Abu Bakr Agha
When I heard Malala Yousafzai was going to be a guest on The Daily Show I was nervous. I love The Daily Show, I’m a fan of Jon Stewart and I think he’s a genius, but I was afraid to watch this episode. I was afraid because I knew if Malala was going to be brilliant, I would be left frustrated out of my mind once again because of the on-going vilification campaign against her on Pakistani public forums.
That’s exactly what happened.
I watched this sixteen year-old, so eloquent, so mature, so calm and confident. I saw her laugh and it was beautiful, but even more so because of the slight bend in her smile caused by the damage to her skull from the bullet fired by the Talib. That simple gesture of laughter spoke a thousand words; escaping death, living again, such purity and bravery. But that’s not what makes Malala Yousafzai special. What makes her special is the way she speaks about her potential killers. On The Daily Show she spoke of the horrific things the Taliban were doing in Swat Valley: She spoke about how she heard they wanted to attack her and how she thought about it to herself and was coming up with ways to defend herself. She said she thought about hitting the Talib with a shoe if he came for her, but then she changed her mind. “What would be the difference between me and the Talib if I had done that?” she said to Jon Stewart, leaving him, the studio audience and me watching from home absolutely speechless.
Malala Yousafzai wants to educate the monsters that tried to kill her and have threatened her again. In her address at the United Nations a few months ago she said she wanted education for all; for girls and boys, even for the Talib that shot her.
Since the war on terror has commenced, terrorism has increased in the world-over exponentially. The very project that was initiated to counter terrorism has resulted in nothing but more violence. In my opinion a major reason for this counterproductively is the failure for policy makers to tackle the root causes of terror. Washington has always remained the land of the ‘quick fix’, and it is always easier and more stress-relieving to drop bombs than to study the psychology and motivation for terrorism.
For Malala Yousafzai violence was not the answer. The United States and NATO are no different from the terrorist organizations in the sense that they seldom thought twice about the use of force in situations where it could have been avoided. Civilians have died because of the use of might by both sides. Diplomacy and negotiation was never an option. It’s just like Malala said about hitting the Talib with the shoe. It turns into an endless cycle.
Of course direct comparisons can’t be made but the Taliban, The United States and the world can learn a valuable lesson from a 16-year old. Maybe retaliation isn’t always the answer. Maybe religion and self-proclaimed political ideals are not the reasons for the conflicts in the world; instead the conflicts arise because of a lack of education, a revengeful mentality, unfair foreign policies and the power politics. Instead of responding force with force, maybe there is another way. At least Malala gave peace a chance.
It’s not uncommon to hear that Pakistan is a country without genuine role-models. I’ve often been told that the public has no one to look up to. I disagree with this. I think that we rather have some great heroes. The problem is that we choose to demonize them. Any social media post about Malala Yousafzai I read anywhere is met with an abundance of love and praises except on those originating from Pakistan. This teenager is adored all around the world except for the very country she hails from.
I find it rather tragic. But I also think the trends are changing. As time went on I saw public opinion regarding Salman Taseer change from extremely negative to bearable, and the opposite for once much-loved Dr. Aamir Liaqat. There are other examples but the point is that the people need a little time for everything to sink in. Pakistan as a nation has been let down time and time again and many of our heroes seem to have disappointed the people. The public is let-down hence pessimistic. It has seen continuous deception, cover-ups and has heard blatant lies by its own government. Perhaps people feel that Malala situation is too good to be true.
Whatever the case, still in no way is abusing a 16-year old girl who was nearly killed and is campaigning for female empowerment acceptable. Malala Yousafzai makes me proud to be Pakistani but her ‘haters’ make me feel embarrassed to be Pakistani. Pakistanis do not need to search for heroes. They’re all right in front of our eyes, if only we could just give them a chance.