For the West, Malala fits the image of Pakistan but Edhi does not

Published: October 13, 2014
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In this moment, Malala deserves the peace prize but so does Abdus Satter Edhi.

Let me begin by saying that I like Malala Yousafzai – she is courageous, authentic and has great conviction. But a couple of questions keep dwelling in my mind; why does the West like her so much? What is her appeal to them? And along with these questions dwells the answer as well, which is quite simple; the West is courting her because she represents a side of Pakistan and Islam that suits them.

By suggesting this, I am not trying to imply that Malala doesn’t deserve her accolades; she represents hope, valour, defiance and the image of a strong girl hailing from third world Pakistan.

She fought her battle with strength, no doubt, but does the west propagate her for that reason alone or is there something else?

Since the announcement of the shared Noble Prize for Peace by Malala and Kailash Satyarthi, I have read countless articles, social media updates, Facebook squabbles, tweets and drawing room discussions on, “why Malala and why not Edhi?”.

My humble opinion: Abdul Sattar Edhi is the most deserving Pakistani for this award, he should have been given the Noble Peace Prize decades ago, much before Barack Obama and Yasser Arafat. However, we must appreciate the veracity that this is a political award and is not always awarded to the most deserving of candidates.

The Nobel Peace Prize is more image-driven rather than personality-driven, and currently it is more about what the west wants to see and project about Pakistan rather than anything else. At the risk of playing the devil’s advocate, should the award not be awarded on the impact of what the recipient may have done for their country rather than what the West perceives it to be?

The fact remains that, by comparing Edhi and Malala, we not only simplify and belittle her cause and treacherous journey – which by all accounts is tremendous – but also play into the dangerous game presented to us by the West where the media continually implies that eastern societies thrive on the oppression of women and female children. Rampant, heinous and vulgar it may sound, yes, but for the most part, it is true.

What is it that the West likes about Malala that they do not like about Edhi?

It’s the image – the image she represents.

Malala epitomises the image of Pakistan that the West likes; an oppressed poster girl child who stood against all odds to change the system and raised a voice to fight for her rights and the rights of young girls like herself against her oppressors.

On the flip side, who is Edhi? What does he stand for? What are his achievements? What is it that his image can do for the west? How is his persona going to represent humanity and human rights in the third world? What impact will it have on the people viewing Islam and Pakistan from the outside?

Edhi’s contribution to strife-ridden Pakistan is immeasurable, and the impact of his charity to the rest of the world is unfathomable. Tattered, poor and violent, Edhi’s Pakistan has catered to billions of victims; orphans, injured, hungry, homeless, abandoned, abused, dead and raped, for more than half a century, all because of a man named Edhi. When no one is there he is, and at times he’s the only one there, but his bearded, topi-pajama-kurta image and dark spot on his forehead does not fit the image of the Pakistan that the West wants to project. The only white bearded man the West likes is Santa Clause – the rest don’t matter.

Today, as I discussed the same with a friend, she quoted an interesting incident. For the past many years, she has been nominating Edhi for the award of CNN Heroes, and yes, all the people winning that award in the past years have been very deserving, but so is Edhi.

If the West were watching us so closely, if they so want to make a difference in our part of the world, how is it that Edhi has never been recognised at an international, global level? How has he not been given grants, aid, charity and awards for his lifelong tireless commitment to God’s humanity? What does he need to do differently to get the recognition we all want for him?

In this moment, Malala deserves the peace prize, as did Rosa Parks a few decades ago, but so does Edhi. His image may not be right for the West, his gender may be wrong, but his humanity is godliness – a godliness that must be rewarded in this world before it becomes nothing more than just a chapter in Pakistan’s history.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

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

  • Kakar

    It is extremely unfortunate and weird that we are offended even when a covetous award like noble prize is awarded to us. There is no cure for phobias as we are afraid of noble prize and reckon it a conspiracy. Keep this trait up rather obsessively.Recommend

  • OG

    There is a difference between an award given for humanitarian services, and a Nobel PEACE prize. While there is no argument that Edhi deserves every award given for humanitarian services (including the CNN Heroes award, as it is typically given to people affecting their communities in a positive way). But Edhi’s work and mission is not geared towards affecting political change or affecting policies to improve human rights laws or situations. And sure, there might be more people deserving of a “Peace” prize in Pakistan than Malala (like Asma Jehangir, perhaps), comparing her role to that of Edhi’s for this particular prize is an unfair comparison. And like I said, the CNN Heroes criticism is very fair – Edhi certainly deserves that recognition. I also agree with the overall argument of this article – Malala fits the image the West wants to portray for Pakistan and other Islamic countries. But the Edhi comparison doesn’t really hold in my opinionRecommend

  • siesmann

    And what has USA to do with the Nobel Prize?Recommend

  • siesmann

    And Malala has become the Icon for education all over the world.And Pakistanis still accuse that the Nobel was given to Abdus Salam ,and that he is a traitor.And note that he was not given Nobel prize for managing the nuclear program of Pakistan but for his research on subatomic particles.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Isn’t inspiring the main function of leaders and Icons?And why the Nobel Committee has to cater to the opinion of a minisicule percentage of unreasonable to make its decisions?And why and how would a Nobel Prize given to Malala diminish Mr.Edhi?Recommend

  • siesmann

    But has Edhi inspired Pakistan and Pakistanis to be peaceful?Recommend

  • siesmann

    For the west,and for most of the world ,Taliban is the image of Pakistan-not Malala,neither Edhi.Recommend

  • Peace Lover

    And Mahatma Gandhi should have been the world’s first citizen to have been given this Nobel Peace prize. For it was Gandhi who devised and very effectively used non-violence and peaceful protest not just to oust the British from India but also perennially won hearts and minds. Without Gandhi, the Nobel Hall of Fame looks more like a Hall of Shame!Recommend

  • Nero

    Dear author: You make a incorrect, if not disingenuous, comparison. Nobel peace prize is not an issue between Malala and Edhi. Why create such artificial comparisons? Have you checked the number of awards given to Mr. Edhi by foreign countries, including “West”? Beginning with Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1986, he has received awards from several countries, including USA, Italy, France, South Korea and India. The question you should definitely be asking, why hasn’t he been awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian honor? That is one award which you can push your government to give him. Further, even Gandhi was not awarded Nobel Peace Prize. That didn’t make him a lesser model worth following.Recommend

  • marik

    Maybe if Edhi can get for what he believes in, he’ll be more famous outside Pakistan. Most people in Pakistan know only of a handful of people from other countries. If the same thing for the people in other countries too.Recommend

  • marik

    Gringos need a pat on the head every now and then.Recommend

  • Aphtab

    Abdus Salam got it for physics in 1979, for his work on characterising what is now known as “the Higgs boson particle”.Recommend

  • L.

    Who said that “a Nobel prize given to mehdi will diminish mr edhi”? Recommend

  • L.

    But did he not contribute to Pakistan’s progress, rather progress to the world? What progressive step did malala help take? Recommend

  • Nido

    You are rite; we have become modernized and broadminded, where as they are stuck to their centuries old plans. If anyone disagrees with my opinion, then he/she should read about crusades.Recommend

  • Muhammad Irshad

    Nobel Peace prize just not only handover award but also monetary remuneration, what Malala requires to continue her mission while Edhi Sh is successfully running his networks by his permanent donorsRecommend

  • siesmann

    well give the dates and references.Recommend

  • siesmann

    you are way much lesser then MalalaRecommend

  • siesmann

    For Malala’s detractors being an icon for something desirable is of no consequence.And blaming USA for Nobel Prizes is an anomaly worth notins as USA has no say in Nobel Prizes.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Don’t compare Obama with Malala.If Obama is no symbol of anything,Malala definitely is.Recommend

  • siesmann

    You are right;Only humans deserve it,and Malala is that humane human.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Better than having another Taliban in the making.!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    But Mother Teresa was a christian who dedicated her life tothe service ignored Hindus,and all other communities.Just like Malala she is an anathema for RSS types..Recommend

  • siesmann

    Sweden was the first country to recognize Palestine,the country that gives Nobel Prizes.How many Muslim countries have done thaT.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Then how is it that countries other than the Muslim countries don’t whine about it,and don’t have a problem with the awards?Recommend

  • siesmann

    The detractors of Malala are exactly the opposite of Edhi .Doesn’t that tell the difference between inspirers and doers?Malala is an icon and inspirer.Recommend

  • siesmann

    And most of them think it has something to do with USA.The awards are given by Sweden.Recommend

  • siesmann

    And Puran Singh who spent his life serving the disabled,lepers and the discarded;and his daughter,an MD, is continuing it.Recommend

  • siesmann

    The trouble with these bigots is the award given to Malala.Edhi is just an excuse.It is the real hatred for Malala in the background.Recommend

  • siesmann

    But the difference is Indians don’t start hating other winners of Nobel Prize because it wasn’t given to Mahatama Gandhi.Recommend

  • siesmann

    How many Taliban has killed.And they consider themselves to be the protectors of MuslimsRecommend

  • siesmann

    So don’t whine.Let the deserving humans get the awards that humans see fit to.If paradise is for haters of humanity,most of the world would rather not have it.Recommend

  • siesmann

    For some Pakistan is the center of Universe.Recommend

  • siesmann

    on the contrary she has donated much of her award monies to institutions working for her cause.Jealousy by you is understood.Recommend

  • Sane

    Senseless comment. Comparison is between Malala & Edhi.Recommend

  • pawan

    Very nice article.. AT least few have guts to write such article as most of writer fear social media lash back arising out of such writingRecommend

  • siesmann

    You can keep hating Malala if you are bent on it.But don’t expect the world to cater to your opinion.You will still be hated and killed by Pakistanis,probably by the ones who hate Malala.Only today a retired air force personnel from the Ahmadi community was gunned down.Recommend

  • siesmann

    I didn’t want to bring it up.But what did Edhi do to help Ahmadis,other than getting their award?At least Malala raised the issue of minorities in her book.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    What is wrong with you?! When did I say I hated her? Just causally make up statements to suit your opinion?! Believe what you want for all I care. Recommend

  • siesmann

    Oh,ya!! The capitalist societies have unemployment insurance,social security,free medical care for the poor(real,not just on paper),protection of women,children,elderly and minorities.What is equality and freedom in your estimation-just saying something on paper,and doing exactly the opposite.Capitalist societies give incentives for people to have homes.After 9-11 they have programs in big and small companies promoting tolerance towards Muslims.And every year they listen to all minorities ,including Muslims,as to what and how they should be described in the text-books.And Pakistan takes two steps backwards if it tries to take one step forward.Look what KP government is doing to the few positive steps taken for the minorities representation in their text-books.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    I don’t look at what anyone does for my community to be able to compete for the Nobel. He is a humanitarian full and throughout and certainly deserves one;

    And in my eyes, she does not deserve one until she goes outside of her comfort zone- ie safety in England, and actually makes some change happen. Yes she was shot, then did the Taliban quit kicking girls out of schools? No. Nothing happened. She was shot. She recovered. Now she is in England, getting educated. When she is fully grown and then goes out and does something to help the education of females, then I will acknowledge and congratulate her.

    And you must be sorely running out of ideas to take a try at my faith. Case closed. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Yeh I know, but he also came back and helped pak’s nuclear program. What has malala done? Nothing- not that she should be expected to, looking at her age. But I just think the award was given too early. Recommend

  • MJ

    Giving Nobel peace prize to Malala is like giving the Nobel for literature to the champion of national spelling bee.Recommend

  • abhi

    Common it is you who is bringing religion in to it. I don’t think people like Mother Teresa or Edhi check the religion before helping anyone.
    Anybody with simple logical ability can see the difference between Malala and Mother Teresa. Malala is not running orphanages, she raising her voice for the right of children which is different from Charity work.Recommend

  • siesmann

    The country that gives the Nobels is Sweden-The first European country to recognize the statehood of Palestine.How many Muslim countries have done that?Recommend

  • Sara

    Love the article! Fantastic piece, Bisma! Totally agree with all your arguments.Recommend

  • Sara

    Ever heard of Google, Mr/Ms Ignorant?Recommend

  • Sara

    And you’re just being ridiculously childish.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Hope you guarantee her safety in Pakistan so that she can come back from her comfort zone.Recommend

  • Sara

    “She does not deserve one until she goes outside of her comfort zone- i.e safety in England, and actually makes some change happen. Yes she was shot, then did the Taliban quit kicking girls out of schools? No. Nothing happened. ” — Naila

    Exactly, exactly! Malala has done NOTHING to improve things in Pakistan or abroad. Without the help of the West, would she be where she is now? Ha! Giving speeches she didn’t even compose, studying in England, meeting Queen Elizabeth, spending time with the Obama family – all this certainly does not merit a Nobel Peace Prize! Lots of people HATE the Taliban, some of them get shot in the random city shootings. So, what, do they deserve a Nobel? And would anyone even have known Malala is she were killed in a, say, drone strike? The Talibs are evil, they shoot young girls. Well, what about the hypocritical West with its deadly drone strikes?Recommend

  • siesmann

    I do apologize bringing your faith into it or rather referring it to you.Let us just say Malala is a hero for me,Edhi Sahib yours.(in relative terms).And I hope someone from Pakistan nominates Edhi for the prize next year,rather than just bringing him out to lessen the accomplishments of Malala.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Hope someday Pakistan pays him back for his services to the nation by recognizing him for his works,and not keep ignoring him for his faith.Recommend

  • Salim

    Edhi Saheb is most respected and lovable personality of Pakistan, but nobody contributes at the time of nomination for awards, if someone is not nominated how he could be considered for that.Recommend

  • muhammed ashraf

    Western values more often concentrate on general humanity issues. Malala is a tool to make muslims stand against extremists and oppressors. Lets celebrate Malala’s success not Edhi’s failure. There are hundreds of heroes not recognized by international agency but a few will be awarded at least that’s OK. Since the world is political there will be political and economic motives behind every move. I think if Nobal peace prices is given to Edhi it will be a recognition and inspiration alone but Malala’s prize will create huge impact in the third world countries in the areas of education and employment..this is to be promoted..Recommend

  • Aphtab

    He made no direct contribution to the development of nuclear program in Pakistan.Recommend

  • hammurabi

    Edhi and malala,both deserve noble prize. Why compare their achievements.in win lose manner.Why not win- win?Recommend

  • Prashant

    Ideally the Noble commitee would like to give the award to Modi and Sharif if they can move even an inch from their stated positions, since that is not going to happen , they found the next best combination of an Indian and a Pakistani.

    Noble for Malala was pretty much on the cards but Satyarthi seems to be the last minute choice.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “But why would the west acknowledge Mr Edhi? they wont, cause then their people may see something of Pakistan/ Islam which goes against what their news channels have been preaching.”

    It has been more than 5 years since I heard about Mr Edhi for doing the fantastic work he does and I am an Indian, I am sure Pakistanis know him much better and for much longer, have the Pakistanis themselves rewarded Mr Edhi, I would be happy to be proven wrong.

    I do not think the perceived hatred of west for Pakistan has reached such levels that they would not reward Mr Edhi for not highlighting the positive side of Pakistan.

    The Americans and the west would be as indifferent to Mr Edhi as the Pakistanis themselves are, I have not seen Mr Edhis work being discussed by Pakistanis for who he is rather he is being discussed as an alternative to Malala.

    Mr Edhi is too tall a man in his stature to regret for not being recognised whether it is by Pakistanis or the west.Recommend

  • L.

    Lol Prashant, I think I know that you are an indian by now. Recommend

  • Rizwan

    And may I ask why not Iqbal Masih? rings a bell?Recommend

  • rashid

    i think that some power behind malala who has famous to her…MR. EDHI is full deserve to receive the award who he is save the humanity..Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    i have requested time and time again to name one school that malala has opened ?Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Other then globe trotting and giving speeches what has Malala done for her country ?
    Enlighten the poor ignorant PakistaniRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    Your comments are as illogical as they can get , where did the Taliban come from ?
    Malala did not deserve the noble prize because she has done nothing for the common man on Pakistan unlike Eidi or Imran Khan.Recommend

  • sadiq

    Good Article. Critics are forgetting 2 points. Edhi is not asking for compensation and accolades in this world. Secondly, let us not discourage critical thinkers and writers, from looking at and expressing issues of this world.Recommend

  • Haris (Canada)

    Oh my God… really this is what we are commenting and writing
    articles about Malala Vs. Edhi… this is the problem with Pakistani people
    everywhere, as soon as someone get any kind of recognition we start to pull his
    or her legs.. First question to my fellow Pakistani: Why do you people care so
    much about the Nobel Peace Prize when you folks pretty much hate everything
    from the west? Second question: Why does it matter if Malala got the award
    before Edhi, both represented Pakistan don’t they?

    I am pretty sure Edhi doesn’t even care about getting any
    awards… and God forbids if he gets this award next year all you people will
    than chant that he is an agent of west that’s why he got this award.

    If you Pakistani’s are really interested in getting Edhi
    some sort of recognition than ask your government to make him the next
    President…. Even that will not be enough recognition for the amount of work he
    has done for Pakistan. Peace JRecommend

  • siesmann

    too bad!Malala could not grow a beard.Recommend

  • siesmann

    That is what you think.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Never heard of Edhi until now. I am sure every nation has people who do charity work. Don’t know if that qualifies for the Nobel prize.Recommend

  • suresh

    why Malala has exposed your orthodox face is’t ?Recommend

  • Hamza

    Stop spewing poison on this blog, siesmannRecommend

  • Sunny Cena

    everybody knows Malala is nothing but just a robot controlled by USA, she is being used, i don’t understand what she is dont great ? do u know ? even her village girls hate her and don not want their school to be labeled after malala’s name. but our media, government and army all are slaves of others or may be slaves of money. Recommend

  • Sunny Cena

    she has ability to do a lot ? really ? what she has done, by the way ? she is nothing but just a robotRecommend

  • siesmann

    Oh,I see honey dripping from your mouth/pen,Maulana.People like you don’t tolerate a word against Taliban.And you deserve them really.Recommend

  • Grace

    Could it also be that because Edhi is a Muhajir from India and looks more Indian, he is being discriminated against. Malala is native Pakistani and people prefer her more instead of looking at the work of people and merit?Recommend

  • Mehwish Leghari

    Mam Bisma Tirmizi. First of all i want to make you clear that a teenage girl cannot be compared to personality such as Mr Edhi, wether she is Malala or whosoever. Secondly you are not well aware of all this fiasco concerning Malala. Her father was a teacher and he was approached by anti Islamists(your West) to provide them a young girl who can act upon their instructions and in return he will recieve an incentive. Therefore he decided to make her daughter play that role of a *traitor* not only to Pakistan but Islam. A very little proof is a question I want to ask you and anyone else willing that when Ms Malala was attacked and later she was sent abroad on a private jet, why she was the only girl and not other who were with her and injured and later died without recieving any importance. Because you have yourself stated above that West wants interesting personalities not the one who are actually working at that level then. The point I want to prove is that the West only likes those who portray or become willing to portay themselves anti Pakistan or anti Islam and Malala is one of them. I am literaly shocked about you comparing a fake actress with a legend like Mr Edhi. Why not all of you have remembered Arfa karim then. She was just used by these so called protagonist minded media groups as a source of content and then she was ignored. Pakistanio jaago! Just leave me and think yourself that if now anyone from you stands against the corrupt system will you be preached or be attacked by evil powers in our country? And at last i want to add that Mr Edhi is himself more than any accolades and appreciations, where noble prize is an ordanary piece of brick. Recommend