Celebrating Malala: What Pakistani-Americans Have to Say
By Anwar Iqbal
Washington, DC

Malala is a Nobel Laureate at 17, the youngest ever.

The Pakistani nation has two options:

  • Celebrate her success and use it to promote education, particularly for girls


  • Reject it as yet another Western conspiracy against Muslims.

We put these two options before a group of Pakistani-Americans in Washington and the overwhelming majority endorsed the first option.

More than 160 people, including those using the virtual space, watched this debate while 29 spoke.

The moderator opened the discussion, showing a web picture of Pakistan Army doctors treating Malala soon after the Oct. 9, 2012 assassination attempt. The fact that these doctors were members of the Pakistan Army, and not CIA operatives, should be sufficient to silence the conspiracy theorists, he argued.

He also produced the print of a tweet by the ISPR chief Major General Asim Bajwa, saying that on Friday Malala became the second Pakistani to win the prestigious award, after Dr Abdus Salam. “Except for terrorists, all Pakistanis want their children in school,” Mr Bajwa wrote.

Pointing to two laptops with web cameras, the moderator said that people in other cities were also participating in this debate.

Muhammad Atif Rajput, a Washington, DC resident, underlined a sad similarity between the first Pakistani Nobel Laureate, Dr. Abdus Salaam, and Malala.

“Dr Salam couldn't stay in Pakistan. Malala can't go back to Pakistan,” he said.

Zahid Ali, a Virginia-based political activist, urged Pakistan, both the nation and the government, to see Malala as “a goodwill ambassador for a state which mostly gets negative coverage in the international media.”

Haseeb Ahmad, a physician based in the Middle East, urged the Pakistanis not to lose this opportunity. “I hope this strange nation will not treat Malala the way they treated Dr Salam,” he said.

Ahmad argued that even if the conspiracy theorists were right and Malala indeed was a Western agent, “then we should thank the West for sending us an agent of change because we need her.”

Khalid Walid noted that now Malala will have a lot of influence around the world “whether we like it or not.”

“Now, either we can benefit from it or refuse to take advantage of what she can offer. If we go against her, we will only harm ourselves, not Malala,” he argued.

Ahmar Mustikhan, another political activist based in Baltimore, Maryland, argued that “as long as we continue to preach hate against those who disagree with us, people like Malala cannot return to Pakistan.”

Huma Kazmi, who used the Internet to participate in the debate, lamented that some Pakistanis were criticizing Malala “out of sheer jealousy and malice.” Urging them to stop doing so, she said: “Malala is not an embarrassment. She is a source of pride and inspiration for Pakistan.”

Mohsen Awan of Springfield, Virginia, said that this was indeed a proud moment for Pakistan. “But why is Abdul Sattar Edhi being ignored? Does he not deserve this prize?” he asked.

Humeraa Qamar, another Internet user, declared that she simply loved Malala.

Adil Bhatti, Glasgow, UK, agreed with the suggestion that Malala was a goodwill ambassador of Pakistan.

Mahera Rahman of Detroit, Michigan, noted that Malala challenged a particular mindset and has had a global impact. “Edhi sahab has done what no one else could do in Pakistan but his impact was on Pakistan alone, not worldwide,” she said. “About time for Pakistanis to be a wee bit grateful.”

Ghulam Mustafa, another Washington DC, resident, said that people’s love for Edhi sahib should not prevent them from celebrating Malala’s success and from recognizing Dr. Salam.

Rashda Qadeer, also a DC resident, said that Edhi sahib could have had a greater impact if the West had recognized him too. She also urged Pakistanis not to ignore Mr Edhi’s “great humanitarian efforts while cheering Malala.”

Zahid Ali, a Kuwait resident, pointed out that no one in Pakistan ever ignored Edhi sahib. “I have seen him getting more respect than the prime minister,” he said.

Another participant, Aadam Zaad, observed that “some people use Edhi sahib as an excuse to attack Malala.”

“Let's not make it an Edhi versus Malala dispute,” said Khadim Alvi. “We must respect both.”

Mohsen Awan agreed. “I'm not comparing one with the other. Both have great accomplishments.”

Neelum Ahmad Basheer, a famous Urdu short story writer who was visiting Washington, said: “Malala is a winner while those who attacked her are losers. And they know it too.”

Syed Muhammad Ali, another online participant, said Malala symbolized “the hope our nation has in its bright future and the great potential of our youth, which shows its great resilience against great odds and great ignorance.”

Faqir Naqvi of Springfield, Virginia, said that the entire nation should be proud of Malala.

Azra Majeed of Toronto, Canada, said she was proud of Malala. “May God bless her and give Pakistan more Malalas and more Dr Salams.”

“A global honor for Pakistan to have produced the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner,” said Pervaiz Lodhie, a California-based Pakistani businessman. “What a shame that millions of children in Pakistan never go to school and grow up in garbage dumps,” he said. Mr Lodhie hoped that Malala will complete her studies, “come back to Pakistan as its Prime Minister and finally implements Article 25A of Pakistan's constitution: Education for All.”

Farida Rokadia, Stamford, Connecticut, called Malala a perfect role model for Pakistani girls.”

Zaheer Rana, Montreal, Quebec, said that “any innuendo or aspersions being cast by certain people is plain stupidity.”

Rashid Masood Khan, Cincinnati, Ohio, asked: “How can anyone curse Malala?” It's the media that highlights such stupid statements by irresponsible and uneducated people. I have never seen any Pakistani who is not proud of her.”

But another participant pointed out that “unfortunately, there are many who do criticize Malala because they were afraid of her views.”

“Let us celebrate Malala’s success with all praise to God for showering His Blessings on the Pakistani girl,” said G. H. Qamar Baloch of Ashburn, Virginia.

“Malala, my beautiful daughter. You have so many uncles and aunts to love you. Love is being loved today,” said Haider Rizvi from New York.

“And how and why should anyone compare Malala with Mr Edhi , he is another Pakistani asset. I am sure Mr Edhi and his family are celebrating this great achievement with equal fervor,” said Rashid Masood Khan, a physician.

“We should all be proud of her,” said Iftikhar Ifti of Portland, Oregon.

“While we celebrate this recognition, my mind keeps going back to why the incident happened in the first place? What are we doing about that?” asked Attiya Mahmood. - Courtesy Dawn


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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