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Sunday, December 15, 2013

"I Am Malala" Book Review

"I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb is stunningly written and important. There is a problem at its heart: Malala is a refugee from Islamic gender apartheid, and she cannot state that plainly. Her dilemma in no way diminishes the power of this excellent book, which should be read, learned from, and savored by millions worldwide.

Christina Lamb, Malala's co-writer, faced a tough challenge. Lamb, courageously, uses Malala's childlike voice to talk about girlhood friendships and rivalries, about reading the "Twilight" books and praying to be taller, and she also writes about the sweep of history in that same, youthful voice. Geopolitics through the eyes of a brave little girl: Lamb's literary feat is admirable.

Pakistan was founded in 1947. Muslims living in the British Empire's Indian Subcontinent demanded their own country. They got two: Pakistan and what is now Bangladesh. Perhaps a million people were killed, as Muslims and Hindus were forced to relocate to satisfy the demand for two new Muslim countries. Pakistan has been in trouble ever since, with assassinations and imprisonments of its leaders, lawlessness in its Northwest Frontier Provinces, and wars with and terror attacks on India. Pakistan famously hosted Osama bin Laden at the time of his death. Pakistan's mistreatment of women is infamous around the world. Gang rape and imprisonment for rape victims are practiced in Pakistan as legal remedies.

Christians are killed just for being Christians; Muslims are killed for criticizing Islam. Governor Salman Taseer was killed for criticizing human rights abuses of Christians. Taseer's assassin is treated as a hero. Pakistan is corrupt, and runs on bribes and nepotism. Malala's father had trouble opening his school because of this. During Malala's short lifetime, there has been a devastating earthquake and flood. Conspiracy theories are rife: America is responsible for Pakistani flooding; Jews carried out 9-11; the polio vaccine was invented by Americans to sterilize Muslims. Hepatitis, from dirty needles, is rampant. Thousands of schools are "ghosts," receiving funds, staffed by, and educating, no one.

In this troubled country, Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai is a true hero. Without much money, he was determined to open a school. Contrary to Pakistani social norms, he cherished his daughter and educated her. It was the very idealistic Ziauddin who raised Malala to be the heroine she is today.

Ziauddin told his family to toss coins and candies into his baby girl's cradle. This congratulatory, celebratory gesture is normally saved for boys. Ziauddin had noticed, when he was growing up, that he was served cream, milk, eggs, and chicken breast, while his sisters received tea, no milk, no eggs, and chicken necks.

Malala describes conditions for women in Swat: women don't vote, don't leave their houses except with a male guardian, and aren't educated. Arranged marriages to much older men often end tragically. A fifteen-year-old neighbor who made the mistake of falling in love was poisoned by her family in an honor killing. A girl could be forced to marry a bad man in order to settle a tribal feud. Malala's mother could not read.

There is no clear, bright line between "good" Muslims in Pakistan who want education, peace, women's rights and coexistence, and "bad" Muslims. In each household, in each family, in each heart, there are confused desires and loyalties. Malala's own mother at first supported the very terrorists who shot her own daughter. Malala's father, Ziauddin, once prayed "O Allah, please make war between Muslims and infidels so I can die in your service and be a martyr." Later he denounced this thinking as the result of "brainwashing." In Malala's hometown bazaar, you could buy posters and candy boxes emblazoned with heroic images of Osama Bin Laden.

One woman gave her gold jewelry to the Taliban. When she flinched during explosions, her husband chided her: "There goes your nose ring; there go your bangles." Indeed, Malala reports that the Pakistan government and security services are implicated in support of the very terrorists they claim to be fighting, and taking money from America for fighting.

Those advancing jihad and gender apartheid cite Islamic scripture and practice as support. As one mullah put it, if anyone can show Islamic support for the education of females, that person "can come and p--- on my beard."

Ziauddin and Malala try to say that Islam is all about peace, education, and equality between men and women, but they don't cite any Muslim scripture or practice to support this claim. In fact the Koran and hadith describe women as deficient in intelligence and religion.

Malala describes in detail the encroachment of the Taliban on day to day life in Swat Valley. She describes the Taliban listening at keyholes, sadistically killing neighbors, including a poor dancing girl, and black fires as confiscated TVs and DVD players burn. Malala grew up in Swat, proud of the Buddhist monasteries and stupas that once graced the region. The Taliban arrived and destroyed them, as they destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas.

Many of her neighbors supported all this. They saw it as true Islam. Malala's mother approved of the restrictions on women. Ziauddin's teachers went to work on Taliban construction projects. A barber lost money because Islam approves beards; the barber praised the Taliban, afraid to speak out. "It was as though everyone were in a trance."

Not so, Malala dear They approved, at least some of it. Because of this approval, those who planned and carried out the attack on Malala are still at large. This is how deep the approval, or at least tolerance, of jihad runs – Ziauddin hired a man to teach Malala to memorize the Koran. This man told Malala that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was a good thing because Benazir "Was not following Islam properly." Ziauddin told Malala to continue to learn from this mullah!!!

"If you have a headache and tell the doctor you have a stomachache, how can the doctor help? You must speak the truth," Ziauddin says. And yet further down the same page, Malala says "What was happening in Swat was not about Islam." Very good people like Ziauddin and Malala will not bring on the new day they crave until they speak the truth about the headache all Muslims confront.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a profound book that the author Christina Lamb has depicted the life of Malala in a elegant way. The history of Pakistan under various regimes and the evolution of Taliban in Swat Valley (of Pakistan) are cleanly told. Her agony are clearly stated and even though she had become a celebrity, her childish fights with her friends and her inner thoughts are also mentioned. After reading, as an Indian I felt that eventhogh has lent hands to many patients in health, she didn't even mention India to be good nation. We could see her rage of India as an enemy nation. God only knows whether the information in this book is right or wrong.