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Malala Yousafzai

  • First published on this blog in October, 2013

On today’s BBC News ‘magazine’ webpage, there’s a lengthy tribute to the heroism of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Under the title ‘Malala: The girl who was shot for going to school’, the piece goes on to say things like the following:

“She is the teenager who marked her 16th birthday with a live address from UN headquarters, is known around the world by her first name alone, and has been lauded by a former British prime minister as ‘an icon of courage and hope’…She is an extraordinary young woman, wise beyond her years, sensible, sensitive and focused….The voice of the girl whom the Taliban tried to silence a year ago has been amplified beyond what anyone could have thought possible.”

Great tributes indeed, not wholly unlike those paid to Indian spiritual gurus and Western cult leaders. More generally, the piece (by Mishal Hussein) is watery-eyed drivel, and its subject remains a truly unremarkable, very wealthy sockpuppet.

Malala Yousafzai’s only qualification for the praises demanded from us lies in her being shot by the Taliban. Their reasoning for doing this – I concede – was certainly vile. She was one of numerous young girls in the Swat Valley to defend their right to attend school. To this (naturally), the Taliban are resolutely opposed and so – in a manner befitting their cowardice – they chose to silence Ms Yousafzai by bullet, shooting her on a crowded bus.

The Hussein piece ruminates that the Taliban ‘must regret doing this now’. To be honest, they can’t regret it more than me.

I am frankly sick of seeing her pinched little face grinning inside every newspaper I open. Her vacuous and unhelpful words (her latest suggestion is for us to negotiate with the Taliban) are also something we could do without. And why on earth is she living in Birmingham?

The guru known simply as ‘Malala’ is supposed to be a fearless warrior for Pakistani women’s liberties. I can understand that she left Pakistan initially to receive surgery, but despite many local troubles, the women of the English West Midlands are still allowed to go to school. Is her work really required there.

There are literally millions of brave women across the Islamic world who face down similar odds to Her Excellency, but who do not – like her – end-up in five-star New York hotel rooms. Some of them are even hunted in the West for becoming apostates from Islam. One thinks of the names’ Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Wafa Sultan.

But we won’t have either of these speaking at the UN. There’s a reason for that.

Ms Yousafzai has another value, alongside her chocolate-box ‘heroism’ story, for our political elites. She is the ‘Moderate Muslim’ par excellence. A visionary reformer of a culture unable to be reformed. She will doubtlessly also be held up as a ‘unifying’ figure, around which we can gather to bang tambourines and forget our differences, despite those ‘differences’ being the reason Yousefzai’s family scurried on a plane to Britain in the first place (there are many other hospitals she could have attended).

According to the Guardian, Malala has recently sold the rights to her life story for 2 million pounds. This heart-warming entrepreneurialism will provide great comfort to those women the newly minted hero has left behind in Pakistan.

Yousafzai is only 16. The BBC piece wonders excitedly where she can go from here. My suggestion and my hope is Heathrow Airport.