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Vital Voices | Feb 4
Malala Yousafzai speaks for the first time since was targeted and shot in October 2012 for her advocacy on behalf of girls' education. Malala annou...
Earlier this month in Pakistan, a teenage activist for girls rights to education, Malala Yousufzai, was shot in the head by the Taliban. Educating girls goes against the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islam. The attack on Malala was meant to scare people away from supporting her cause. Pakistani social media erupted in several narratives challenging Malala, her activism, even her condition. Our contributor from Islamabad, Wajahat Khan, has the details.
In a country divided between pro-militancy conservatives and the secular and liberal opponents, the narrative in social media was essentially the same: pro-women, pro-children and pro-education for all. But only momentarily.
When it came, the anti-Malala narrative covered all the expected quarters. As this popular blog aggregates, memes of the assassination attempt being an American conspiracy were widely shared. Actual photos of Malala with the deceased American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, citing her as an American agent were also circulated.
The photograph was actually from a round table that featured several education experts conferring with Holbrooke, but that detail didn't matter to the Malala haters. Entire write-ups were generated claiming that the Americans and the Pakistani allies, the government and the military, tried to kill Malala so that they could finally begin the long awaited final offensive in North Waziristan, The tribal badlands, where reportedly Al Qaeda and the notorious Haqqani network are based.
So passionate was the anti-Malala criticism that even totally unverifiable statements like this one: which stated that the Taliban had denied attacking Malala, which by the way never happened as the Taliban actually issued a number of statements owning up to the attack, was circulated widely. But the bulk of the Malala hate stemmed from the anti-drone narrative, blaming Pakistan's liberal media for promoting points of view like this. As well as the comparison drawn to Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted by an American court.
The thesis here was that while Siddiqui languishes in an American jail, because of her so- called Islamic leanings. Malala, who often stated that her ideal was President Barack Obama, becomes the darling of the world.
Of course, it didn't make sense to the Malala bashers that she was struggling for her life even as this narrative was unleashed against her and her family. In fact, so intense, divisive and bitter is the gap between Pakistan's liberals and conservatives that Malala's story got lost in her own country even as the rest of the world rallied for the Islamic Republic's 14-year old hero.
For LinkAsia from Islamabad, this is Wajahat Khan.