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Malala: Daughter of The Nation or a Western Agent?



Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt, has become a symbol of courage and resilience globally. Her advocacy for girls' education has garnered her praise, awards, and recognition worldwide. She defied the Taliban's oppressive rule in Pakistan's Swat Valley and spoke out for girls' education, which prompted global attention and support. In 2013 Malala and her father co-founded the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on advocating for girls' education and supporting programs that provide educational opportunities to girls around the world. In 2014, Malala became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, acknowledging her unwavering commitment to education and gender equality. However, her journey has also been fraught with controversy, with some questioning whether she is a "daughter of the nation" or a Western agent advancing foreign interests.


While Malala's advocacy for girls right to education has inspired countless young Pakistanis in their pursuit to learn, she has amplified the voice of Pakistani women by providing a platform for discussions on gender equality and human rights, However, it may be noted that Malala's rise to fame was largely due to Western media attention and support. Critics argue that her story aligns with Western narratives about the "war on terror" and women's rights, which may be used for political gain. In a CNN interview, where Pakistani's share their opinions on Malala, one stated that "I think Malala Yousafzai is a scam and she is just being used to mold education in Swat and other Taliban infiltrated areas", whereas another claimed "I think she is being used as a publicity stunt." One woman also claimed that she has nothing against Malala, but the UN providing an award to her is an act of humiliation against Pakistani's. This leaves us to question whether the effort that she has put to enhance the Pakistani education system has been a genuine one or was this all pre planned to propagate Western interests in Pakistan?


Some have claimed that Malala's advocacy may promote a Westernized education curriculum at the expense of traditional values and beliefs in Pakistan. In her book "I am Malala" she has contradictory views on the teachings of Islam, Quranic injunctions, and the Pakistan army. For example she criticizes Quranic verses about two women's testimony being equal to that of a man and was not in support of the Islamic law of 4 male witnesses required to verify a rape case reported by a woman. She also mentions the army being present in her region during the attack, but not responding in the best possible way. Kashif Mirza, the president of all Pakistan Private schools Federation claimed that this book is written at the behest of western forces who have used Malala for their ulterior motives and that she has declared Islam and Pakistan army as 'militant' in her book.


This leaves me to question all of you. Given the global fame she has acquired, and that security challenges were addressed, why did it take Malala six years to visit Pakistan after being treated in the United Kingdom? Why is she still in the United Kingdom and not residing in the nation that she almost died for?


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In light of our discussion in class, one thing that keeps coming to my head is why do us, Pakistanis, have such a strong negative light through which we look at Malala. How I try to answer this is through the idea Sir Hasham discussed, "collective imagination." We as a culture or society not only have a collective imagination, but we also have collective insecurities and complexes which come out very strong in the way we form narratives for everything around us. We are conflicted between an individual level imagination, and a communal level imagination. At community level, we want to stand with our religion, Islam. However, our minds and hearts have been colonized when it comes to ourselves and…

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Definitely, personal and the communal are at play together. We just need to figure out the type which is more controlling and has the influence to take over? Will the private power or the public power win? Refer to the reading we did on "power and empowerment" recently in class, to make links to understand this dilemma better.

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I agree Malala's advocacy for girls' education has sparked global praise, but controversy surrounds her, which has me questioning her authenticity and motives. The debate centers on whether her rise to fame aligns with Western narratives and political interests, potentially impacting the traditional values of Pakistan. The lingering question about Malala's delayed return to Pakistan and her continued residence in the UK also makes us wonder as to why did it take six years for her to visit Pakistan, and why isn't she residing here now? what do you think?

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Hello Wasey, initially I had some of the same questions, but after receiving some insights on my blog posts, I have unrestricted myself to think about the issue from a broader perspective. While do not think her rise to fame is a cause of Western narratives and political interests, I believe that this could possibly be the case now; especially after we witnessed her neutral stance on the Israel- Palestinian situation. The question pertaining to why it took her 6 years to visit Pakistan was also one of my initial questions, however, I think that after her being blessed with a second life, I believe her self-reflection on her safety is a priority that only she has the full right…

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Shamsa Kanwal
Shamsa Kanwal
Nov 16, 2023

Burhan, your blog prompts intriguing questions that have often crossed my mind. Considering Malala's global acclaim and the resolution of security concerns, what factors could have influenced her decision to stay away from Pakistan for six years after receiving treatment in the UK? While your suggestion about the need for personal protection aligns with common perceptions, could there be other nuanced reasons contributing to her prolonged stay in the UK? Moreover, do you think her decision might be connected to a strategic effort to amplify her advocacy for education on a broader international stage? It raises a compelling discussion on the intersection of personal safety, global impact, and the pursuit of a cause

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I appreciate your thoughtful comment since you've raised some intriguing questions that delve into the complexities of Malala's decisions and global impact. The question of why Malala chose to stay away from Pakistan for six years after her treatment in the UK indeed does invites speculation. While personal protection might be a common perception, it prompts us to consider whether there are nuanced factors at play or other elements beyond mere security concerns influencing her decision. In examining Malala's actions, however, it's crucial to navigate through the potential motivations and complexities surrounding her prolonged stay outside Pakistan. While personal safety is undoubtedly a priority, understanding the broader context of her advocacy and the global platform she occupies adds layers to…

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While this is a very well written post, your last question particularly stood out to me. "Why is she still in the United Kingdom and not residing in the nation that she almost died for?"


Let me ask you this question. Would you consider returning to a country where your very existence was challenged because of your gender, where you were shot because you wanted your basic human right? For a country that gave Malala nothing but a bullet wound, it is unfair to expect her to be nationalistic towards it and return. I would have to disagree that she did not "almost die FOR her country" she almost died BECAUSE of it, all while trying to simply get eduated…

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Hello Eesha, while I agree that it may be unfair to ask Malala to return to a country that almost cost her life due to the unimaginable trauma and risk of something similar happening again, I'm more inclined towards Esha's stance. Malala wouldn't have won the Nobel Prize and have been granted with an upgraded life in the UK either if this particular incident didn't occur within the context of Pakistan. It was because she tackled the norms in Pakistan, risking her life, to promote girls' education within that particular context, which was a much sought after issue, and still is. Given this incident occurred elsewhere, we do not know what the outcome would be. Therefore, I do believe that…

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Nov 10, 2023

Burhan, while I do agree that Malala's certain actions are highly questionable, including her refusal to call out Israel for their terrorist acts and condemning them; I also think it is unfair to label her a Western agent for prioritizing her safety. You and I both know that the majority of the Pakistani population would leave the country at the first chance they get. And Malala, after surviving an assassination attempt, has continued to work for girl's education in Pakistan. Sarwat and I, in our presentation in class talked about how the work done by Malala fund, and pictures uploaded on their website contribute towards a positive portrayal of Pakistan and contribute to the International Development Discourse regarding girl's education.…

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Thank you for your response, Fiza. While I completely understand how one may be reluctant to reside in a country that has fostered such traumatic backlash, that is not the only reason why she has been accused of being a Western agent. It's the anti-Islamic and anti-state comments she makes such as the ones I mentioned in my blog post which further questions her ulterior motives. I appreciate her taking up the issues which require reflection, and she may even be correct in her explanations, but if she was able to easily criticize the norms and culture imbedded within her own nation, why is she taking up a neutral stance on the Israel-Palestine situation? Given that she is a Nobel…


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