala Yousafzai: A Twenty-First Century Heroine…

Posted: October 19, 2012 in (All Things) CULTURE, (Politics) CURRENT AFFAIRS
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“…one of the few brave voices who spoke out. She did it anonymously – to do otherwise would have brought immediate death. But her blog detailing the abuses meant no one could pretend an accommodation with the terrorists was anything other than a deal with the devil.”  –  Rob Crilly,  Pakistan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph.

If we’re looking for a genuine heroic figure, a genuine cultural icon, in an age where such terms are bandied about without much substance, then 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai is it.

The Pakistani teenager, shot in the head and neck a week ago by the Taliban for the heinous crime of speaking out in favour of education for girls, has come to much wider international attention due to the horrific nature of the attack on her, coupled with the simplicity and innocence of her cause.

Malala, who in 2009 wrote a blog for the BBC Urdu Service, has for some time been campaigning for girls to be allowed to go to school; something banned by the Taliban during their control of Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

Forward-thinking people or outspoken individuals being shot or otherwise silenced is no new thing in Pakistan; a country with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, a country with huge swathes of communities with either no education or an ‘education’ exclusively limited to religious schools or ‘madrasas’, many of which are sponsored by extremist religious organisations. It is a country that actually has an active ‘blasphemy law’ that is taken very seriously and can carry the death penalty. Last year Salman Tanseer, the Governor of Punjab Province, was shot and killed for even suggesting that this law should be re-assessed. So it’s no surprise that in a society stalled in this medieval mindset a 14 year-old girl could be brutally targeted for her views.

But living in this sort of society, knowing the dangers and the consequences, and still continuing to speak out constitutes an extraordinary level of courage and dedication on the part of Malala Yousafzai, who deserves very much to be celebrated as an individual and her cause taken up by those who are able to make things happen. What’s extraordinary is that she is a young girl from a rural background who is able to express herself with such eloquence and willing to speak out so lucidly against Taliban injustice in a country where even leading politicians and commentators hesitate to make statements against the sharia or even against Taliban militants.

One wonders how tenable it is, and for how much longer, that a society should be held to ransom by its least intelligent and the most backward citizens.

What’s interesting is that, although we would expect a high degree of support for Malala in the West, where there would be natural sympathy for her position, there has also been a significant degree of public support for her in Pakistan in the passed week, with numerous vigils in her honour and protests denouncing the Taliban. So, in the propaganda department, the Taliban’s actions have backfired on them. Most people in Pakistan are customarily too busy protesting against the US to have any interest in action against ‘fellow Muslims’. It would be nice to imagine that what Ms Yousafzai has been put through might represent some kind of turning point in the collective mood in Pakistan, and some kind of step-too-far threshold having been crossed by the extremists.


The likelihood is it will probably take more than this to alter the prevailing mindset in Pakistan, especially in rural areas; but it might be a step. The overthrow of the former Tunisian government all started with one person in the form of Mohamed Bouazizi, after all, and look what it led to across the Middle East. If there’s any good to be extracted from this horrific attack, it might be – even if this is overly optimistic – that Malala Yousafzai’s efforts and example, as well as that of her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, might inspire others in this and other parts of Pakistan to find both courage and voice against the retarded mindset and oppression of the Taliban, the extremists, and anyone else who thinks that shooting someone in the face is a valid counter-argument…



The decision to keep computer hacker, Gary McKinnon in the UK and to not extradite him to the US has been met with universal approval in the UK and rightly so; though admittedly I didn’t have any faith that this decision would be reached in Mr McKinnon’s favour.

Whether this too represents a turning point in the British government’s attitude towards US extraditions is doubtful, given several high-profile extraditions last week, at least one of which can be said to have been ethically questionable, specifically that of Babar Ahmed, whose treatment continues to be a matter of considerable controversy; though you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media, which continues to gloss over those controversies for the most part. Babar Ahmed, a UK citizen, has already been held for several years without trial or charge.

Also, given that McKinnon was said to have been “looking for evidence of UFOs” when he carried out his illegal hacking, you do have to wonder what, if anything, he might’ve found…

  1. […] Malala Yousafzai: A Twenty-First Century Heroine… October 19, 2012 […]


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