Of Malala

Does Taliban attack on adolescent Swat girl recast the frame of ongoing



The attack on Pakistani girl Malala Yousefzai by Taliban has outraged the
world. A 14 year old girl who wanted to go to school and become a doctor
was shot by masked gunmen while riding back to her home from her school.  This is a bit of a detail that is now known all over the world. From president
Obama on down to Madonna to Anjelina Jolie, her plight has caught the
global attention. Malala’s fight for her right to go to school in Swat in
the face of Taliban threat has made her the youngest champion of the girls
education in the world.

Battling for her life at a UK hospital, the adolescent girl has cast the
ongoing war in Af-Pak region in a new frame: it is now less a war between
the native people and an occupational force but more the struggle between
two visions of the world, one enlightened and another obscurantist. And
Malala has emerged as the symbol of this confrontation with world on one
side and Taliban, on the other. Taliban only further contributed to their
pariah status by renewing the threat to Malala and her family’s life.

But while we roundly condemn the barbaric act of attacking an adolescent
school girl, one can hardly suppress the tendency to wonder at what
persuaded Taliban to resort to it. After all, this could veritably be
regarded as the mother of all PR disasters. It has momentarily eradicated
every scope of a more nuanced understanding of Taliban and its ideology and painted the movement as viciously anti-modern and against universal values of individual freedom, human rights etc.

Taliban story, however, should not have been entirely circumscribed by
their ideology.  Here is a rag-tag band of militia that has forced to a
standstill the strongest army in the world history. The militia has
demonstrated that they can beat back the most superior military technology
with small weapons and guerrilla tactics.

Certainly some facts about Taliban need iteration. Their struggle in
Afghanistan is basically against the US invasion of their country in the
wake of 9/11 for which they were not responsible, a fact conceded last year
by the US vice president Joe Biden when he said “Taliban per se” were not
America’s enemy. Second, when they took over Kabul in 1995 and ran their
rough-neck dispensation for six years, Taliban brought stability to a
disorderly, war-ravaged country. Third, unlike al Qaeda, not once did they *
portray* their movement as part of a pan-Islamic jihad against west or a
step in the direction of creating a new Caliphate. They no doubt instituted
a medieval system of values in the name of Islam which barred women’s
education, banned television and jailed men who didn’t keep long beards.
But then US or west hardly gave a damn about it.

This raises a larger question about many Muslim movements in the world:
their invariable inability to frame themselves within a globally recognized
moral framework and the failure to appear as reasonable pursuits for a just
cause.  Though Taliban remains a worst case scenario, many other Muslim
movements too have gratuitously projected themselves in adversarial terms
with democracy, freedom of speech, plurality etc.

Situation hasn't been markedly different in Kashmir. At a time, the West began seeing Islamic religious movements anti-freedom and anti-west, many in the ranks of separatist politics in the state played to this stereotype and seemed to painstakingly confirm west's fears. This is not to suggest that
the west's altered worldview is the new morality to which everybody should
subscribe. Of course, this worldview is underpinned by the west's current
interests and priorities and according to this the “moral equivalents of America's founding fathers” in Afghanistan through eighties are now seen as
terrorists with a vicious ideology. But there is no denying the fact that it is the west's prevailing worldview that makes up the new geo-political ethics and aligning oneself against it can only be detrimental to any political cause. And this is a reality that is lost on most Muslim movements across the world, even those whose causes have little to do with the West.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST

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