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Oct 20 2012

Malala’s Lessons

The shooting of the wonderfully brave Malala Yousefzai by the Pakistani Taliban has brought to the fore many of the issues that I have been banging on about for a long time.

Not all Muslims (or those labelled as Muslims) support Islamism and the likes of the Taliban.

Many of them are its first victims and at the frontlines of resistance.

And because of who Malala is and what she represents, this ever-present resistance and dissent is pushing its way into mainstream consciousness and demanding to be seen and heard.

The far-Right keeps asking where the ‘Muslim’ voices of dissent are (and this question has become the question of the day within many circles). Of course, they ask this not because they care but because it implies that Muslims are one and the same with the vile Islamists so that the far-Right can justify its racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda.

Well, here they are…

On another related matter, what I find most ironic in all this is how the Taliban’s propaganda is so close to the nice, lovely, liberals and post-modernist and relativist Left who keep calling for tolerance and respect of the intolerable (as if the Islamist perspective is that of all Muslims).

I personally have lost count of the amount of times I have heard these lovely people tell me that the demand for universal rights is a demand for – shall we just put it in the Taliban’s words as they are one and the same – ‘western culture’ …

Like the far-Right, this lot sees Islamists and Muslims as one and the same but from another ‘progressive’ angle. Defending Sharia law, the Islamic regime of Iran’s right to nuclear technology, the veil, and every other bit of misogyny and barbarity is to them an act of anti-imperialism because they see Islamism as a force of resistance against US-led militarism (when it is in fact the other side of the same coin) and a defence of Muslims from bigotry. I suppose, to justify their inhuman position, they have no choice but to see Islamism as the representative of every single ‘Muslim’ no matter how many bodies pile up in prisons, in city centres, and alleyways across the Middle East, North Africa and right here in Europe.

How shameful. How very sorry I feel for this lot and how angry. Because in this colossal fight against the beast of Islamism, they knowingly or inadvertently have decided to side with the beast and not the likes of Malala.

Hopefully, this can be a turning point for them, though I won’t be holding my breath.

With or without them, the likes of Malala will bring – is bringing – Islamism to its knees.

The fact that the Taliban has to shoot a 14 year old girl who merely wants the right for girls to go to school shows how afraid they are of her and the dissent she represents and how very potent and effective this resistance is. Not bombs, not regime change from above, not economic sanctions but people power and sheer human will and defiance.

In the meanwhile, our young hero, Malala, has been able to walk with help, and has managed to converse in writing, even asking for her supporters to be thanked.

Islamists – and your cowardly apologists – be afraid, be very afraid…

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  1. 1
    asif2099

    its really good to know that she is getting better now . the religious extremists just want children to study Islam and they put all these rubbish beliefs in their innocent mind that they suffer all their life.specially in Muslim families children are not allowed to question anything about their faith , they just have to follow all this religious beliefs.
    Hopefully there will be freedom of expression in Pakistan so people can question any belief and can choose their own way of living , Asif Hameed

  2. 2
    cry4turtles

    Little Malala really brings your words to light. Those who support religious thuggary (yes christians, you too) should be hanging their heads in shame. Malala almost paid with her life. If she needs a safe place to retreat and grow, I have plenty of extra room in my old farmhouse. Malala will heal and grow, and maybe someday return to her country to lead her people out of darkness. She’s a fighter. I wish I could be there to hold her hand. And I haven’t forgotten Neda.

  3. 3
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    I personally have lost count of the amount of times I have heard these lovely people tell me that the demand for universal rights is a demand for – shall we just put it in the Taliban’s words as they are one and the same – ‘western culture’ …

    I understand the impulse, the backlash against a colonial attitude, that takes people down this path. But it’s a backlash so far that it’s swung around to the other side. In an attempt to be anti-racist, they’ve found a whole new level of racism: Because some people are born in this or that geographical location with this or that ethnicity, they must be written off as Other, no longer accorded the rights and freedoms that every human being ought to be guaranteed. Because our forbears took land and resources, enforced conversion to their religion, we’ll now treat everyone who isn’t Us as though they’re an alien species, hidden behind the Prime Directive, protected from “contamination”.

    What these people are missing is that colonialism isn’t immoral because there is some interaction between groups at all; it isn’t bad because one group has more knowledge/technology/resources as another; it isn’t bad because new ideas cross-pollinate between groups. It’s bad and immoral because it involves exploitation and force and genocide and slavery and physical displacement and destruction of harmless cultural elements and behaviours by the coloniser. These are the very things that we should still be fighting: exploitation and use of force and genocide and slavery and physical displacement and destruction of harmless behaviours and traditions. Who’s doing the colonising now? The Islamists. The theocrats. The misogynists. The capitalists. The cultural relativists are condoning the current colonialism, not opposing it.

  4. 4
    pramod

    I don’t understand what you mean by “left” and “right” over here. Even people like Dawkins and Harris are Islamophobic – and if I mistaken here let me know – but I don’t think they would be characterized as “far-right” to me.

    I am one of those who calls for tolerance and respect. This certainly doesn’t mean I side with the Taliban and condone what they did with Malala, or what the Iranian govt. did with women students in their universities. Of course, I care about social justice and of course, I want to help the likes of Malala. I just don’t know how to do it.

    On the other hand, what I am against is clueless westerners jumping on the culture-hating bandwagon. These people know little to nothing about cultures other than their own and do not recognize that it’s their history of imperialism, colonialism and their current system of economic and military exploitation which puts mostly white countries at the top and mostly black/brown countries at the bottom. They don’t understand or even want to understand that this is at least partially the cause for many of the problems in these parts of the world. In my opinion, most of these people who so quick to criticize Islam (some of whom are on this blog network) aren’t honest about helping anyone and the remaining who are honest think that their slacktivism passes for “change” when in reality all it does is reinforces the systems of oppression we live in today.

    I see tens of articles *every day* criticizing oppressed cultures/nations. The audience for these isn’t the people being oppressed. The articles don’t propose solutions. They don’t have any insightful analysis. And they’re uniformly negative. Tell me what purpose these articles articles serve?

    I see them as a selfish attempt at the writers feeling good about themselves, so they can claim they are “raising awareness”. What fucking good does “raising awareness” do in already racist and imperialistic countries? It just gives those in power an excuse to further dehumanize already oppressed people. If you fucking want to help someone, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and actually go these places, listen to what these people want and do it?

    If I’m a coward for criticizing people who I think are harming those who they profess to be helping, well, so be it.

  5. 5
    Bruce Gorton

    These people know little to nothing about cultures other than their own and do not recognize that it’s their history of imperialism, colonialism and their current system of economic and military exploitation which puts mostly white countries at the top and mostly black/brown countries at the bottom.

    I am from the third world (South Africa to be exact.)

    Deals that our countries have entered into with the rest of the world, are deals our countries entered into. As exploitative as the West is, Africa and much of the third world is perfectly capable of ending that exploitation if our countries so choose.

    And our consequences, for both maintaining or breaking deals with the West, are our own.

    Too many of you in the first world have not accepted that we are now independent states.

    That doesn’t just mean that we get to do what we choose to do, it means we are responsible for the results. There is a tendency to idealise “culture”, which reduces everyone to a cartoon.

    It is time for you in the first world to stop treating us like “cultures” and start treating us like people. You have bought into our war criminals’ excuses for too long, it is not down to America or Europe that our economies are lagging.

    It is down to our own failures within our own societies. As to what hope someone writing for the first world might have in writing a blistering piece about the third world?

    Stories in newspapers, in magazines and suchlike have more power than you suppose. A country does not wish to lose face. This fact has saved lives – Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced to 90 lashes for criticising Iran, but the sentence was reduced due to international pressure.

    That is one of the main reasons why Islamists are pushing for blasphemy to be outlawed internationally, there is a lot to criticise in their regimes and a lot of that has to do with Islam. Further once you cannot criticise religion, you tend to lose the ability to criticise government shortly thereafter (as can be seen in Putin Vs Pussy Riot.)

    We are much as you are, and to be criticised much as you would be. Culture, in and of itself is a bad thing.

    It doesn’t matter if it is Western or Eastern, it is a means of avoiding understanding, of keeping us from considering ideas that on their merits are good ones, of giving us excuses to mistreat others who our culture defines as the “Other.”

    Just how often have you heard an idea called “Communist”? That is precisely the same instinct at work as when third world figures talk about something being “Westernised” – a means of dismissing an idea without considering it.

    Do not defend our cultures because they are not yours, they are every bit as bad as you imagine your own to be. Criticise freely, and without remorse because in the end, it is all individuals making choices, and bad choices are bad whatever culture you may consider yourself as belonging to.

    Allow your ideas, and your criticisms to help inform our choices, because you never quite know who is reading what you write, or what they are going to take out of it.

  6. 6
    emily isalwaysright

    Pramod, you are doing exactly what Maryam is criticising! You are dividing the world into two: West / non-West; White / Black-Brown; non-Muslim / Muslim.

    Malala and her supporters show this absolutist, essentialist dichotomy up for the (politically expedient) lie that it is.

  7. 7
    Julia Gasper

    I am one of those who has frequently asked “Where are the Muslim voices of dissent?” and I would like to say that it is because I do care actually. From time to time I give quite an audible damn about what is going to happen in this world.
    I have a few more questions too. what is the difference between Islam and Islamism? How do we know which is which until the nice boy next door grows a beard, goes to Afghanistan and makes a jihadist suicide video? Is a Muslim who dissents still a Muslim?
    Isn’t militancy an essential part of Islam? Is there any form of official dissent from it that any sect professes and why should we trust them even if they do?
    Is Malala still a Muslim? Has she dissented from Islam just because she wants a modern, general education and is not content merely to read the Koran?
    Today I met a Muslim acquaintance whose delightful 5-year-old daughter is getting a full education here in England. She is luckier than Malala. But she could also be blown up on a London bus one day if we do not – together – solve these problems and find some answers to my questions.

  8. 8
    Bruce Gorton

    Julia Gasper

    Islamism is essentially a political movement based off of Shariah law, and that the state should enforce religious law.

    It essentially the same as the American religious right in that they share the same aims, just for different religions.

    Muslims meanwhile, even devout Muslims, include a fair chunk who think the kinds of guys who are all for state enforcement of Shariah are a bunch of wannabe child molesters who could damn well keep their views on jurisprudence to themselves.

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