The past few days have been disturbing. News channels are filled with the news of 14-year old girl Malala’s shooting by Pakistan Taliban. Her crime: she took the stand for her and the girls’ fundamental right: education. Her picture remains in my eyes and mind, making me realize how lucky I am that I had education and didn’t had to fight for this right.
But the harsh reality is that in a highly patriarchal and feudal society like that of Pakistan, educating girls is a challenge. It is a taboo for women are seen as inferior beings. Give them education and they will demand freedom, their rights and therefore, to keep them subjugated so that they never raise their voice ever, take away even their foremost fundamental rights – the rights that Islam itself has bestowed the very day a girl is born.
Although, children continue to be killed in drone attacks and schools are destroyed by both drones and Pakistan Taliban, Malala’s shooting has opened a Pandora’s Box. It is letting some important issues slip from the main picture that are siginifcant for they offer an insight not only of reality on the grounds, but, of the mechanisms that might be playing in the background.
1: The Timing of the Incident
Pakistan, in terms of economic, political and social context is unstable. Every other day there is news on either the social, political or economic front that ushers in a new low. With the current government, Pakistan is widely believed to be ‘a sinking ship’ and the future prospects are gloomy. The incident has arrived at a time when American elections are looming and elections in Pakistan is also near. Further, the sentiment against the drones strikes is rising within the people. Currently, when the national government is losing popularity with the masses, the Supreme court giving verdicts against its interests, what could be done to divert the attention?
Malala’s shooting has caused outraged in Pakistan. If anything she has won the hearts of youth praying for her recovery. People are now focusing on the Malala issue and strangely, the political entanglements, the volatile issues of corruption and embezzlement all have taken a back seat. Unfortunately, the incident has given some breathing space to the government. Yet, the state has no idea on how to deal with the economic, social and political issues of the country. They are failing to recognize that the time requires action, not contemplation. Setting of an investigation into this young girl’s shooting – who is battling for her life – will not solve anything. It is time that the government admits its failures and comes in to action to correct the imbalance setting in the society.
Interestingly, it is also a signal to people: don’t think about hope. If there is any hope, it will be extinguished. There can never be hope in this country – a clear message that indicates that people will continue to be suppressed in all forms. The politicians in fulfilling their own agendas will never allow space for any positive aspect.
2. The Feudal-Religious Mindset
The harsh truth is that the feudal-religious mindset continues to be dominant in our society. This incident has clearly exposed the factor wide open. Honor killings and acid attacks are everyday news. Last year, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s film “Saving Face” – winner of Oscar award – was an insight of the status and treatment of women in Pakistan. Ironically, this is a country that has had a woman Prime Minister and now has a woman Foreign Minister (this is irony at its height). It shows that despite much economic development, education has clearly failed to change the mindset of the majority and of the society that still strongly clings to the perception that women don’t have any rights. The question blaring at the people; is it that education has failed us or have we failed ourselves?
Woman, in a highly patriarchal society, is still viewed as burden and an inferior being that has no soul. Despite the fact that Islam has given fundamental rights to women, starting from the very day she comes in the world, men in all their superiority and ego complex view it as a threat to their status and strength. Malala had the courage to stand against the
people (sorry, I should not have used this word) cowards who openly believe that woman is the sole reason of chaos in this world. Thus, take away her rights, treat her like an animal and she will remain in control. In a male-dominated society, the fight for one’s rights means death. Many young women have lost their lives in their quest for justice and rights. So how should this feudal-religious mindset be dealt with? How should it be eradicated? Is there no middle path?
3. Malala – The Face of Global Youth
I strongly disagree that Malala serves as the face of Pakistani youth alone. No. Malala is the face of the global youth. This 14-year old had the courage to defy the system that denies her rights and freedom. And in the developing world, there exists a million of Malalas’ who on a daily basis are fighting this war at all levels, be it personal, societal or at national level. Malala is the face of every girl who wants her fundamental rights, dreams to have education and has aspirations to contribute to their country and society. The only difference is such girls never make the news. Malala made news because of the attention she already had via her anonymous BBC Blog and the Pakistani news channels who had interviewed her. What about those girls who are fighting this war every other day, in different countries? Why is it that the media does not mention such girls and young women out in the open? Why is there a preference in the media to only cover someone who is well-known and not acknowledge the issues across the specturm? Unless, the issues is widely brought out, many young girls and women will continue to tbe the victims. Many stories will go unheard, many will not have justice.
Malala serves as a beacon of light to every girl regardless of caste, creed, race or nationality, who wants to achieve dreams and growth. She is hope. Her bravery shows that young girls and women are not weak. They are strong beyond imagination. If we have the power to create harmony, we have the strength to fight for it and for our independence.
Being a woman in today’s world is difficult. I look at her picture and ask myself: why? what did they achieve shooting this young, vibrant girl? What was her crime? To continue education? Where did we go wrong? If we are inferior beings, then why did God create us?
Despite various advances, we continue to fight for our identity, dreams and rights in multiple ways. A decade has passed, yet, woman continues to a slave to either traditions, values or customs that only hinder her growth and suppresses her character. Malala is the heroic face of young girls struggling with their battles. A thousand miles away from her, yet, I am praying for her speedy recovery and health from the bottom of my heart.
But at the same time, I ask myself: will our battles ever end?
Are we born only for suppression?
Will I continue to fight customs and traditions all my life? How long will the war for identity go on?
Will I ever attain my freedom and rights?