Malala Yousafzai, the 23-year-old Oxford graduate and an advocate of girl’s education recently gave a detailed interview to British magazine, Vogue, that covered a diverse range of topics including family, marriage, and love. The Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala’s comments on marriage in the interview came under sharp criticism after many Pakistanis found her tarnishing the concept of “marriage” and its sanctity in Islam. A great number of people and famous artists took to Twitter and social media accounts to condemn her stance and accused her of supporting the Western ideology regarding the institution of marriage.
Within hours after her comment went public, #ShameOnMalala became trending on Twitter in Pakistan and people blamed her for being an ‘anti-Muslim agent’ spreading western ideas. Some critics even gave her death and rape threats including a cleric in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who vowed to kill her through suicide attack when she returns to Pakistan. The cleric was then arrested by Pakistani police after his video went viral.
Malala’s views on marriage received widespread condemnation not only on social media but also in the provincial assembly session in KP. During the discussion about her purported comment, the members of the opposition parties displayed strong reaction against her, asking her family to clear her position.
“[Malala] should clarify if she has not made that statement.”, said PPP’s Sahibzada Sanaullah. However, the ruling Pakistan Tehik-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Ziaullah Bangash praised Malala and supported her. “Malala is the daughter of Pakistani nation who faced terrorists with bravery”, he said.
Though Malala’s father, later, clarified her stance when asked on social media about the purported comment of her daughter, analysts maintain that the people of Pakistan on the other hand, have a lesson to learn from this episode. They urge the masses to dig into any matter first before making any public comments about any personality. Jumping on the bandwagon, projecting oneself as the champions of Islam, has been condemned by many progressive activists.
Many who stood by Malala while she faced backlash, urged the public to read her full interview. It was observed that her comments about marriage were misquoted as people just read the excerpts from her interview, not its full form, which led to spoiling her image.
Shamoon Abbasi, a famous actor, has reached out to support Malala. “Malala statement is not well taken because she never said what we all are cursing for. Please read the entire interview.”
“Don’t try to cut a specific part of her statement … and make it a false sense,” Shamoon remarked.
A good number of people also defended her position and acknowledged her role in being an advocate of women’s education in Pakistan.
“The reality is that oppression of Muslim women exists both in the West and outside of it and Malala isn’t responsible for that – political patriarchies and foreign policies are,” notes writer and editor Mariam Khan. “Malala has also never claimed to be the only one fighting for the rights of young girls to have access to education, either,” she adds.
Observers note that Malala has been clearly found stating in the interview that she thought that she would never get married and a person is not always the same and changes as he grows. She also mentioned that her mother told her that “marriage is beautiful” and she will surely find someone one day who will understand, respect, care and love for her. Experts urge readers to note the point as to how can Malala think of her future partner when at the same time, she is opposing the idea of marriage.
They further urge everyone to consider that Malala is a young girl, who is only 23 years old, a phase of life that is filled with unpredictable events and a person continuously experiences change of thoughts and builds and rebuilds them as one learns about the realities of life. We all go through this cycle and Malala is no exception. Being a Nobel Laureate does not exempt her to feel and think like other humans.
Critics of Malala’s detractors say that instead of berating her for her unusual comments, we need to look at the bigger picture. They maintain that it is time to shift our perspective and appreciate Malala for fighting with bravery to help women achieve education in Pakistan.