By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
MALALA – the world’s youngest Nobel Laureate – and why: because she was shot at and almost killed in her country for speaking up for education for girls. On Dec 10. Pakistanis shed tears watching her receive the prize – so well-deserved; so devastatingly earned.
This girl-child’s was the most effective voice – the one bigots needed to silence them. Pakistan’s child Malala’s glory indicts Pakistan’s adults.
The wonderful thing about childhood, no matter how we nurture or punish it, is its universality. Malala was every child being honoured for the courage and candour that so many of us lose on our way into being viable adults. Shining on the podium along with Malala was childhood’s innocence.
Singularity and distinction came to her incidentally. She almost died for her beliefs without setting out to be a heroine. Destiny threw Malala’s spirit a challenge she met magnificently. The world has feted and honoured her valour. Asked to air her views and heard with veneration, she has had the chance to meet – really meet, not photo-op with – a range of the world’s greatest persons – and yet complacence, smugness, self-satisfaction, vanity feasting did not tarnish her aura as she stood in the world media’s spotlight in Oslo.
When you were shot Malala, Pakistan was wounded. There wasn’t a person in Pakistan – apart from your would-be assassins – who wasn’t praying for your life, who did not feel with your family. No one thought ‘well done fundamental extremism’ – no one said Bravo. Even those of us who don’t approve of women’s emancipation and who would exclude the girl-child from school could not condone the hurt inflicted on you.
When you were shot Malala, Pakistan was wounded.
That recognition – that we cannot uphold a bigotry that shoots down children – is yet to be articulated publicly although each of us admitted it implicitly in prayer for your survival. But thanks to the blood that you were made to shed Malala that next step will come when we grieving spectators find the courage to echo you and say publicly to the obscurantist: I will not endorse your stand. In the name of the faith you misconceive and distort I denounce what you tried to do and will seek to block your way.
We lack the spontaneous courage of innocence Malala, pray that we find the thinking courage of virtuousness. A spirit like yours Malala embodies what makes us love our country and its people. You reflect the vibrancy retained despite our corruption and the wrong thereby inflicted.
Alas Malala you also symbolise our failure: Both our Nobel prize-winners are persons propelled into expatriation. Dr Salaam could not live here because we overlook an attitude that thinks it meritorious to kill Ahmadis.
You Malala have to stay away because we still do not – in our dharnas – explicitly denounce and renounce the mindset labelled Islamist that seeks to exterminate you.
We light candles to show sorrow for outrages where churches and persons are burnt for their religion in the name of our religion. But when we bring our cities to a standstill it’s to recount a bagful of votes, to recast the electoral matrix. We would unseat the unduly empowered but we let bigots and zealots ravage our whole social fabric. Thank you Malala for making us recognize our shame while still allowing us to be proud in having you.
We robbed you of your childhood in Swat. We uprooted you from your home. We made you leave your school, your playmates. Can we find the courage to pave the way to make it safe for you to come back home? Forgive us Malala that there is still no voice like yours crying in the wilderness. They echo hollow in parliament and do not rage atop containers