How Not to Talk About Malala

Nov 2012

Critics are exploiting Malala’s attack either to prove a point about drones or to “prove” Muslim barbarity.

Many analysts and critics across a spectrum are exploiting Malala’s attack to justify their own political ambitions whether it’s a position on drones or a moment to allegedly prove the barbarity of the Muslim world.

Those who support drones read Malala’s predicament as a reassertion of the Taliban’s destructive force in Pakistani society. They believe that drones are the only possible means to cleanse the region of the Taliban. Others who condemn drones have pointed out that Malala, a victim of the Taliban’s attack, has become an international icon and a heroine while innocent children killed by drones are ignored. The latter group argues that, while Malala is a significant part of Pakistani society and an important and influential teenage leader, it is unfair to condemn the attack of the Taliban on Pakistani soil while ignoring U.S. attacks that kill many more. 

Neither side discusses the Pakistani army’s attacks on the people of FATA.

The army bombs and utterly destroys lives, homes, and families. The motives for these attacks are disguised under the umbrella of the “war on terrorism,” but, in truth, Pakistan has its own motives in Pashtun-dominated areas, particularly the Waziristan region. That is one reason among others to believe that the Pakistani state’s role in the destruction of the FATA people and their land is deliberately overlooked. Consistent focus on drones, in fact, facilitates Pakistan’s attacks because it deflects attention from army attacks.

The outcry over drones is partly because they are executed by an outside force, the United
States, which drone critics interpret as a form of colonialism. Yet, greater numbers of civilians are killed in Pakistan’s operation in the same region. Both need to be discussed in such a way that one perpetrator is not privileged over another, such that one is rendered completely invisible and nonexistent, particularly when both claim to share an ultimate aim.

So, it is not outlandish to hope that one may soon be able to read equally careful studies about the Pakistani army’s operations in Waziristan, their mission and their impact, in the same way one reads studies on drones.

It is in this context that I find myself wondering what Malala would make of these connections. Would she find the drone discourse too complex to offer a simplified yes or no response to the question of drones? What if she does not appreciate being instrumentalized to support a political discourse?

The American media, too, has made political use of Malala. For this media, the attack on Malala is “proof” of the barbarity of the Muslim world and hence a justification for Western intervention. Yet, it is important to ask, why Malala now? Why didn’t Malala become a household name during the time when she was speaking out against the Taliban? Why did she only become important after she was attacked?

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8 Responses to How Not to Talk About Malala

  1. […] to the question, and they have risen to the occasion magnificently. Orbala, from Swat herself, responds to the instrumental uses to which Malala’s attack has been put, both by the so-called […]

  2. […] her as a young hero. I have since had time to reflect on that, especially when I came across this article in Tanqeed. You should go read the whole thing, but I will summarize a few […]

  3. […] possible agenda relating to Pakistan out there, whether she agrees or not. What is most worrying is the use of her name to further the pro-war agenda in the northwest, by both American and Pakistani armies—an agenda Malala herself has stated she […]

  4. […] person in Pakistan feel that the whole story was just a drama staged as a reason for West to justify their drone […]

  5. […] one needn’t subscribe to some grand theory of a Great Game to know that global icons are co-opted for political aims. This much is straight forward. That, to me, is the least interesting thing […]

  6. […] I’ve been critical of the narrative that the Western media has been feeding people (see How Not to Talk About Malala). Or sheep, should I say. Few have stood up to question it, and that’s mindblowing. No, […]

  7. […] who gains fame in the west must be some western puppet. Don’t get me wrong – I hate how the west has highjacked Malala’s story and is using it left and wrong for its own vested interests; but that doesn’t make Malala or he […]

  8. […] who gains fame in the west must be some western puppet. Don’t get me wrong – I hate how the west has highjacked Malala’s story and is using it left and wrong for its own vested interests; but that doesn’t make Malala or he […]

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