If you have a moment, read this.
Yesterday I mentioned the story of a young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for trying to stand up for her right, and the right of young female Pakistanis generally, to go to school and get an education. She is currently in the UK getting medical attention after having been critically wounded by her assailants.
What I am posting here are extracts from her blog. They are, in essence, diary entries documenting what life is like for those who live in a society dominated by religious extremists. Much is made out of how outsiders are trying to impose their own “voice” on the Middle East, but this blog speaks in the voice of its author – and that author says some amazing things.
Reading this will probably challenge your assumptions, if your idea of a sensible description of the politics of war in the Middle East is “George Bush does some things and everyone gets mad and throws shoes at him, that’s all there is to it because everyone knows it’s all the fault of right-wing Americans, and the fighting will stop the minute Americans learn that war is bad”. This fictional sweet and lovely Taliban, the one that is only provoked by American presidents, is nowhere to be seen in this young woman’s narrative.
She says: “The Taleban say that they use FM radio to propagate teachings of the Koran but commander Khalil after a brief teaching of the Koran subtly switches over to threaten opponents. Announcements regarding fighting, activities and murders are made on FM radio.”
If you persist in thinking that the politics of head and body coverings in the Middle East is something particular to that society about which the rest of the world should say nothing, Malala’s comments don’t have your back either. She particularly notes in her comments that even when the Taliban tolerated the operation of schools that accepted girl students, the one thing that they were not prepared to accept was violation of rules about women covering themselves.
She says: “Moments ago Maulana Fazlullah (a pro-Taleban cleric) announced on his FM radio that he is lifting the ban from female education. He announced that girls can go to school till exams which are to be held on 17 March but they have to cover themselves.”
The author of this blog does cover herself, but one gets the impression from what she writes that she values an education so much, covering up is merely the opportunity cost she has accepted to pay in a dominated society for something she values more than dressing how she likes. She makes her point of view pretty clear – the rules are a hindrance and an annoyance, but she puts up with them. Nonetheless, it is clear to her – if it is not clear to Westerners (and particularly Western feminists) – where these rules come from, and how they an implementation of Taliban rule, not a sign of free religious expression.
She says: “There was a time when I used to like wearing the burqa but not any more. I am fed up with this because it is a hindrance in walking. There is gossip in Swat that one day a woman was wearing a traditional burqa. She fell and when a man tried to help her she refused and said ‘Don’t help me brother, as this will bring immense pleasure to [Taleban leader] Maulana Fazlullah.'”
No quarter is given, either, in the comments of Ms. Yousafzai to those who persist in the idea that people in this part of the world may dislike the Taliban but want above all to handle things themselves and not have anyone interfere with their sovereignty. Indeed, she does not mention that she argued even a bit when one of her brothers argued intervention, from either the US _or_ China, would be preferable to living under the Taliban, if a decent negotiated peace cannot be attained to protect the people of her home region of Swat, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the Afghani and Indian borders.
She says: “My brother often prays ‘O God bring peace to Swat and if not then bring either the US or China here.'”
(This last bit, I think, is very important. I’ve heard people from this part of the world say very similar things – their opposition to the Taliban can’t be equated to support for American foreign policy. Their opposition to the Taliban is just that – opposition to the Taliban. Allies in a fight against the Taliban – any allies – will be considered.)
There are all sorts of gems like that in these excerpts, and some of you out there, who still think it’s 2003 and see George W. everywhere, really need to read this stuff.
If you read this, it might make you see a side to what is going on in the Middle East you either haven’t seen or wouldn’t allow yourself to yet see. But then, the mullahs know this. That’s why they wanted to kill this young woman before you got a chance to hear what she said. The Taliban is still threatening to kill both Malala and her father, and it has the support of 50 “Islamic scholars” (the quotes are very much necessary there, as I can’t accept these swine to be scholars of anything).
These clerics have issued a fatwa against the young woman, just as they have in the past against others who are dangers to nothing more than the exaggerated sensibilities of the clerics, such as Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen.
I know, it’s easier just to assume you’re right. But don’t. There are lots of people out there who are in constant danger because of a threat you don’t acknowledge. Maybe it’s your view that needs to change.