“What is lovely never dies, but passes into other loveliness.” –John Keats
Malala Yousafzai has been making waves in the western media ever since she got shot in the head for campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan. She has become a sensation inspiring girls the world over to stand up for what they think is right, and it is not just education.
Recently in the news for inaugurating a library in Birmingham and later addressing the United Nations in a speech which garnered resounding applause by a rapt audience, Malala is well on her way to fame and possibly fortune. She and her family have already been granted asylum in the UK which means she may never return to Pakistan. And why would she?
Malala faces an uncertain future in Pakistan. As the Taleban have openly claimed responsibility for the shooting, there is no reason to doubt that they will not do it again, and this time, God forbid, take a life or even lives.
What a pity that the land which was meant for the protection of Muslims can no longer take care of its own and how ironical that for all our ill feelings for the West, it is to them that we turn in times of trouble.
We may be living in the 21st century, but a significant part of the population, in particular women, continues to live in the Middle-Ages, mentally. This is especially so for those of us from the sub-continent. Why is Malala suffering so much? Because she has rebelled against the stereotype of the subdued woman: without a voice, without a will and certainly unable to stand up for her rights.
Much as we would like to think that Malala is the ‘true face of Pakistan’, there can be nothing further from the truth. The true face of Pakistan is not the woman we see in Pakistani television serials or the Asma Jahangirs of this world.
The Taleban who now label themselves as the real instruments of Islam and have openly taken responsibility for the shooting, reflect a small minority in Pakistan. But their ideas have broad acceptance and perhaps this is why they exercise their might with abandon.
Malala is clearly an intelligent young girl; articulate and confident and considering her modest background, truly a phenomenon. But will the world let her survive? I still wonder if at 16, Malala should be termed as a ‘child activist’.
It is too onerous a label for such a young soul. That said, Malala is a courageous young woman and she is lucky to be in a place where she can be assured both protection and support for her cause. But her friends who were also shot may not be so lucky. One wonders where they are now and how safe they are.
Malala’s mission is a drop in the ocean but one hopes that the drop will leave a ripple effect which will envelop the whole world. History is replete with tales of heroic women down the ages; Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Maya Angelou, Madame Curie, Florence Nightingale and from more recent times: Aung San Suu Kyi, Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Oprah Winfrey to name a few.
A beacon of light, Malala is among the chosen of her generation to carry on the torch of franchise, freedom and equal opportunity for women. There can be no greater claim to fame than this.
· Ozma Siddiqui teaches English and is a social critic and writer based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
–Views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect Caravan’s policy