She’s not in purdah

Kamila Shamsie talks to Malala for the Guardian.

Learning from her parents is something Malala knows a great deal about. Her mother was never formally educated and an awareness of the constraints this placed on her life have made her a great supporter of Malala and her father in their campaign against the Taliban’s attempts to stop female education. One of the more moving details in I Am Malala, the memoir Malala has written with the journalist Christina Lamb, is that her mother was due to start learning to read and write on the day Malala was shot – 9 October 2012. When I suggest that Malala’s campaign for female education may have played a role in encouraging her mother, she says: “That might be.” But she is much happier giving credit to her mother’s determined character, and the example provided by her father, Ziauddin, who long ago set up a school where girls could study as well as boys, in a part of the world where the gender gap in education is vast.

She misses Swat though. Birmingham is not as beautiful as Swat.

Perhaps meditating on the value of peace and mercy is an entirely sane way of coping with bullets and invective. But, all the same, it must hurt to find yourself reviled – and not only by the Taliban. In her book she writes of how her speech at the UN received plaudits around the world, but in Pakistan people accused her of seeking fame and the luxury of a life abroad. When I ask her about this, it is one of the only times in the conversation that she turns to Urdu to express herself: “Dukh to insaan ko hota hai jab daikhta hai kay uss ka bhai uss kay khilaf hai.” (“Naturally it’s hurtful when you see your brothers turn against you.”) Her voice is pained, but she quickly switches to English and the more philosophical tone emerges again. “Pakistanis can’t trust,” she says. “They’ve seen in history that people, particularly politicians, are corrupt. And they’re misguided by people in the name of Islam. They’re told: ‘Malala is not a Muslim, she’s not in purdah, she’s working for America.’ They say maybe she’s with the CIA or ISI [Pakistan’s intelligence service]. It’s fine; they say it about every politician too, and I want to become a politician.”

I hope she does become a politician, and survives and prospers.


  1. says

    I would surmise that Birmingham is not as beautiful as Swat Valley. The latter of which is known as ‘Little Switzerland of Pakistan. Such a shame that it is spoiled by such ruthless violence. Mind you, Brommie-land is very leafy, and it’s doesn’t take that long to drive out to the beautiful rural English countryside.

    That’s so touching reading about Malala’s mother wanting to learn to read and write. Not being able to do so is a terrible affliction. I’ve been there too. Such a set-back in life.

    Will be looking forward to purchasing and reading Malala’s memoir. It will be a good way to support her cause for education.

  2. latsot says

    There was a Daily Mail article about Malala the other day. I won’t link to it here and the article itself isn’t the point. It’s the comments. There were many, MANY comments saying Malala should go home now that she’s better. More than a few begrudged that ‘we’ (the British taxpayer) paid for her treatment and schooling (we didn’t, the Pakistan government did).

    How anyone could feel that this woman isn’t an asset to our country is beyond me. How they don’t care that she’ll be targeted and – very likely – murdered if she does go back to Pakistan is even more so.

    There were also quite a lot of comments purporting to be from residents of Pakistan saying that the country is totally fine and women aren’t being stoned to death at all and only a few have acid thrown in their faces or are shot in the head, so what’s the problem.

    It’s hard to imagine anything more ugly.

  3. says

    Too bad about the begrudgers. You get them in every country, I guess. I remember in the 80s not getting a job in London, because it had been deemed that I had too strong an Irish accent. The Irish were always told to go back to their own country. Things seem to have not changed in Britain. Aside from every thing else Malala has undergone such physical suffering, and you’d think they’d give her a break.

    Great interview here. She is so mature in her ways.

    BBC News – Malala Yousafzai BBC interview in full


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