MalalaBy Habiba Ashna

Malala Yousufzai’s Nobel Peace Prize was celebrated around the world, but she was ostracized by her own people, as well as some Pashtuns. Afghans objected to the winning of the award by pointing at her Pakistani passport and labeling her ISI. Some even went to an even greater extent by calling her a traitor, and labeling her a CIA agent. The Nobel Peace Prize assured the skeptics, thus starting a new wave of controversies and conspiracy theories. A few discussed issues based on the general assumptions are: the Taliban’s support for education, the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala as a political move by the west; and whether Afghans should support Malala, because she is from Pakistan.

The argument that Malala is seeking to demonize the Taliban because the Taliban never objected to education, is unreasonable. Malala Youfuzai was shot when she was only fifteen years old while she was heading to school with her friend. She was not shot because she was going to school, but rather because she supported a broader educational system that the Taliban had banned.  When the Taliban’s spokesperson wrote a letter in response to Malala’s speech last year on July 12—which is also her birthday—in the United Nations, in summary, the Taliban spokesperson wrote that the Taliban never opposed schools, learning, or teaching for girls. His idea was taken, quoted, and used by many against Malala in the social media and on other media outlets. What they did not discuss, however, was the type of education that Malala Yousufzai and the Taliban supported.  Malala Yousufzai supports a broader and universal education that includes Islamic studies, while the Taliban only supports Islamic teachings. In addition, the Taliban opposes every education system for women apart from Islamic studies. The issue was not closing schools doors; the issue was selective education on the Taliban’s part.

Some argue that the Nobel Peace Prize is given to the less deserved candidate, Malala Yousufzai, as a political move by the West. Since being shot, Malala has spoken about girl’s education everywhere and has acted as a global citizen.  She also speaks in favor of “Bring Back Our Girls,” which is an initiative that was started to bring kidnapped Nigerian girls, back to their families.  In addition to her work with girl’s education and the ‘ Bring Back Our Girls’ initiative, she started her own foundation called the “Malala Fund,” for education. Of all her accomplishments, the most important thing Malala Yousufzai has done is speak. She speaks about the importance of education in domains where many thought girls can not speak for themselves. Because of this, she fully deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Recognition is an integral part of politics and peace is a political process. Unequivocally, every award or prize comes with some political baggage, which delays its acceptance. Moreover, every award and prize given will be ideologically influenced by that government.   The Nobel Peace Prize is a European award, which comes with its own perspective. Therefore, the statement given at the time of the award to Malala, and Kailash Satyarthi was a political one.  The focus should rather be whether the initiative had a positive or negative agenda. The initiative and cause that they supported was a positive one.  The Europeans gave the award not just to those who deserved it, but further gave it to them to send a peaceful message in a broader sense to both nations.

So why do I support her as an Afghan? Because she is a girl who advocates children’s education. In Afghanistan, we have Malala’s who struggle to go to school not only because of Taliban, but also because of their families and society. Women in Afghanistan have not forgotten the atrocities committed by the Taliban or previous regimes. Many work for rights, but not many are heard. If Malala Yousufzai is talking about education and she is being heard, then I will support her. It is the message that should be our focus. Malala is a child who speaks for education and therefore I support her. In the midst of all these accusations, we forget that a young kid advocating for education has won an award.  So let us support a cause today and congratulate Malala Yousufzai in harmony.