It would take a crooked soul to hate the bright and courageous schoolgirl from Swat who refused to bow down to the tyranny of militants blowing up schools and murdering innocent people in her area, and kept the flame of education alive among the girls in her neighbourhood. And it would take an even more crooked soul to apologise for those who attacked her and for the militants who kill innocent citizens and blow up schools in the name of Islam.
Even the religious leaders who are otherwise soft on militants cannot bring themselves to say anything against Malala or justify the attack on her. So why should we allow the utterances of a lunatic fringe, that vilifies the person of Malala and threatens to attack her again, to define the contours of this important discussion? It only serves to deflect attention from the real issues at hand and the hypocrisy of those promoting her as a brand for their foul motives. Can we talk about the story of Malala’s ascent as a celebrity without any reference to the context in which it takes place? I don’t think so.
Isn’t it a bit more than just strange that the entire international establishment has been so moved by the misfortune of a schoolgirl from Pakistan that they have virtually adopted her? The same international establishment, complete with Gordon Browns and Obamas, the EU and the World Bank, the mainstream western media and glamorous celebrities, does not bat an eyelid as it lords over the murder and displacement of thousands upon thousands of school-going girls and boys around the world.
In her meeting with Obama, Malala asked him to stop the drones that have killed a large number of innocent children, women, old people and non-combatants, killings that he personally authorises every Tuesday. Perhaps she should have also asked him to stop arming, aiding, training and abetting the militant groups (very much like the militants who shot her) that are killing and displacing children like her in Syria. But then she is just 16. One hopes that with time she would come to understand that those honouring her with awards and accolades for standing up to tyranny are the biggest tyrants on the face of this earth today.
Obviously she doesn’t know that those applauding her courage preside over a barbaric imperialist machine that has spawned the very forces that blew up her school and tried to kill her, that even today these leaders mouthing platitudes about peace are busy creating these violent monsters and unleashing them on hapless populations in countries that resist their imperial ambitions. She obviously doesn’t know that those fawning over her in interviews and splashing her on their magazine covers are complicit in these unforgivable crimes against humanity, covering up the muck of their governments and inventing enemies that don’t exist. With her hypocritical newfound mentors cultivating her with a missionary zeal, the danger is that she might never know their dark side that they keep hidden behind their high offices and deceptive rhetoric, their expensive suits and plastic smiles. The danger is that her inspiring example would be co-opted in the narrative of the empire, her truth used to fuel falsehood.
It has been reported that Edelman, a top PR firm that counts Microsoft and Starbucks as its clients, is managing Malala and some of the top names in the field are working on the campaign that is clearly designed to fit into the narrative of the empire; a narrative that justifies the barbaric atrocities committed by the imperialist machine in the name of humanitarian intervention. Malala is being projected not as a victim of the agents of violence sponsored by the imperialist machine and its Middle Eastern proxies that she is, but as a victim of a ‘barbaric Pakistani society’ where schoolgirls who wish to continue their education are shot; a perfect justification for the white knights in shining armours to intervene militarily and save millions of Pakistani girls who, if we were to believe the campaign, are shot down for wishing to go to school.
For the US and its rich imperialist allies, manipulating perceptions of citizens in their countries is not something new. Emotions are whipped up, insecurities unleashed, entire civilisations demonised, events staged and stories cooked up to attack poor countries. It would be silly to think that the hype being created around the story of Malala by the same machine that brought you blockbusters like Saddam Hussain’s weapons of mass destruction and the use of Sarin gas by the Assad regime, Iran’s nuclear program and Gaddafi’s biological arsenal, is guided by any real feeling for the bravery and determination of a Pakistani schoolgirl. Is it just a coincidence that everyone from Madonna to Angelina Jolie, Beckham and Brown, Obama and the Queen of England, the EU and the UN, the World Bank and the IMF, the powerful players of the imperial tragedy now showing all over the globe have discovered Malala as if on cue?
Friends rooting for the Nobel peace prize for Malala were disappointed that she didn’t win it. They didn’t stop to question the credibility of a prize that has been exposed as a tool in the hands of the same imperial machine, aimed at feeding the false narrative of the empire and influencing individuals and events in a manner that suits the rich and the powerful. The fact that Malala didn’t win it actually goes in her favour. It indicates that those entrusted with the task to manage her haven’t been able to cultivate her to the extent that she starts mouthing whatever they tell her. May God give her the strength to stay safe from their evil machinations!
The writer is a freelance columnist.
This article was first published in 'The Nation' newspaper on 14 October 2013.