Bangladeshi artist censored in Tower Hamlets

November 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm (Art and design, Bangladesh, censorship, Civil liberties, culture, London, Pakistan, strange situations)

From the Dockland & East London Advertiser:

Artist ‘censored’ by Tower Hamlets Council at Bangladeshi exhibition

Saif Osmani with some of his work at the Brady Arts Centre 

Above: Saif Osami with some of his work at the Brady Arts Centre
By Adam Barnett, Reporter

A Bangladeshi artist has criticised the Council after he was told some of his work was too controversial for public display

One of the pieces deemed "too contraversial" by Tower Hamlets Council

Above: one of the pieces deemed “too controversial” by Tower Hamlets Council

Saif Osmani, 32, who was born in Whitechapel, was invited to show his work at the Brady Arts Centre in Hanbury Street as part of a season of Bangladeshi drama and art.

But when Mr Osmani arrived on November 2 he says he was told by a council arts officer that four of his pieces, which combine the Pakistani and Bangladeshi flags, might anger “hardliners” and would not be shown.

Mr Osmani, who lives in Stratford, said: “I was told that due to the political situation in Bangladesh I was unaware of what this series of paintings could trigger with the ‘hardliners’.

“I can’t see why these events happening thousands of miles away have started dictating this exhibition here in the UK.”

Tower Hamlets Council declined to say who its arts officer meant by “hardliners”.

Mr Osmani said the rest of his work was moved to a corner of the room near the toilet and was later hidden by a pull-up banner.

Akhtar Hussain, of art group Avid Art Agency, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that this level of censoring is taking place in the name of political correctness at an event which was supposed to celebrated British and Bangladeshi arts, but instead curtails the content of the art on display.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We are clear that there has been no censorship in relation to this exhibition.

“As with any public space the council does have the right to decide what is exhibited and in this case the pictures chosen were fully discussed and agreed between the artist and a member of the council arts team.”

The exhibition runs until November 22 at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Hanbury Street.

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Assuming that the article is accurate, this would appear to be an outrageous act of censorship. But what exactly are the political motives that lie behind it? And who are these “hardliners” who might be angered by the paintings? Any information from readers would be most welcome.

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Malala Yousafzai and “the Brown Man’s Honor Complex”

November 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm (conspiracy theories, good people, Human rights, misogyny, Pakistan, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, secularism, solidarity, terror, women, youth)

It’s fairly well known that some people in Pakistan hate Malala Yousafzai and sympathise with the Taliban barbarians who tried to murder her. Other elements deal in conspiracy theories to the effect that she wasn’t really shot at all and the whole thing was some sort of elaborate conspiracy by “Western” forces, etc.

But such opinions are not confined to backward elements in the Swat Valley. In Britain, Malala has her detractors, peddling even more pernicious conspiracy theories – more pernicious because they’re dressed up in the pseudo-sophisticated language of post-colonial studies, third-worldism and cultural/political relativism.

A classic example of such loathsome, wheedling, dishonesty and de facto appeasement of clerical fascism, is a piece by one Assed Baig that first appeared on the Huffington Post website, entitled ‘Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex.’ It effectively sums up the poisonous politics that lie behind much of the Chomskyite/Saidite so-called “left” (and Guardianista liberal-”left”) that has come to the fore in British, European and US w-w-wadical circles in recent years. A fuller version of the article is published here.

For those who cannot bring themselves to read the article (though you should), the following gives a pretty good flavour:

“There is no justifying the brutal actions of the Taliban or the denial of the universal right to education, however there is a deeper more historic narrative that is taking place here.

“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 institutionalised. 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 armour to save her.”

But a pretty strong reply has since appeared, nailing Assed’s hypocrisy, dishonesty, relativism and sexism in the matter of Malala. We’re pleased to reproduce it below:
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Silencing Malala Yousafzai and “the Brown Man’s Honor Complex”

By Meriam Sabih

-a reply to ‘Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex.’

“I want to give my message to Pakhtoons, to educate their sons and daughters. Not just school, work on them so they treat every human being well…Teach them tolerance. Teach them how to tolerate the ideas of others and how to live in coexistence with others.”– Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First...Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First Initiative anniversary event (Photo credit: United Nations Information Centres)

In a Pakistani interview long before she became a household name, outspoken Malala shared her dreams of becoming a politician, gave advice on foreign policy (yes including drones), and thanked the Pakistani Army for their successful operation in Swat. Malala was a force to be reckoned with long before the Taliban shot her in the head for speaking out for the education of girls. And despite their best efforts, she is an even greater force to be reckoned with now.

Assed Baig in his article, “Malala and the White Saviour Complex” failed to understand the universality of Malala’s message and did not give her the credit that she deserves. This is not the story of “the weak native girl being saved by the white man,” it is the story of the bravest girl in the world. A girl with a voice so powerful she had to be eliminated. The West didn’t offer Malala protection when she was receiving daily death threats nor did a knight in shining armor rescue her when she stood face to face with the Taliban. She endured these threats alone without the tactical support of the world’s largest armies; let alone a bullet proof vest or a bodyguard.

Baig argues that although her message is true and profound it has been “hijacked by the West.” Therefore this coverage must be scorned and vilified. His very masculinity as a brown man and worldview in which the West must remain the enemy are brought into question when Malala receives a warm welcome by the international community. How can the West be the enemy and then do any real good? He cannot fathom doctors, activists, institutions, and politicians around the world engaged in humanitarian work unrelated to a larger racist narrative.

More troubling, he can not fathom Malala being a true inspiration to the West. As she spoke from the podium of the United Nations inspiring millions by her words as the likes of Pakistan’s little Mother Teresa — others such as Baig felt a sense of shame that a native girl stood on a world stage “unveiling” herself as the poster child for a narrative which dishonors the brown man.

Does Baig realize he is identifying every brown man with the Taliban? At the UN Malala demanded the strongest leaders in the world “…to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity,” as she averred the urgency to protect the rights of women and children. Since being attacked she has not hesitated a single day in speaking out against the Taliban. In meeting with President Obama, Malala reiterated the concerns back home about drone attacks. One wonders if a Muslim man had made such a fearless litany of demands to both world leaders and terrorists alike would Baig and others have referred to him as a “tool for the West” or celebrated him as a hero?

Remnants of Baig’s distrust eerily reminded me the rambling letter Taliban Commander Adnan Rashid wrote to Malala explaining that every perceived Western good must have within it a sinister plot, a suspicion so deep and twisted that he justifies the killing of polio workers and education activists. He offered Malala a safe return to Pakistan only if she study Quran at a Madrassa and reject a western education. He too accused Malala of being easily swayed and “using her tongue at the behest of others” depriving her of her own agency and ideas.

Similarly Baig’s argument seeks to confine Malala and place restrictions lest she become impure with Western exposure, sympathy, or indoctrination. Though it was the Pakistani military who cleared Swat from the hands of the Taliban and the Pakistani military doctors which removed the bullet from Malala’s head, Baig continues in making even her medical treatment in England a means of shame for the native brown man. Such divisive attitudes seek to perpetuate a cycle of hate, cynicism, and distrust. There seems to be no room in such a world view for reconciliation, redemption, or working together with “the white man” for common goals.

Furthermore it is a sexist narrative. Vilifying coverage of Malala’s message is another attempt to silence her. Comparing her to victims of violence who were not specifically targeted for their fierce activism (literally called out by name and shot in the head for only that reason alone) doesn’t make sense, even though their deaths are tragic and wrong. Extremists have intentionally killed far more people in Pakistan than any drone. They have deliberately destroyed countless Pakistani schools and vow to continue doing so. And if we are comparing, how many schools have the Taliban built?

As Malala Yousafzai stood on the world’s stage, she paid homage to her culture, her religion, her heroes, and her dreams. Her eloquent voice aligned with those of countless other girls whom she spoke for, and imagining them all standing before her gave her peace. Far from needing a savior she embodied a remarkable image of Muslim female leadership and power — she was the savior — the likes of that of Benazir Bhutto — Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister, her ideal, and another woman attacked and killed by the Taliban. Her message remains that we must join hands with all people from all walks of life who support education, and that includes Gordon Brown. It echoes the highest ideals of her heroes who taught mercy, unity, forgiveness, reconciliation even with one’s staunchest foes, and also called for non-violence.

“Our words can change the whole world because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness…” Malala Yousafzia

Malala’s dreams have not been hijacked, she has been given the largest global platform in order for her to amplify her voice. Why should that disgust us? Shouldn’t it make us proud? It is not just the West, but also the East which lauded her with praise. Pakistan’s former President has awarded her the highest national award in Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has named her the Education Envoy for the country. If Gordon Brown, now the UN special envoy for Global education is presently ‘using’ Malala, it is certainly not to spearhead another war, but to grant free primary education to all children — a campaign that Malala along with other Muslim Nations fully supports.

By denigrating Malala’s profound message as “western propaganda” Baig and those like him are doing far more to try to rob Malala’s dreams before they even come to fruition simply because it’s not the kind of “so-called propaganda” they would like highlighted.  Yet the irony of such sensationalism is that had the media largely ignored Malala’s story, Baig would be outraged that the image of a courageous Muslim fighting terrorism instead of promoting it is not deemed news worthy. And had she succumbed to her wounds, the media frenzy around her would not have amounted to some sinister plot to use her as a “tool.”

Yes there are hundreds and thousands of girls like Malala who struggle, who are robbed of an education, who are silenced, and whom Malala now speaks for. But as fate has it, there is only one Malala Yousafzai the captivating activist, just as there was one Hellen Keller, one Benazir Bhutto, and one Martin Luther King. The world needs heroes because of their innate leadership qualities, electrifying charm, and resolute unshakable commitment to their dreams that make them stand apart from every crowd and inspire us all to higher ideals. Even the Taliban could long see that Malala is no ordinary girl, but is intensely special, and that’s why they still want her dead.

Those who want to paint Malala as an easily influenced “tool” and not as a strong young Muslim woman driving an inspirational campaign have failed to really listen to her message. They failed to know who Malala is and to know the message she has always stood for. We face a grave danger to our own advancement as a society if we label brave female activists who use an international platform as ‘tools’ or ‘traitors’ hurling an attack on the native man’s honor. Shouldn’t we instead rally to their causes as their biggest supporters as opposed to being cynical of their fame, and even join in applauding them when the world takes notice of our own heroes? Whose side are we on?

Meriam Sabih has a BA is English and Psychology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Follow Meriam Sabih on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@meriamsabih

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Asian Network’s Nihal on grooming

June 29, 2013 at 1:18 am (BBC, child abuse, conspiracy theories, drugs, Human rights, Islam, Jim D, men, misogyny, Pakistan, Racism, religion, sexism, thuggery)

Don’t even think about commenting on this issue without having listened to this!

Starts at 11.57

The BBC Asian Network bills the programme as follows:

Debate about grooming cases, live from Oxford

Nihal’s phone-in [in fact the phone-in is preceded by an hour's debate from Oxford, which is the crucial part of the programme -JD] is coming live from the Cowley Road in Oxford where seven men groomed and sexually abused girls as young as eleven over a period of eight years. He will be getting reaction to the sentences given to the men and asking what lessons can be learnt from what has happened.

The issues up for debate are extremely sensitive – so much so that a lot of people from the area did not want to talk to us. Five of the seven men found guilty were of Pakistani origin and most of the people who BBC Asian Network has spoken to in the area either knew them – or knew someone who knew them.

Nihal asks – who is to blame for this terrible abuse, apart from the men themselves? Why were they able to get away with the abuse over an eight year period?

If the men were so well known in the community, why were their crimes not reported sooner? Is the fact that many of them came from the Pakistani community a relevant one? 

The main debate lasts for one hour and forty minutes, but it’s well worth putting the time aside for.  If you can’t do that, at least listen to the wise words of Julie Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Britain, at about 30.20. This is only available for the next four days:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02yj2tb

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Sign Malala’s petition

June 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm (anti-fascism, children, civil rights, Education, good people, Human rights, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, rights, UN, youth)

Here’s something I’d hope we can all agree on:

From A World at School/ Stand with Malala

Last October, people across the globe united to send thoughts of hope and love to a brave young girl fighting for her life in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai because of her strong voice in the fight for women’s rights and youth education. Their gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in front of her peers – but Malala survived and she hasn’t stopped fighting.

Last weekend we were reminded of the need to continue to stand behind Malala and her cause once again. 14 young female students were massacred as a bus taking them home from university in Quetta, in western Pakistan, was blown up by extremist militants.

On July 12 – less than a year after she was attacked – Malala will mark her 16th birthday by speaking at the UN. She’ll be delivering to the highest leadership of the UN a set of education demands written for youth, by youth.

Join in uniting for Malala – and for girls’ education – once again.

Sign the letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledging your support to her cause.

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Pakistan’s women lead the way against fascists

May 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm (anti-fascism, civil rights, democracy, elections, fascism, islamism, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, sectarianism, women)

The fascists of the Taliban, and their appeasers like Imran Khan, have been defied and (hopefully) defeated by the people of Pakistan, led by the women. Those sections of the decadent western “left” (notably the SWP) who support such fascists in the sub-continent, should be ashamed.

Millions of voters turned out to cast their ballots in Pakistan’s historic election Saturday despite Taliban threats and a series of attacks in a few volatile areas. The poll marks Pakistan’s first-ever transition of civilian governments.

Veero Kolhi

Veero Kolhi (in green sari), a freed bonded labourer turned election candidate, at rally in Hyderabad, Pakistan. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
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By Leela JACINTO
 

Braving Taliban threats and attacks, millions of Pakistanis turned out to vote today in a landmark election marking the first transition between civilian governments in the country’s 66-year history.

Polls opened amid tight security across Pakistan with voters lining up at polling stations in some of the main cities despite the searing heat and the omnipresent fear of attacks.

By midday, the country’s election commission said the voter turnout was 30% – an indication that the total turnout looked set to cross the 44% mark of the last general election in 2008. Voting was extended by an extra hour nationwide to allow people queuing at polling centers to cast their ballot, according to the AFP. In Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, polling was extended by three hours in some constituencies because voting started late.

A series of gunfights and bomb attacks targeted party offices and polling stations in some of the volatile parts of this South Asian nation, killing at least 17 people.

In the tinderbox port city of Karachi, a bomb attack on the office of the (ANP) Awami National Party killed 11 people and wounded around 40 others. At least three other attacks – including gunfights – were reported across the city.

Gunmen killed two people outside a polling station in Baluchistan, the southwestern province where separatists oppose the election, and in the northwestern city of Peshawar, a bomb explosion killed at least one person and wounded 10 others, according to local police officials.

Voters undeterred

But the attacks failed to deter people from the polls as millions of Pakistanis, buoyed by a prospect of change and keenly aware of the historic nature of Saturday’s vote, cast their ballots to elect representatives to the National Assembly – or lower house – as well as provincial assemblies.

“This election is very significant,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International. “Yes, there are many problems, but we should not dismiss this election – it’s a chance for Pakistan to deepen its democratic process and also for citizens to demonstrate they won’t be intimidated by groups like the Taliban into not exercising their right to choose their government.”

Violence has been a key problem in the run-up to Saturday’s vote, with the Taliban targeting three secular parties – including outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP (Pakistan Peoples’ Party).

Security was tight across Pakistan, with the military deploying troops and additional security personnel at polling stations and counting centres amid Taliban threats to disrupt the vote.

In the most populous province of Punjab alone, 300,000 security officials – including 32,000 troops – have been deployed. Another 96,000 security forces have been posted in the Taliban stronghold regions in northwestern Pakistan.

Saturday’s vote came just days after former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider Gilani – a provincial assembly candidate – was kidnapped during an election rally in the central Pakistani city of Multan.

The kidnapping highlighted the relentless levels of violence in a country that’s no stranger to election-related bloodshed.

“It’s been a very, very brutal and very bloody campaign,” said FRANCE 24’s Rezaul Hasan, reporting from Islamabad days before the historic vote. “There are widespread reports that there could be attacks during the polling and the army has deployed hundreds of thousands of security personnel. But it still remains to be seen whether polling will be peaceful because the militants – the Taliban – have shown their ability to strike despite all the security measures that have been put in place.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Taliban kill (another) teacher

March 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm (assassination, crime, Education, fascism, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, secularism, terror, thuggery, tragedy, women)

Shahnaz Nazli, a teacher at a girls’ school in the Northwestern Khyber district of Pakistan, was murdered earlier this week. Officially, the motorbike-riding  killers are “unknown” but they are clearly the same brand of  gynaephobic fascist bastards who tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. The killing was quite widely covered by the likes of CNN, but I could find nothing in the Guardian or on the main liberal-leftist websites.

Can it be that sections of the Western liberal-left have come to simply accept that this kind of thing is inevitable in certain cultures? Or that sections of the so-called “left” even harbour a degree of sympathy with the Taliban as some kind of “resistance” movement?

Maybe Nick Cohen has a point.

And this book is essential reading.

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Malala: Person Of The Year

December 30, 2012 at 10:21 am (anti-fascism, children, Civil liberties, Education, good people, Human rights, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, solidarity, terror, thuggery, truth, women)

There can be no doubt who wins Person Of The Year as far as I’m concerned: Malala Yousafza , anti-fascist heroine whose courageous stand for human rights against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) nearly cost her her life.

“I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I'm afraid of no one." - Malala Yousafzai

A Pakistani writer, Saroop Ijaz, put the feelings of all civilised people into words:

 There are those who are trying to inject complexity into the debate and some of them unwittingly are becoming apologists for this mindset of murder and blowing up girls’ schools. Yet, there remains very little room for complexity. It can either be Malala’s Pakistan or TTP’s Pakistan, it cannot be both. This should not be a choice. A Pakistan without Malala and her other fellow girls fighting for education will not be worth living in. I know binaries are supposed to be lazy and not nuanced enough, however, a 14-year-old child is shot in the head for “promoting secularism”. There is no provision for nuance. One has to set one’s face against this and summon all resources to fight. The debate on drone attacks can and should continue. However it has no bearing on our responsibility to fight these medievalists. They should be fought and eliminated — not negotiated with or mollycoddled. Firstly, negotiation is not possible. Secondly, and more importantly, negotiation with them is immoral. An attack on our children is as direct and frontal as an assault can be. This is not a question of politics; it has become a question of survival. The fight should begin by naming the enemy loud and clear, i.e., the TTP and their ideology of hate.

It is of some consolation to see the army chief condemning the assassination attempt on Malala. However, mere condemnation is not enough. The Pakistan Army has to stop the policy of considering the terrorist, any faction or network as “strategic assets”. The mindset has to be fought and fought as a whole and conclusively. It is now a choice between our children and these “strategic assets”. The Pakistan Army has, the over the past three decades, contributed to this ideology of jihad. For this reason, it also has the additional responsibility of erasing this misdeed and fighting these monsters.

George Orwell, writing about a young soldier of the Spanish War, wrote: “But the thing I saw in your face, No Power can disinherit; No Bomb that ever burst; Shatters the Crystal Spirit.” To understand Orwell’s words, have a look at the face of that child and the sparkle and resolve in her eyes. We are not Malala, but we should be, we can try. Let us hope Malala lives long enough to see her Pakistan.

Read the full article here

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Great news about Malala!

October 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, children, Civil liberties, Cross-post, good people, Human rights, humanism, Pakistan, solidarity, women, youth)

Get well soon Malala Yousafzai

From Nick Lowles of  Hope Not Hate:

The BBC has just announced that Malala Yousafzai has stood up for the first time since being shot in the head by the Taliban. The 14-year-old was targeted after she led a campaign for girls to be educated.

This is really great news.

Thank you so much if you’re one of the  4,153 people who have so far signed her Get Well book.

 We are delivering the book to Malala early next week so we are making one last push to get more names.

 You may have already signed but can you now encourage your friends to do likewise?

 Malala is a symbol of hope against hate and the more people we can get to sign our Get Well book the better the message that sends to her.

 We will be delivering the Get Well book early next week so please ask your friends to sign today:

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/m/4c18e7c/618c0651/6106672b/167f7587/2124584510/VEsF/

 This week is Hate Crime Awareness Week and we’ve done our bit to promote it. Today, we have put up two articles about Malala which are well worth a read. The first is by Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister and who is now the UN Special Envoy for Global Education. He has launched a campaign to achieve education for all in Pakistan. We also have an article by Sara Khan, Director of Inspire, a Muslim women’s human rights group. She explains how Malala’s story can inspire Muslim women in the UK.

You can find both articles on http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/m/4c18e7c/618c0651/6106672b/167f7584/2124584510/VEsC/

 Let’s go into the weekend on a cheerful note. Please encourage your friends and family to sign Malala’s Get Well book and let her know how much she inspires us

Thanks

Nick

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Get well soon, Malala

October 16, 2012 at 8:03 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, children, Civil liberties, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, Pakistan)

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From Hope not Hate:
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Malala Yousafzai is on her way to the UK for emergency medical attention. This brave 14-year-old from Pakistan is fighting for her life after being shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to campaign for girls to be educated.
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The shooting has shocked Pakistan and tens of thousands have taken to the streets to condemn the shooting and support her calls for greater rights for girls and women.
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The attempted assassination of Malala highlights the worldwide struggle between HOPE and hate.
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From the persecution and harassment of minorities in the UK to the genocidal killing fields of East Africa; from Governments trying to outlaw homosexuality in several countries to the religious extremists who are trying to impose their worldview on believers and non-believers alike – there is just too much hate in this world.
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Malala should be a symbol of our resistance to hatred. That is why we want to let her know that we all want her to recover. We will deliver one copy of the Get Well book to the hospital and another to the Pakistan High Commission.
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This week has been designated Hate Crimes Awareness week and HOPE not hate has created a special website to look at hate crime. Each day this week we will put up a number of articles by organisations helping victims and trying to reduce hatred in our society. There will be a daily discussion point and people will be invited to give us their thoughts.
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Today we ask why victims of hate crime appear so reluctant to report the incident to the police.
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You can visit our website here: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/hate-crime
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/Get well soon Malala Yousafzai
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Malala is an extraordinary brave young woman from the Swat District in Pakistan.  She was born on July 12th 1997 and at the age of 11 began a blog for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban in the Swat district, with a focus on the right of girls to be educated.  A translation of her blog can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7889120.stm.
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Malala has continued to be a vocal advocate, of education for all, in Pakistan and was the runner up of the International Children’s Peace Prize last year.  Her contribution was recognised within Pakistan in December 2011 when she was awarded the National Youth Peace Prize.  Malala is an inspiration for people across the world. On October 9th 2012 the Taliban attempted to assassinate her as she travelled home after an exam on the school bus.  A national day of prayer has been held for Malala across Pakistan.
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Tell Malala we are thinking of her
http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/malala-yousafzai

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Why they hate Malala

October 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm (Afghanistan, children, fascism, Guardian, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, relativism, religion, terror, thuggery, women)

The piece below is from today’s Graun (print edition) and is essential reading. It should (but probably won’t) put to shame all those (including some Graun contributors) who try to make out that the Taliban is some sort of legitimate national liberation movement, or is simply a movement that responds (understandably) to “imperialism.” First, here’s a video edited from a New York Times documentary about this young hero and her incredibly brave stand against the gynophobic clerical fascists:

Why they hate Malala

By Kamila Shamsie

The attempted assassination of a 14-year-old girl was driven by a pathological hatred of women – not by politics, as the Taliban claim

‘I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban.” So began the diary of Malala Yousafzai, an 11-year-old girl living in Pakistan’s Swat region in 2009 while the Taliban had de facto control and female education was banned. The BBC website published the diary, and a few months later a New York Times documentary revealed more about the girl behind the pen.

Today, as Malala Yousafzai remains critical but stable in hospital following an assassination attempt by the Taliban, I watched the laughing, wise, determined 11-year-old in that video and thought of the Urdu phrase, “kis mitti kay banee ho” – “from what clay were you fashioned?”

It’s an expression that changes meaning according to context. Sometimes, as when applied to Malala Yousafzai, it’s a compliment, alluding to a person’s exceptional qualities. At other times it indicates some element of humanity that’s missing. From what clay were you fashioned, I’d like to say to the TTP (the Pakistan Taliban), in a tone quite different to that in which I’d direct it to the 14-year-old girl they shot “because of her pioneering role in preaching secularism and so-called enlightened moderation” and who, according to their spokesman, they intend to target again.

The truth is both Malala Yousafzai and the Taliban were fashioned from the clay of Pakistan. When I say this about Malala it is not in a statement of patriotism about my homeland but instead an echo of a sentiment expressed by the novelist Nadeem Aslam: “Pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery. But no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave.”

Because the state of Pakistan allowed the Taliban to exist, and to grow in strength, Malala Yousafzai couldn’t simply be a schoolgirl who displayed courage in facing down school bullies but one who, instead, appeared on talk shows in Pakistan less than a year ago to discuss the possibility of her own death at the hands of the Taliban.

“Sometimes I imagine I’m going along and the Taliban stop me. I take my sandal and hit them on the face and say what you’re doing is wrong. Education is our right, don’t take it from us. There is this quality in me – I’m ready for all situations. So even if (God let this not happen) they kill me, I’ll first say to them, what you’re doing is wrong.”

It’s only right to acknowledge that if different decisions had been made about Pakistan’s history, primarily by those within the country but also by those outside it, the men issuing statements justifying assassination attempts on a young girl would also have been doing something else with their lives.

It isn’t the clay from which they were fashioned, but the patch of earth in which they grew up which made them what they now are. But what do we do with this piece of information? Yes, of course, the Taliban exists because of political decisions dating back to the 1980s; and of course the mess that is the “war on terror” has only added to the TTP’s ranks.

There’s no need for the Taliban to invent propaganda against the American and Pakistan state (although they do) – both governments supply an excess of recruitment material for those who hate them. So if you view the Taliban simply through the prism of the war on terror and Pakistan and the United States, it’s possible to think the process can be reversed; policies can be changed; everyone can stop being murderous and duplicitous.

But then there’s Malala Yousafzai, standing in for all the women attacked, oppressed, condemned by the Taliban. What role have women played in creating the Taliban? Which of their failures is tied to the Taliban’s strength? What grave responsibility, what terrible guilt do they carry around which explains the reprisals against them?

For political differences, seek political solutions. But what do you do in the face of an enemy with a pathological hatred of woman? What is it that you’re saying if you say (and I do, in this case) there can be no starting point for negotiations? I believe in due process of law; I know violence begets violence. But as I keep clicking my Twitter feed for updates on Malala Yousafzai’s condition, and find instead one statement after another from the government, political parties, and the army (writing in capital letters) condemning the attack, I find myself thinking, do any of you know the way forward? Today, I’m unable to see it. But Malala, I’m sure, would tell me I’m wrong. Let her wake up, and do that

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