Thursday 11 October 2012

The shooting of Malala Yousufzai

On the 9th of October 2012 an Islamic extremist wearing a fake police uniform shot 14 year old Malala Yousufzai in the head and leg as she waited to return home on her school bus, several other young girls were also injured in the attack. After the attack Malala was airlifted to hospital where doctors managed to stabilise her condition because the the bullet in her head had miraculously missed her brain.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting and justified it by claiming that she was "pro-west" and that she had been "speaking against the Taliban" and "promoting secularism and so-called enlightened moderation". They also claimed that if she survives her injuries they will try to kill her again and that anyone preeching a similar path will also be targeted.

Malala was only 11 when she started documenting how difficult it was to get an education in Pakistan. At first she documented the atrocities committed by the Taliban as they occupied her native Swat Valley between 2007 and 2009 but she soon focused her writing upon the subject of female education in Pakistan.

n 2011 she became the first ever recipient of Pakistan's National Peace Prize for her campaign for female education rights. Here are a few of her most famous quotes:

"I dreamt of a country where education would prevail."
"I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one."
"Sometimes I imagine I'm going along and the Taliban stop me. I take my sandal and hit them in the face and say what you're doing is wrong. Education is our right, don't take it from us... So even if (God let this not happen) they kill me, I'll first say to them, what you're doing is wrong."
In the wake of the shooting, the vast majority of Pakistanis united in condemnation. Government officials, media personalities and religious leaders all spoke out against the attack and praised Malala's bravery.

Talk show host Hamid Mir said: "I can see the whole nation's head bowed in shame today. I want to ask those who shot a girl who only wanted to go to school: Do you think you are Muslims?"

These questions, to me, are of fundamental importance. What kind of warped belief system would provide a person justification to shoot children? What kind of morality was the attacker attempting to defend as he decided to shoot a child in the head? How on Earth could he have believed that Allah would have approved of such a brutal attack?

Given that the vast majority of Pakistani Muslims have united in condemnation of this attack, it is quite clear that the Taliban interpretation of Islam is at odds with everyone else's. That in the minds of most Pakistanis, the Taliban are not genuine Muslims. It is a great shame to see so many shouty atheist ranters and Islamophobes using this disgusting attack as an invitation to wade into the debate with their divisive "Islam is evil", "all religions are evil" diatribes, especially given that the vast majority of Muslims, people of other faiths and people of none are united in condemnation of this kind of barbarism.

At a moment where voices of moderation within the Muslim faith have a wonderful opportunity to present their interpretation of Islam; that in their view it is an ideology of peace, tolerance and scholarship, the atheist ranters and Islamophobic hate groups would prefer to use the actions of the very worst religious extremists as an excuse to launch the kind of offensive, ill-informed and generalisation laden diatribes they specialise in, and drown out the voices of moderation with their intolerant ranting.

The Taliban are degenerates who completely disregard the elements of Islam that contradict their agenda, they preach a message of hate, intolerance and anti-intellectualism. However Islam was once a religion of tolerance and scholarship. 

The Islamic caliphate of Córdoba famously allowed Christians and Jews to freely practice their religions, which contrasts strongly with the religious intolerance, persecution and widespread use of torture by the Catholic regime that replaced Moorish rule in Spain. During the great age of Islam, Islamic scholars preserved and translated countless Greek works of philosophy and mathematics, they invented algebra and became the first civilisation in history to comprehend irrational numbers.

Many millions of Muslims still believe that peace, tolerance and scholarship are the most vital aspects of their faith, but it suits the narratives of imperialist warmongers, right-wing hate groups and intolerant atheists alike to characterise all Muslims as backwards, education hating and murderous fanatics. However the widespread condemnation of the attack on Malala Yousufzai by Muslims from across Pakistan and the World demonstrate the falsity of this simplistic narrative.

In order to understand the assassination attempt against Malala Yousufzai, it is important to understand how the Taliban came to be operating in Pakistan in the first place. 
  • 1. Before the "War on Terrorism" there were no Taliban in Pakistan.
  • 2. The Pakistani Taliban came into existence in 2004 when the Pakistani government carried out severe military operations in the tribal belt, under direction from the United States military.
  • 3. US drone strikes have killed countless innocent people in the tribal belt of Pakistan.
  • 4. The tribal belt suffers high levels of illiteracy and poor education, meaning that the victims of such attacks are easily manipulated by religious extremists. When the Pakistani state and "western forces" are killing innocent people, it should be easy for us to see how fanatics present themselves as the only people fighting on the side of the victims.
It should now be beyond question that the single clearest consequence of the "war on terrorism" has been the effect of stirring up and popularising Islamic fanaticism. This is as clear in the tribal belt of Pakistan as it was in post-invasion Iraq.

When the only exposures to "the West" that uneducated and illiterate people get, are the consequences of drone strikes, overwhelming military force and civilian massacres, it shouldn't take a great deal of empathy to understand why they would want to fight back against these violent and murderous Western forces.

 Islamic fanatics like the Taliban thrive on suffering and ignorance, which makes it all the more obvious why they are so fundamentally opposed to female education. If they succeed in preventing half of the population from even attending primary level schools, they succeed in maintaining the culture of ignorance that they need in order to thrive.

The fact that the Taliban's morality relies so heavily upon the denial of education demonstrates the pathetic weakness of their "faith". That they are so afraid of allowing the education of children is clear evidence that they believe that their "morality" is so fragile that it can be destroyed simply by allowing children to learn. The bravery of Malala Yousufzai in standing up to these religious fanatics contrasts sharply with their moral cowardice. A cowardice that allows them to believe that they must kill children in order to avoid the eradication of their feeble "morality".

It is quite remarkable that so-called followers of the Prophet Mohamed would stoop to assassination attempts against a child that defends their right to an education, especially given that Mohamed once said thatthe ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”.

Through her scholarship and her campaign for education rights Malala Yousufzai has demonstrated that her work is more sacred than the violence of the Taliban and that at the age of only 14 she is already more of a Muslim than they ever will be. Not only that, but through her fearlessness she has demonstrated that she is prepared to become a martyr in defence of women's right to education. 

Once she recovers from the attack and hears of the Taliban's threats to try to kill her again, I'm sure this brave young woman will say "let them try". At 14 she is wise enough to know that by attempting to make her a martyr to womens' education rights, the Taliban has actually inflicted infinitely more damage to their warped fundamentalist ideology than they would have done by simply leaving her alone.

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