Another conspiracy theory, another anti-Malala day

Published: November 11, 2014

Pakistan Schools’ Federation observing anti-Malala day where they blamed Malala for supporting controversial novelist Salman Rushdie. PHOTO: AFP

Yesterday, when I was browsing through the internet, two headlines caught my attention. First was that of a terrible suicide blast in Nigeria that killed 47 students and second was of Pakistan Schools’ Federation observing anti-Malala day where they blamed Malala for supporting controversial novelist Salman Rushdie.

A similar development took place last year as well when All Pakistan Private Schools Federation banned its members from buying Malala’s memoir claiming that it has anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan content.

What is more disappointing than observing such a magnitude of falsehood which is going around in loops since a long time and we find these school federations projecting the same. One wonders what is the point in targeting a teen who brought a Nobel Prize to the country and has been advocating for education all across the world while maintaining her identity as a proud Pakistani and a Muslim. It seems like she is yet again a target for bullets, not from the hands of the Taliban this time but from those who she stood for – her countrymen.

It will be fair to present a few excerpts from her book I am Malala so that readers themselves can judge the extent of its so-called anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam content.

1. Malala prays to Allah (SWT) to be taller

2. Malala’s mother reciting the Holy Quran when she was in hospital

3. Malala reciting the Ayatul Kursi and praying for humanity

4. Malala delightfully narrates a story about her Khatamul Quran

5. Malala at the first sight of Ka’aba

6. Malala speaks against drone strikes and Raymond Davis

7. Malala speaks about Obama and the image of America

8. Malala and General Kayani

9. Malala talks about the world’s first Muslim homeland

10. Malala praying in Medina

Source: I am Malala

11. Malala paints for interfaith harmony

Source: I am Malala

While the book has mentioned “Peace Be Upon Him” with the Prophet in the glossary, Malala apologised for not adding the phrase in her content saying,

“It was the publisher’s mistake, which will be amended in the next addition.”

Now, let’s take a look at one of the most serious allegations against Malala – supporting Rushdie. This blatant lie brought me to February 2008 when I attended a lecture by Karen Armstrong in Islamabad. Reflecting back to late 80s and recalling Rushdie’s controversial novel Satanic Verses, she said something like this,

“Observing the wave of violent protests, I thought this was not going to help in the long run. Many people in Europe had started searching for books to learn more about Islam after the publication of that novel. I felt it may be wise for Muslims to write books on the Prophet so that the West could understand Islam in a better way. When I found that no one else had availed that opportunity (to refute his novel), I myself decided to work on the biography of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The entire hall echoed with claps to appreciate Armstrong.

To philosophise it, there are always two sorts of discourses – emotional and intellectual. Armstrong talked of intellectual discourse. When I was reading Malala’s book, I found that she had mentioned that even though her father believed in freedom of speech, he found Rushdie’s novel offensive to Islam. He believed that Islam is strong enough and no (ill-intended) novel can bring any damage to it, further suggesting that they should respond with a book of their own.

In my opinion, to be fair, Rushdie’s post-modern fiction was condemnable in the strongest words. Since the novel was banned and was not actually on sale here, or several other countries, Ziauddin Yousafzai followed the same intellectual discourse as that of Armstrong. It is ludicrous to suggest that it was an endorsement of what Rushdie wrote in a deliberate attempt to target the sentiments of Muslims. If that had been the motive, Ziauddin would have never suggested writing a book to counter Rushdie.

It is disheartening to find many renowned journalists twisting her book and even quoting fake excerpts. For instance, Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan tried to frame Malala on blasphemy charge by ‘inventing’ a fake quote from her book.

Recently, a new propaganda against Malala came to surface on social media. There was a picture making rounds in which Malala was said to be standing next to Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen.

The man next to Malala was not Rushdie but was, in fact, Martin Schulz a German politician and president of the European Parliament. The picture was taken from an event where Malala was awarded European Union’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize in recognition of her fight for universal and equal access to education.

The extent of our hate can devour nations including ourselves.

Photo: Reuters

And this is what Nasreen wrote about Malala:

“She shook my hand with expressionless face. I came from the Indian subcontinent, almost from the same background, fighting religious fundamentalists for women’s rights, but her expression tells me that it means nothing to her.”

Propaganda and manipulation has become a fatal weapon in today’s information war to support or malign someone. Anyone who has observed the hate campaign against Malala on social media can easily recall how a false sentence regarding burqa and beard was attributed to her soon after she was shot in the head. Then she was blamed of conspiring against the country with Richard Holbrooke, US Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, when in reality Malala had requested Holbrooke to assist in promoting educational opportunities for girls in Pakistan. It was proven to be a part of a false propaganda as that picture was taken from a public meeting organised by UNICEF.

Since people were running out of conspiracy theories, it was later claimed that there was no assassination attempt and that all of it was staged. This was again proven wrong as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) itself accepted responsibility and threatened to target her again if she survives. Then came the invasion of photo-shopped images all across social media only further attempting to damage her more. Conspiracy theory enthusiasts, like well-controlled puppets, end up basking in such forged content and continue to sharing it with as many like-minded people as possible.

Unfortunately, like the many propagandists we have, it seems that even the so-called schools, part of the Pakistan School Federation, haven’t bothered to read her book at all, have relied on hearsay and have, ignorantly, pronounced her book anti-Islamic and even anti- state. The same anti-Malala propaganda that has been making rounds is being regurgitated and fed to our youth. Condemning this is not enough and I just hope that this blog will help people realise that what they are being taught to believe, this propaganda, this lie is just that, a lie. It is a narrative they wish to believe, but it is far from the truth; celebrating an anti-Malala day just shows how ignorant we can be as a nation, and the fact that it is being celebrated by the Pakistan School Federation is just deplorable.

The Pakistan Schools’ Federation owes Malala and all the school-going children an apology for misconstruing facts and spreading propaganda in school corridors. We need to be proud of our Nobel Laureate, we need to own Malala and strengthen her cause – not celebrate an anti-Malala day against a 17-year-old.

Nayyar Afaq

Nayyar Afaq

He is pursuing a doctorate in Physics from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and his objective in life is to become a better human being. Nayyar tweets @Nay_Af (

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

  • Queen

    No better words than “The extent of our hate can devour nations including ourselves.” Examples of such hatred include the lynching of Christian couple and the attacks being carried out against the Hazara community. However, as long as there are people, who have an understanding of issues and can stand up against irrelevant hateful propaganda, hope will continue to exist.Recommend

  • ahmed

    good one, problem is my most of the Pro PTIans are the most anti malala, which is pretty confusingRecommend

  • Roon

    No matter how you try to convince them the enemies of Malala have created their own narrative and will continue to believe in it blindly and without question.

    Salman Rushdie wrote something that (in a way) mocked the Prophet(pbuh) but calling for his death really is foolish to say the least. In matters like these Pakistanis have completely shot themselves in the foot.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “First was that of a terrible suicide blast in Nigeria that killed 47 students and second was of Pakistan Schools’ Federation observing anti-Malala day where they blamed Malala for supporting controversial novelist Salman Rushdie.”

    Such an irony, no protests for the savages killing innocent children but the same children are protesting the person who is fighting their battle, Pakistan’s next generations have already learnt to treat their friends as foes.

    Afaq, why such a spirited defence of Malala now, the seeds of hatred sown by your previous generations and nurtured by the present have yet to yield the fruits, you have a long way to go before you get to know the result.Recommend

  • wb

    The hatred in its purest form has been ingrained in Pakistani DNA. Now Pakistanis hate everything and anything without a reason.

    All signs indicate to another 1971 coming up.

    And remember Allah’s words in Holy Quran 15.5 : No nation will precede its term, nor will they remain thereafter.Recommend

  • Sohaib

    Im not against malala because of these things you mentioned. I am against her because of her anti-Pakistan army remarks during the NY times video documentary of her. They army had saved her city and Malala was still angry about “bullet holes” in the school walls and what not. She called the soldiers illiterate and stupid.Recommend

  • Malti Chaturvedi

    thats what happens when a nation is fed 24*7 with conspiracy theories…. the rulers…the army ….everyone is involved…. now a country with 40% literacy rate … and highest number of children out of school will definitely be easy to influence than any other sound nation….. plus polio problem also….. after abdus salam… malala… well done pakistan;….. u r ur own worst enemy ……… y dont u elect good rulers? Recommend

  • Farzan

    The saddest part is that even the most literate of our people have been caught up in these conspiracy theories.Recommend

  • wb

    Look, be honest.

    Have you read Satanic Verses? It’s a piece of garbage. The only part that is so effectively described is the wrangling between Chamcha and the other guy as one of them (I can’t remember) experiences a spiritual thing of being the prophet fighting with Satan.

    Now, understand that Satanic Verses is an Islamic reality accepted by all Islamic Scholars. No Islamic scholar disputes this.

    The only thing that angered them was how Satanic Verses depicts Prophet Mohammed.

    Then I ask you this. Didn’t Prophet himself forgave people who abused him?

    If so, then who are you mere humans to take offense? Muslims are also called as Mohammadens or Mohammadi (in Arabic) because you follow the path shown by Prophet Mohammed.

    Is this the way you follow Prophet MOhammed’s footsteps? Is this the way you honor Prophet Mohammed?Recommend

  • munna

    Malala is just a stooge. Her suffering is highlighted for an agenda. While people like abdul sattar edhi who have spent their whole life to help humanity are not given any western awards due to their beards and topi. Also none of us even know the names of any of the hundreds of thousands who have died in George Bush’s wars.Recommend

  • Foster

    Imagine how many poor kids will be indoctrinated into the ‘Anti- Malala’ rhetoric in these schools. My god.Recommend

  • Eddied

    Very well written and researched article…the author clearly did his homework and read the books…nice to see an open minded, professional discussion of this subject…the fools who call for anti Malala diatribe are idiots not educators…Recommend

  • siesmann

    The sad fact is that people who bark the most against her and Rushdie have not read a page of any of those books.And a school federation vilifying her points towards the education Pakistani children are getting,and what they will become in the future.Recommend

  • siesmann

    And lots of other people in Pakistan hold anti-army views.Do you think many Bloch love the army?.Do you think Taliban/Pashtuns love the army.Do you think that terrorists of Lal-Masjid and their apologists have something pleasant to say about the army?.Fareed Paracha and JI leaders regularly give statements against army.Did you not listen to what your current defense Minister and Railway minister have said about the army.And many others in academia and politics.The truth remains you have a pre-formed negative opinion about her based on a false propaganda and your innate hatred,and you use any thing and everything twisted to hate and vilify her.For you holding a different opinion is traitorous.For once open up your closed minds,and see things as they are,not as conspiracy theory advocates preach in their perverted way.Recommend

  • siesmann

    I saw the documentary(link above).Tell me where she said soldiers are illiterate and stupid(you have made them look stupid and advertised it by putting words into the mouth of a 11 year girl).She has almost 10 times said she is very proud of the army,and that they protect them.All she said was that the spellings of ” soldier” written by a soldier were wrong.(all kids want to show off their ability to find mistakes without ill-will))Where is the remark about bullets. They mentioned that the wall to the adjacent house has been opened up.They found their house in shambles with heads of goats left lying there.The father said that whosoever lived there were “dirty” .This was before they realized that it was army men who had lived there.After finding out about the house Malala said
    “I am very proud of the army,and they protect us.But becuase of this(damage and dirt)she felt ashamed of the army”.
    And thiese are the words of an 11 year old girl whom you and others think can’t write a book .and not qualified for everything she has done.So words of an 11 year old girl are considered that of a mature adult.And otherwise she remains an innocent child not capable of doing the things she has done.And what she and her father said multiple times about the army as to how proud they felt doesn’t mean much for you.
    Just like other detractors you probably haven’t even seen the documentary or just looked at the parts that fire your hatred for Malala.Talk of bigotry.!!
    Off course,you will find plenty other things-mostly heard,wrong or misrepresented-to hate her whatever may be contrary in fact.
    I would challenge the readers of my remarks to please see the documentary(about 30 mins),and decide for themselves,and make their own mind(and not listen to the propaganda of Sohaib and others like him).Recommend

  • Black Widow

    What a stupid articleRecommend

  • you never learn do you? you pakistani’s never ever ever learn. Wait till the Army comes back to Power and screws your happiness. You deserve dictatorship, you don’t deserve democracy.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was detailed and fair……the people who bad mouth Malala are in essence ‘ small minded ‘ people, those incapable of displaying even an iota of tolerance or simple common sense. Even after reading this they will live in denial and continue to bad mouth her because they are ‘ small minded ‘ people.Recommend

  • Hameedullah

    An article that debunks(effectively) the false and misinformed allegations (which are stupid by the way) against a girl is stupid? Really puzzled how your thought process works.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Verily rationality to a stupid is stupid!Recommend

  • siesmann

    grow up,munna!!Recommend

  • Yakoob Khan Achakzai

    Satanic Verses is not a reality. it is not accepted by Muslims.
    It is a book of fiction. However the 3000 hindu deities,..fact
    But if you look at hindu mythology, Lord Rama created the
    avatar Kali to destroy all unbelievers. Then, the seven avatars
    of Lord Vishnu also propagate death and destruction. If you visit
    a hindu temple you can clearly see the heinous deathly images
    of these avatars. And all are considered the beloved of Rama.
    Including the bad ones !Recommend

  • Zee

    What’s the problem if some one is observing Anti Malala day! It’s a democratic country and one can do whatever they want! But how come you are demanding apology from them?

    Only cherry picking of some references from Malala’s book doesn’t change the facts that actually the book contains too many objectionable paragraphs. I actually on another blog tried to wrote but didn’t get through ET. Some of these,

    Disrespecting Islamic Laws, taking same position as west in the case of Salman Rushdie, narrating why Pakistan has Nuclear Bomb and why didn’t the money spend on schools and it’s of no use and many more material on Pakistan Atomic program which is again the western position, many more things as well.Recommend

  • Goodt

    Are you implying all Pahtuns are Taliban or vice versa? Pashtuns are quite well represented within Pakistan both in the Army and the civil service.Recommend

  • Rght

    “nurtured by the present have yet to yield the fruits”
    Are you saying that more innocent Muslims and others need to die? Who are you to criticize the Author for defending Malala and how would you have us protest every single attack that takes place in the entire world? Do you actually think that we secretly condone them? Have you and Indians publicly protested the Nigeria blasts?

    You throw accusations and make generalized statements while prophesying the future. If you have nothing beneficial to say it would be better if you did not post anything at all.Recommend

  • nemomil

    It wasn’t the article that was stupid, it was your lack of complrehension.Recommend

  • Roon

    No need to start leveling your religion is more violent allegations. But you are right that the Satanic Verses (the event) is not regarded as a reality by many Muslims.

    “The only thing that angered them was how Satanic Verses depicts Prophet Mohammed.”
    I highly doubt that any of Rushdie’s would be killers actually read the book. Somebody probably spread the rumor that it insults the Prophet and it spread like wildfire. Recommend

  • Yakoob Khan Achakzai

    Yes. That somebody was YOU.Recommend

  • Prashant

    I do not wish for more deaths whether it is Muslim or non Muslim.

    I have an opinion of the Pakistani affairs which I was expressing, I genuinely do not see the current unrest in Pakistan coming to an end any sooner. The reason is the Pakistani liberals opinion on some of the issues:

    Blasphemy laws are correct but they are not being implemented appropriately.

    The Afghan Taliban are good but the Pakistani Taliban are bad.

    Pakistan will fight terrorism but only those who fight against Pakistan and will continue to sponsor terror across the borders.

    Malala is a western agent while Aafia is the daughter of Pakistan.

    Hindu women are being converted to Islam by force and then married to Muslims but it is not true because it cannot be proven in the court.

    Taliban claims an attack and the media shouts “who is doing it, RAW, Mossad or CIA”?

    Osama’s wives and children are found in a compound in Abottabad but Pakistanis do not believe he was killed there.

    If this is what the liberals think, how do you expect Pakistan to come out of this quagmire?

    The Nigerian blasts may not have been condoned by you but it is the same people who say some Pakistanis had nothing to do with 26/11, you cannot blame the world for making assumptions about Pakistan considering the mindset many in your country have.Recommend

  • siesmann

    At least know something about Hinduism before commenting based on vilification of it in your text-books,and mad rants by the mullahs.Kali doesn’t even figure in the Ramayana or has anything to with Rama.Vilifying somebody else’s religion to hide a fact of your own history is bigotry of the highest degree.Recommend

  • siesmann

    What I implied was that a innocent comment by an 11 year old girl is considered an infringement more than thousands of mature,intelligent Pakistanis saying worse things.The hatred has a limit,and one for Malala is so irrational but increasing by the day ,now even perpetuated by Federation of Schools that is responsible for education of young minds.Recommend

  • Rayan Syed

    Nicely written to correct the record. Thank you ET for giving it a place.

    I just finished reading its Urdu version on the author’s blog and found that it has a lot of details to annihilate the entire propaganda against Malala. Recommend