Pakistan’s Debate Over Malala Yousafzai

A fierce debate began soon after the book I am Malala appeared across Pakistan. Some view the book a conspiracy to defame Islam and Pakistan while others consider it a masterpiece for women’s rights.

malala-yousafzai-pakistan-debateSocial media in Pakistan slammed Malala Yousafzai’s book and called her a western agent. Religious leaders have questioned her role as a Muslim. It is also argued that the book has been written by controversial British journalist Christina Lamb, author of Waiting for Allah.

It is really tempting to read a book written about the 14-year-old Malala, and her biography on how she spent her life in the Swat Valley. But it is disheartening to notice something other than her lifestyle.

Malala has not discussed her childhood and biography, but mentions how her father reacted to controversial books on Islam. She also details Pakistani society during the Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regimes – at a time before her birth.

Malala’s father called Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Versus “freedom of speech” which was not only condemned by Muslims but Western scholars. They say that freedom of expression should not be used for the defamation of any other person besides hurting their feelings and religious belief.

Malala’s book mocks the Pakistan army. She says

“the army action at the end of 2007 had not got rid of the Taliban. The army had stayed in swat and were everywhere in the town yet Gazlullah still broadcast every day on the radio and throughout 2008 the situation was even worse than before with bomb blasts and killings. All we talked about in those days was the army and the Taliban and the feeling that we were caught between the tow.”

Malala says that her friend named Attiya used to tease her saying, “Taliban is good, army not good.” “I replied if there is a snake and a lion coming to attack us what would we say is good, the snake or lion?”

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There is no doubt that I am Malala is a well written book about Pakistan, but it has overly exaggerated and mocked the country’s history. Many events have been distorted including the military’s role and Pakistan’s history. Malala’s story coupled with her remarkable recovery after being shot in the head by the Taliban on her way from school has earned her international awards, especially by the West.

Today she has become a legendary figure for the young and progressive generation of Pakistanis. Most Pakistanis believe that she has greatly improved the country’s name in the international arena by debunking the stereotype that all Pakistanis are Taliban supporters, and has helped advance the cause of Pakistani liberals.

Tariq Hussain writes for the Lahore-based tabloid newspaper, Pakistan Today. He earned a degree in Mass Communication from National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad. Tariq started his career in 2010 by joining a news agency, Infochange News and Feature NetworksRead other articles by Tariq.