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Pak Tea House » liberal Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism » Malala Issue: Perils of Overexposure

Malala Issue: Perils of Overexposure

Raza Habib Raja

I remember when the assassination attempt on Malala took place, many felt horror and in fact after a long time, there was across the board vociferous opposition of the cowardly act of the Taliban. At that time she was a unifying figure and buoyed by what I was witnessing, I even wrote an article praising her not only for her courage but also her symbolic importance.

However the situation has changed and somehow she has become a controversial and polarizing figure.  Right now media, both electronic and social, is being dominated by tussles between Malala supporters and opponents. The supporters want everyone to accept her as a hero whereas opponents are opposing her vociferously. Their opposition ranges from criticism of International media to calling her a foreign agent. Some are out rightly abusive and are indulging in cheap slander which is deplorable.

While some of the opposition is coming from those who are obviously bigots and believers of cheap conspiracy theories, I have seen that many apparently reasonable people have also joined the chorus. This set of people does not call Malala as an agent or take cheap shots at her. However, they are getting irritated at what they see as manipulation of Malala incidence by the West (particularly USA) to sell its own narrative.

How come a merely sixteen year old girl has become a polarizing figure?

Now obviously some Pakistanis are completely blinded by their irrational hatred of the West  but at the same time I do think that the international coverage has gone overboard. While I really admire her but I do think that media overkill and virtual elevation of Malala to a saint like status is now proving counterproductive.

On a personal level, for me Malala is a hero. In many ways her tragedy is Pakistan’s tragedy but her courage is the hope that all is not lost. At a very young age she was able to see things clearly that majority of our urban middle class population is simply unable to.

Definitely she is a hero but not the only hero as countless others have been the victim of terrorism and religious extremism. Heroes also include countless soldiers, who have laid their lives while fighting Taliban. Heroes also include those polio vaccine workers –both men and women-who have been shot while on duty. Heroes are those continue to speak against religious extremism following the example set by late Bashir Ahmed Bilour, despite knowing that such act may end up in their own extermination.

But compared to all those, Malala has received the most attention in the international media. To some extent this is understandable as she is young and the way Taliban felt threatened by her existence made her a symbol of female emancipation. But at the same time a near exclusive focus on her leads to divergence of discourse towards rather trivial things such as whether she is a hero or an agent of the West. Moreover it also allows the opponents to introduce drone attack victims in the same category by pointing that “they are also like Malala” ( without bothering to think that there is a hell lot of difference between deliberate targeting and collateral damage). I have actually seen countless status updates in the social media whereby people are showing pictures of girls killed by drone attacks and drawing attention to relative “indifference” of the West compared to its constant projection of Malala.

Of course I do not agree with this absurd comparison ( not saying that I endorse collateral damage of drones), but right now it is becoming effective and many people are buying it. And unfortunately the media overkill is one of the reasons.

The problem with over projection is that it automatically creates visible targets and also puts questions about motives. This is what has happened in Malala’s case. In my opinion, we need to move beyond her and focus our debate on the larger issue of extremism.

Those who claim to be liberal also need to understand that there is no point fighting uselessly on proving that she is a hero. Those who have made it their mind are not going to change.  One can argue and convince some but not all opponents. Frankly, it does not matter as it does not materially affect her. She is now outside Pakistan and safe. Many are now simply getting irritated by this useless debate.

Battle against extremism is also the battle of the minds. If a person is losing the symbolic value then there is no harm moving beyond him/her and trying to fight another battle.



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65 Responses to "Malala Issue: Perils of Overexposure"

  1. PMA United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    kaalchakra (August 7, 2013 at 1:11 am):
    Seer has just “outed” you (August 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm). You are a Muslim in Hindu clothes. And what other proof of Indian Superpowers do you need. Just listen to Satyam (August 7, 2013 at 2:49 am). First you steal our water, take all the power out of it and become Superpowerful and then have cheeks to deny it.
    About the book ‘Wealth & Power’. I only read the excerpts when the book was first introduced. Really liked it. Hope you will tell us more about it once you have finished reading it. Only Indians read books about China. We Pakistanis are too busy watching Bellywood. Oh, I did read the paper on ‘Sino-Pak relations Beyond India’. It tells the Chinese side of the story as it developed in the early years (1962-65). Of course in Pakistan we only knew what our media at the time told us. And then whatever hyper tense India says about the Sino-Pak relations. The paper puts the Relations in much broader international perspective – beyond India. It also shows Pakistan’s role in tandem China in the Third World Movement and as ‘go-between’ China and the USA, first started under Kennedy-Johnson administrations and culminated with Nixon China visit. The USA even in those years was arming India against the Chinese with Southeast Asian theater in mind.

  2. seer Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    The more islam fails the more fascistic muslims (esp. their leaders and teachers) will become.
    We are seeing that happening now, more and more.

    In all muslim lands the muslims have taken a sharp turn towards more islamic fascism and lies.

    Muslims will deny this and yet practise it – and they have no other choice. Their leaders will “lead” them – to more self-deceit and to more anger against non-muslims.

    It is happening right now.

    It was not Pakistan that led Nixon to China. It was the common hate towards the Soviet Union (SU) that did it.

    USA and muslims declared that SU was a godless land.
    No god came and told them that – it was their own propaganda construct.
    Actually USA and muslim lands are (/have proved to be) more godless than SU.
    China is a ruthless-cynical “might is right” type of land and society, more godless than conceivable.

    No wonder Pakistan is bootlicking China now.

  3. akb Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    @ RHR

    Blowing in public places is as bad as droning. In both cases innocent people get killed and that’s bad. You should try to reason out why they do that rather than just strike the dastardly acts for their consequences or activation.
    There is a reason for everything,,,there must be good reason too in both the cases. Why just defend drones as they suit some people and monger hate to flair up the suicide bombers. They too must be having ‘some’ reason for doing that?

  4. kaalchakra United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    PMA, I will gladly do so.

    I really hope no Indian reader will misconstrue the historical account presented in that paper as exemplifying, at any stage, any ‘ill-will’ guiding Chinese maneuvers, or for that matter, on Pakistan’s part, toward India or any other nation. All huge nations constantly seek to secure and maximize their self interests as they see them. And this they must do in settings that are invariably complex, dymanic, and hugely uncertain. Any accurate understandings we can devcelop – never an easy task – can help reduce our collective chances of being surprised or causing surprise, and of sliding into unncessary conflicts. Besices, these social systems are fascinating in their own different ways.


  5. akb Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    @ seer

    Yes, adoption has NO Legal value in Islam. However, I can adopt a pye like you at any time!!


    and this…….
    @ RHR

    Blowing in public places is as bad as droning. In both cases innocent people get killed and that’s bad. You should try to reason out why they do that rather than just strike the dastardly acts for their consequences or activation.
    There is a reason for everything,,,there must be good reason too in both the cases. Why just defend drones as they suit some people and monger hate to flair up the suicide bombers. They too must be having ‘some’ reason for doing that?

  6. no-communal United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Kaal, now the Gorkhas in Darjeeling are agitating for their own state on the hills of Bengal. Recent intelligence suggests they are making trips to Nepal (where the actual District and Town of Gorkha is located) and collecting money and ammunition from the north-east rebel groups holed up in China. The understated but by now fairly obvious goal, at least from the internet chatter, seems to be creating a greater Nepal. Given that Nepal has started showing its affection to China and is itself with a past history of harboring Pakistani terrorists (remember the IC814 hijacking from Nepal) as well as Maoists fighters, how do you think India should treat this demand of a greater Nepal with a part of on Indian soil.

  7. Mohan United Arab Emirates Google Chrome Windows says:


    I was in Kathmandu for few days, came back last night. I had gone there in nineties and noticed now that things have changed for the worst. Poor infrastructure, almost all the roads in very bad condition, regular outage of power, impoverished, unemployment touching almost 50%. Most of the shops in the market close around 7 PM because of shortage of power. Gorkhaland agitation gaining momentum in Bengal and with this environment in Nepal, it won’t be very difficult for Maoists or China to reqruit people from there for their cause. By the way Mamta Banerjee has given them ultimatum to stop the agitation.

  8. shera Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    China, Pakistan, North Korea – these three will destroy peace and humanism. All three are fascist countries. The scoundrel-like and fascistic nature of their leaders is the result of their monopolistic-monolithic- monotheistic ideologies.

  9. Proletarian United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    You forgot to mention the most dangerous bloc of fascists around. The GCC. Its them that seek to turn Pakistan and Afghanistan into their attack dogs.

  10. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Government has initiated steps totrace whereabouts of 87 companies as well as their directors so as to take action against them for ‘vanishing’ after raising funds from public, with Gujarat being home to largest number of such entities. Gujarat tops the list with 26 such firms, followed
    by Andhra Pradesh (13), Tamil Nadu (10), Maharashtra (9), 5 each from Delhi, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, 4 each from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, 2 each in Chandigarh and Karnataka and 1 each in Punjab and Orissa.

    According to the latest data with the Corporate Affairs Ministry, FIRs (First Information Reports) have been lodged against these firms and their directors in respective states.

    After tracing their whereabouts, appropriate action would be taken against them for vanishing after collection of funds from the public investors, according to officials.

    The entities are classified as ‘vanishing companies’ if they cease to file their balance sheets and other documents after raising capital, and whereabouts of their offices or directors become untraceable.

    Prosecution action has been launched against these companies and their promoter/directors under the Companies Act for non-filing of statutory returns, false statements in prospectus and fraudulently inducing people to invest money, according to a Corporate Affairs Ministry document.

    Instructions have been issued to the Registrar of Companies (RoCs) to scrutinise the balance sheets and other records of the companies which raised money through public issue so as to monitor the utilisation of such funds.

    ROCs have also been asked to physically verify the registered office of listed companies which have defaulted in their balance sheets and annual returns.

    To check on such incidents, there are provisions in the Companies Act, which makes it mandatory for every perspective director to obtain a ‘Director Identification Number’. This process requires detailed verification of particulars so that traceability of the director is ensured

  11. Maggu India Google Chrome  GT-N7100 Build/JZO54K) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/28.0.1500.94 Mobile Safari/537.36 says:

    Zia’s children now run Pakistan army. A large number of officers are in cahoots with the jihadis whose overriding objective is to get control of Pak nukes to launch a credible project Caliphate from the bastion of Islam. Pak army fed and fattened by a religion drunk public will turn on it’s own. Except for the few thousand fringe readers of papers like these, most of the Pakistani population seems to be in support of this project. This support is evidenced in their oversensitivity to global Islamic concerns, mass support for violent campaigns against minorities like the Ahmedis, large amounts collected in small donations for terror linked groups, mass support for terror linked criminals like Aafia.

  12. no-communal United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Good to hear back from you. The Nepalis certainly encourage the formation of Gorkhaland. The Gorkha leaders of Darjeeling also make frequent trips to Nepal. In all probability the money ammunition and the supplies, especially during an indefinite bandh, come across the Nepal border.
    Gorkhaland is an intractable problem much like Kashmir (although the Gorkhas do not want to secede from India, at least formally). It’s a problem of identity crisis, the toughest of the problems to solve. It is true that culturally the Gorkhas have almost nothing in common with the (Hindu) Bengalis but the same is true between the Hindu Bengalis and the 28% Urdu speaking Muslims. The fact is, even though the Bengali culture almost exclusively appears to be that of the Hindus, mainly as a result of the renaissance, the state is perhaps host to the most diverse and heterogeneous population in all of India. Calcutta itself is home to a large Bihari/Jharkhandi population (more than 20%), a Marwari community (another 20%) and the majority in the districts are the Adivasis like the Santals, Kols, Bhils, and Mundas. Going by the logic of Gorkhaland (and the supposed cultural domination of the Hindus) the state can be divided in at least five six different states. No Hindu Bengali is prepared to accept this.

  13. mark Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    to proletarian

    GCC means Gulf Co-operation Council.
    You are right. The arabs want to make use of non-arabs as their islamic blood hounds.
    Bootlicking arabs is part of pakistani and afghan indoctrination.
    The arabs (who are mostly all ethnofascists and racists) must be laughing in their fists about the foolishness of pakistanis and afghans.

  14. [...] remember when I wrote an article titled “Malala Issue: Perils of Overexposure” in which I pointed to the problem which media overkill could do, I was actually criticized by [...]

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