Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Yet Another Honor For Malala

Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 and survived to tell her story, has become a household name in the West. She and her family have found a new home in Birmingham, England.

She has been honored with some of the highest international awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Last week, Malala was named the youngest ever UN Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on girls' education.

Refugee Crisis:

While Malala has been widely celebrated in Europe and America, the West has not been so generous to the refugee children from Syria and other war-torn nations who are suffering an ongoing tragedy. Very few refugees have been accepted in the West and there's growing opposition to accepting any more. Meanwhile, the greatest burden of hosting refugees is being born by those who can least afford it.  As of the end of 2015, the top 6 countries hosting the largest number of refugees are all majority Muslim nations: Jordan (2.7 million), Turkey (2.5 million), Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon (1.5 million) and Iran (979,400).

Underlying Causes of Terror:

What is the reason for this? Is it easier to make ourselves feel good by saving one girl without dealing with the underlying causes of terror that produce the Malalas and others like her?

US Berkeley's Smirti Joneja answers it well in a piece she wrote for the Daily Cal. Here's an except from it:

"Swallowing Malala’s story is much easier than casting a critical eye on the role the West has had in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, which has contributed to a significant portion of the suffering that the people in those respective nations are undergoing. U.S. policy supported the rise of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, precursors to the Taliban, supporting radical jihadism and Islam as a retort against the Soviet Union and communist ideologies. Furthermore, U.S. military operations in Pakistan have ended thousands of innocent lives — actions that have gone largely unpunished and relatively unnoticed while the victims and their families have been sadly forgotten. It is not just the Taliban that is committing crimes against humanity. If the Western world wants to celebrate and take part in Malala’s advocacy for justice, it must first recognize all the different parties who have infringed on that justice, including its own policies — both historical and ongoing. Justice can’t be served selectively, for such justice really isn’t justice at all."

White Savior Complex: 

Assed Baig, a freelance journalist, has accused the West of "white savior complex" in describing how Malala has been co-opted by the white world since being shot in Pakistan. Here's what he wrote in an Op Ed in the Huffington Post:

"This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalized. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armor to save her."


It appears that the West has co-opted Malala rather than dealing with the underlying causes that produce Malalas.  While recognizing that the West does suffer from the "White Man Savior Complex", I find such concerns overblown and fundamentally off the mark. I think Malala is a great ambassador for Pakistan doing a great service to Pakistan women who make up half the population of the country. My hope is that her celebrity will help increase focus on girls' education in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Malala Inspires School Enrollment Surge in Pakistan

Malala Yousufzai 

Does America Share Responsibility for the Rise of ISIS?

Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in South Asia

Burka Avenger

Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

Malala Moment


Rks said...

Riaz Bhai, west has already gone out of the way to accommodate Muslim populations from all over the world. Its gone to such extant, their demographics are getting altered. I feel West must put a blanket ban on any more refugees. If not, the western nations will get compromised and there may not be any more developed nations in the future, who can take care of future refugees.

Your data on refugees in Turkey, Pakistan are dubious. Turkey is encouraging refugees by giving them fake Syrian passports and pushing them to Europe. Most are not from Syria. There are even Pakistani and Bangladeshis among these refugees. As far as Pakistan is concerned, refugees came more than 30 years back from Afghanistan, now they are settled and are active members contributing to the nations's economy. They were encouraged by Pakistan to take refuge, to create dis-harmony in Afghanistan. Now they are Pakistan's problem.

India also can claim there are 170 million Pakistani refugees waiting to migrate to Pakistan. Indian Muslims were supposed to migrate to Pakistan. But they stayed back- because they thought they fared better here. India also can similarly crib like Pakistan. These refugees need to go to their rightful land.

Riaz Haq said...

#India is world's 4th worst for religious violence after #Syria (1) , #Nigeria (2), #Iraq (3). #Pakistan at no 10.

India historically touts itself as a secular state, one where all religions are recognized and can peacefully co-exist. Well, at least in theory, it is. Unfortunately, the reality is much different.
An April 11 Pew Research Center analysis of 198 countries ranked India as fourth worst in the world for religious intolerance. In the country of 1.3 billion, the incidence of hostility related to religion trailed only Syria, Nigeria and Iraq, all places where sectarian violence is widespread.
India is not alone in seeing more religious unrest. Globally, Pew says, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years.
Pew analyzed cases that involved hate crimes, mob violence, communal violence, religion-related terror, the use of force to prevent religious practice, the harassment of women for not conforming to religious dress codes, and violence over conversion or proselytizing.

Tensions between religious groups—especially Hindus and Muslims—has long divided India, but the rifts have intensified. “[In 2015,] Muslims in India at times experienced attacks by Hindus because of alleged cow slaughter, while Hindus were also sometimes the targets of hostilities by Muslims as well,” Katayoun Kishi, the study’s lead author, told Quartz. “In addition, there were multiple incidents of rioting and mob violence involving the two groups.”
Lynchings of beef-eating Muslims have compromised India’s status as a secular country. But a re-burgeoning Hindutva nationalist agenda has not made even the majority Hindus immune to discrimination, in India or elsewhere. Around the world, Hindus were harassed in 18 countries, fewer places than some other groups. “But the vast majority of the world’s Hindus—95%—live in India, where harassment of Hindus by both government and social groups was reported in 2015,” the study’s authors note. Dalits, the lowest-caste Hindus, were especially ill-treated in society. (Dalits are often secluded from basic government institutions and services, such as education and health care, too.)
National crime statistics in India also indicated that, compared with other caste affiliations, assailants most often perpetrated rape against Dalit women, according to the US State Department’s human-rights country report. Many of the assailants are not prosecuted. On June 24, 2015, attackers beheaded Dalit engineer V. Gokulraj in Pallipallayam, Tamil Nadu, reportedly because of a romantic relationship with an upper-caste Hindu classmate. The primary suspect, local caste leader S. Yuvaraj, absconded for months after the incident. (He later surrendered.)

Anonymous said...

Ahmed F. said...

Anon: ""

How can he call himself a Muslim after writing this?

He is suffering from a toxic case of Malala Envy.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "How can he call himself a Muslim after writing this?"

Tarek Fatah is a shill for the Islamophobes in the West and in India.

Riaz Haq said...

Meet the 'other #Malalas' - #Nobel Laureate's friends now heading to #Edinburgh University … via @TeleWonderWomen

We have all heard of ‘the girl who was shot by the Taliban’. But the phrase – used as shorthand for Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, youngest ever UN Ambassador of Peace and the most famous schoolgirl in the world – only tells half the story of that fateful Tuesday in October 2012. Well, a third, to be precise.

For two other teenagers were victims of the attack that injured Malala. They too were caught up in that shower of bullets.

Kainat Riaz, then 15, and Shazia Ramzan, 14, were Malala’s fellow pupils at Khushal Public School. They were sitting on benches alongside the 15-year-old education campaigner in a converted Toyota truck, clasping their books, as they travelled home after a chemistry exam in Mingora, north-west Pakistan.

Kainat remembers excitedly discussing the answers. Shazia was staring out of the window, daydreaming – when the lives of the three girls changed forever.

“The Taliban stopped us, two boys – or men,” says Shazia. “One was in the front and the other one came to the back. He said: 'Who is Malala?' We had our faces covered [with niqabs], but Malala didn't.

“We were looking at him and then he shot Malala in the forehead. He shot me on my hand and shoulder, and Kainat's shoulder as well. Then he started shooting randomly.”


Shazia and Kainat were given full scholarships (more than half of students receive a bursary to cover fees that would otherwise cost £58,000 for two years), while Gordon Brown, UN special envoy on global education, helped with visas.

The girls arrived in 2013, leaving their families behind.

Atlantic College, set in a 12th-century castle, could not be further from their modest homes in rural Pakistan. Instead of lush green mountains, the girls are surrounded by sheep farms. Sitting in the cold principal's office today, they describe their initial feelings of disorientation - and freedom.

“Back home, you have to go anywhere with your father, mother or brother, because you are a girl,” explains Shazia, daughter of a bakery owner, and one of nine children. The girls relished being able to visit the shops alone and learnt to swim (“we don’t have pools for girls in Swat”).

British food, however, demanded more adjustment.

“Now I can eat pasta and pizza, which I couldn’t even look at before,” says Kainat. They order Indian take-aways to create a home away from home. Is our biryani as good? “They try their best,” says Shazia diplomatically.

The girls' fellow pupils were unfazed by their arrival. Many did not even know their story for several months, until they gave a speech at a student conference.

“Everyone treats us normally,” says Kainat. “They call us Kainat and Shazia, not Malala's friends. We are famous in Pakistan. Here, we are not special.”

While Malala was surrounded by family in Birmingham, her two friends had only each other, visiting to Swat just twice a year – a place to which Malala has not been able to return due to the ongoing threats.

The duo's sights are set on university. While Malala has received an offer from a top institution – understood to be Oxford – her friends were last month both given offers to study nursing at Edinburgh (“Inshallah, we get the grades”). Gordon Brown, who has become a mentor, is helping find sources of funding.

They are keen to restart campaigning. And both see their futures in Pakistan. Shazia – who remembers when girls' schools were shut down under Taliban tyranny – insists things are improving. “In some areas, girls and boys are now even being taught in the same classroom.”

“I believe I should go back to my country and try to make change there,” Kainat insists.

Adds Shazia, “However we can help, we will.”

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Nobel Laureate Rabindranath #Tagore became the embodiment of how the west wanted to see the east.

The success turned everyone's heads, including Tagore's. He became the most prominent embodiment of how the west wanted to see the east – sagelike, mystical, descending from some less developed but perhaps more innocent civilisation; above all, exotic. He looked the part, with his white robes and flowing beard and hair, and sometimes overplayed it. Of course, the truth was more complicated. The Tagores were among Kolkata's most influential families. They'd prospered in their role as middle men to the East India Company, whose servants named them Tagore because it was more easily pronounced than the Bengali title, Thakur. The west wasn't strange to them. Rabindranath's grandfather, Dwarkanath, owned steam tug companies and coal mines, became a favourite of Queen Victoria's and died in England (his tombstone is in Kensal Green cemetery). As for the poet himself, this was his third visit to London. On his first, he'd heard the music hall songs and folk tunes that he later incorporated into his distinctive musical genre, rabindra sangeet.

More than anything, what Tagore stood for was a synthesis of east and west. He admired the European intellect and felt betrayed when Britain's conduct in India let down the ideal. His western enthusiasts, however, saw what they wanted to see. First, he was an exotic fashion and then he was not. "Damn Tagore," wrote Yeats in 1935, blaming the "sentimental rubbish" of his later books for ruining his reputation. "An Indian has written to ask what I think of Rabindrum [sic] Tagore," wrote Philip Larkin to his friend Robert Conquest in 1956. "Feel like sending him a telegram: 'Fuck all. Larkin.'"

Is his poetry any good? The answer for anyone who can't read Bengali must be: don't know. No translation (according to Bengalis) lives up to the job, and at their worst, they can read like In Memoriam notices: "Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark" is among the better lines. Translator William Radice thinks that Tagore's willingness to tackle the big questions, heart on sleeve, has made him vulnerable to "philistinism or contempt". That may be so – see Larkin – but perhaps the time has come for us to forget Tagore was ever a poet, and think of his more intelligible achievements. These are many. He was a fine essayist; an educationist who founded a university; an opponent of the terrorism that then plagued Bengal; a secularist amid religious divisions; an agricultural improver and ecologist; a critical nationalist. In his fiction, he showed an understanding of women – their discontents and dilemmas in a patriarchal society – that was ahead of its time. On his 150th anniversary, we shouldn't resist two cheers, at least.

Riaz Haq said...

Framing of Malala Yousafzai: a comparative analysis of news coverage in Western and Pakistani mainstream English print and alternative media

This study compares Pakistani and the Anglo-American media news framing and how these sources portray similar news events. Specifically, it is a comparative analysis of news regarding the principal time periods in Malala Yousafzai’s life, namely: (1) the shooting of Malala by a Taliban gunman and her subsequent recovery; (2) the intervening period when Malala emerges as a brand and is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; and, (3) the period surrounding the winning of the Prize before she fades out from the media limelight. The study found that Western media articles framed her as a female education activist, a victim of terrorism, a victim of a society largely hostile to women and a beacon of hope for girls in a highly restrictive society. The Pakistani mainstream English media, at times, preferred to tow the western lead without clarifying its own stance. However, Pakistani alternative English media was largely critical of Malala, post western intervention. The results may have far-reaching implications and raise questions about the framing by audience and the modes of communication people adopt for building their knowledge structure.

Riaz Haq said...

West praises #Malala but ignores #Ahed. Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices. Why the difference? #Israel #Palestine #Taliban #Pakistan

Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested in a night-time raid on her home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of "assaulting" an Israeli soldier and an officer. A day earlier she had confronted Israeli soldiers who had entered her family's backyard. The incident happened shortly after a soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.

Her mother and cousin were arrested later as well. All three remain in detention.

There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls' empowerment.

Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration.

When 15-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly different. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued a petition entitled "I am Malala." The UNESCO launched "Stand Up For Malala."

Malala was invited to meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won.

State representatives such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well as prominent journalists such as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of her. There is even a Malala Day!

But we see no #IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. None of the usual feminist and rights groups or political figures has issued statements supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No one has declared an Ahed Day. In fact, the US in the past has even denied her a visa for a speaking tour.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices. She has been protesting the theft of land and water by Israeli settlers. She has endured personal sacrifice, having lost an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her parents and brother have been arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot in the leg. Two years ago, another video featuring her went viral - this time she was trying to protect her little brother from being taken by a soldier.

Why isn't Ahed a beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? Why has the reaction to Ahed been so different?

Riaz Haq said...

Pulitzer prize-winner Nicholas Kristof accused of '#racist #imperialist logic'. It’s easy to imagine #Trump agreeing with some of his ideas about the inherent vice of certain people from certain countries. #xenophobia #misogyny #Islamophobia @alternet

In Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power (December, NYU Press), Ann Russo, associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul University, offers an intersectional analysis that includes chapters on “Disrupting Whiteness,” “Shifting Paradigms to End Violence,” and “Disentangling US Feminism from US Imperialism.”

In the last section, “Resisting the ‘Savior’ Complex,” Russo recalls how Kristof—in his 2009 book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn—”portray[s] the men from the global south as either inherently brutal and violent, or lazy and irresponsible (both constructions synchronistic with the portrayal of men of color and immigrant men from the global south in the dominant culture of the United States).”


“In many poor countries, the problem is not so much individual thugs and rapists but an entire culture of sexual predation,” Kristof asserts. Kristof and WuDunn describe Ethiopia as “where kidnapping and raping girls is a time-honored tradition” and Congo as the “world capital of rape.”

“No doubt the widespread rape and sexual violence against women in the Congo is horrific,” Russo counters, “but [Kristof and WuDunn] explain it as a cultural problem, rather than a social and political [one].” With this myopic focus, they “obscure the role of the United States in fueling this endemic violence and the ongoing instability of the country and thus avoid any consideration of US accountability. For example, [when they discuss the Congo], Kristof and WuDunn do not tell us that our deep dependence on these mineral resources is, in part, what fuels the ongoing conflicts and violence in the region.”

In his win-a-trip contest announcement, Kristof writes that applicants who “don’t look like” him are “welcome.” That may be so. But a pro forma “welcome” can’t erase the impact of the broad strokes with which he has painted whole swaths of people.

This was a problem in 2009. Now, with Trump in the White House, it’s more important than ever to get rid of the myth of the good white liberal savior for once and for all, and stand in opposition to what Russo describes as Kristof’s “ethnocentrist, racist and imperialist logic.”