We are (annoyed by) Malala!

Published: December 17, 2012
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An article on BBC Urdu at the age of 11, achieved a nomination for an international children’s peace prize in her fight for girls’ education, and took a bullet for her cause the following year. PHOTO: REUTERS

Oh, Malala! How did a child like you ever manage to lock herself in the eye of an unrelenting storm of controversy and conspiracies? Usually when a girl gets shot, she gets to reap much support and sympathy. Somehow, that art is lost on you.

Almost everything your name touches, spontaneously combusts into an inferno of angry protests- if not simmer with a million eye-rolls and irritable head-shakes. A recent example is the controversy surrounding the renaming of the Saidu Sharif College in your honour.

The students had several reasons to protest. One was about your audacity to seek medical treatment abroad, thus “abandoning” Pakistan. I cannot imagine anything less patriotic than to seek better medical facilities outside the country, even when the Taliban had vowed to attack you here again, if you survived!

Another was about the concern that your name on the college’s sign over the gate would poke the Talibani dragon in the eye, and prompt an attack. It confuses me how said poking is not being done merely by the sight of female students walking in and out of that gate carrying books. And I am unable to decide whether it is prudence or plain cowardice that makes these students distance them from you, who is fighting courageously for these very girls’ right to education.

Not to mention, the negative reaction incited locally by President Zardari’s decision to donate $10 million to a global fund in your name. Congratulations, kid. Because of your name’s association with this war chest, educating young girls now looks like an evil plot worthy of scorn instead of applause. Never before has a charitable donation been a lightning rod for so many angry comments.

Perhaps, our annoyance and suspicion towards you stems from our refusal to blindly listen to the media (or reason in general). We suspect that you are an American agent who was shot by an American agency. I know that sounds weird, but I do have my doubts.

Even when the Taliban confessed to the attack; even when they issued a new threat to you after the attack; even when the key suspect’s sister personally apologised to you; even when your classmates and teachers testified to this flagitious assault; even when every official from Islamabad to London confirmed the attack, every news channel covered it, and school children around the world sang songs in your honour; I, Pakistani, still have my doubts.

Meanwhile, some guy claimed to have found a way to run his car on water, and THAT I believed beyond doubt!

Conspiracy theories are fun, and often allow us to live with the delusion that we’re simply too smart to believe the official versions.

I wonder if the liberals know that. Maybe the next time there’s an attack on us as tragic as the Salala raid, the liberals can launch our own social-media campaign claiming that the attack was orchestrated by Pakistan, to malign the United States and gather political ammo against their drone program.

Would that be awfully silly and insensitive?

Very likely so, but it would be intriguing to observe the right-wing’s reaction to its own medicine.

I would’ve, if I could, padded this blog with nothing but your name “Malala” repeated 638 times, and allowed myself to be amused by the tsunami of complaints about the media’s obsession with you. Why did we not celebrate Drone Victims Day? Why not Burmese Muslims day? Why not Slipped-In-The-Bathroom-Banged-Head-On-The-Toilet-Seat-And-Had-A-Concussion Day?

Don’t we realise that every tragedy in the world deserves constant media attention, except yours? Heavens know, there is nothing extraordinary about a girl who won their hearts and minds globally.

An article on BBC Urdu at the age of 11, achieved a nomination for an international children’s peace prize in her fight for girls’ education, and took a bullet for her cause the following year.

Or perhaps there is something wonderfully inspiring in here that I’m missing?

Read more by Faraz here, or follow him on Twitter @FarazTalat.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.