Right-wing pro-Taliban anchors and self-proclaimed intellectuals have taken to disrepute her book by claiming it reeks of “Western Agenda.” If a young Pakistani girl in dupatta, standing up for education and speaking against radicalization, demanding an end to the drone war, advocating peaceful resolution to the terrorist menace Pakistan is plagued with and speaking of hope in a progressive Pakistan is “Western Agenda,” I’d welcome more of the same.
Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jaan have been at the forefront of this offensive. Here is what they vociferously present as ‘Western Agenda:”
1. Malala and Salman Rushdie: Malala writes in her book regarding the “Satanic verses:”
“My father also saw the book as offensive to Islam but believes strongly in freedom of speech. “First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,” he suggested. He ended by asking in a thundering voice my grandfather would have been proud of, “Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!”
All Muslims – including Malala and her father – found Rushdie’s novel offensive. However, instead of the widespread violence that ensued across parts of the Muslim world in which Muslims, ironically, lost their lives, Malala’s father believed Rushdie’s offensive novel should be responded to in the form of a literary rejoinder like this one. There are many Muslims who share the same opinion on responding to blasphemous publications. Not all Muslims share the knee-jerk “kill the blasphemer” reflex.
Saying that Malala was not against Rushdie’s Satanic verses is clearly either a case of intellectual dishonesty or dire lack of English comprehension skills on the part of the Oryas and Abbasis.
2. Malala’s love for the Ahmadis: Malala writes in her book:
“Now we are a country of 180 million and more than 96 per cent are Muslim. We also have around two million Christians and more than two million Ahmadis, who say they are Muslims though our government says they are not. Sadly those minority communities are often attacked.”
Malala merely stated a fact. Ahmadis do consider themselves Muslim. And the government does deny them this right to identity. Malala did not comment on her view on Ahmadi religious beliefs.
However, even if Malala did consider Ahmadis Muslim, how does that discredit her work or make her a lesser Pakistani? Millions of other Pakistanis – including its very founder – consider Ahmadis Muslim and believe the anti-Ahmadi laws of Pakistan are demonic and oppressive. Jinnah is known to have said:
“What right have I to declare a person non-Muslim, when he claims to be a Muslim.” (23rd May, 1944)
If Jinnah was alive today, how would Pakistan’s rightist pro-Talibani anchors and journalists treat him on TV? He’d be harassed and abused for his beliefs and considered a traitor in his own country.
Yes, Pakistan’s constitution says Ahmadis are non-Muslim. As per Abbasi’s admission in the same program, the constitution also prescribes Arabic as a mandatory language. Now, would there be a similar witch-hunt against those who refuse to learn Arabic in schools – and the majority don’t.
Would there be a similar witch-hunt against the Taliban and other radical outfits who outrightly and openly refuse to accept the Constitution of Pakistan? Would the Oryas and Abbasis also write columns against the Laskhar Jhangvi and Sippa Sahaba for leading an open slaughter of minorities across the country and violating Pakistan’s constitutional guarantee to freedom of life, speech and religion?
For all we know, these right-wing columnists have been overly protective of these radical outfits and not once condemned the Taliban for their continued violence and open rejection to accept Pakistan’s Constitution.
3. Malala and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): The Oryas lament that Malala did not write “pbuh” after Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) name.
Bina Shah explains this in her blog: “It is work of copy-editors and proofreaders to insert or remove that phrase or acronym, and if you know anything about the process of getting a book ready for publication at a large publishing house, you’d know that they prepare a style sheet that they use as a guide to make sure there is consistency with names, phrases, capitalisation of words, etc.
Someone in the editing process probably decided that it would be simpler and easier for non-Muslim readers to see “the Prophet” without the PBUH added every time. This is a decision made based on the expected readership of the book, and while it may not be au courant with what we do in the Muslim world, it is ridiculous to blame this on Malala.
Once a book enters the stage of proofs and production, it is out of the author’s hands. In this case there were two authors – Christina Lamb, the British journalist (who is responsible for filling in the historical and political background to complement Malala’s personal story) and while Malala may have very well wanted to have PBUH inserted into every instance, the decision was not in her hands at later stages of production. If you’re so worried about that, I urge you to say “salallau alehi wasalam” every time you see the word “Prophet” in Malala’s book (which really isn’t more than a handful of times), and indeed every time you hear it, such as when it is recited in the Azaan (call to prayer) five times a day.”
Ameer Ali Syed, well known Islamic writer and listed in the top 100 great Muslim leaders of the twentieth century under the category of ulema and jurists, authored the famous book on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – The Spirit of Islam. He has also left out the repeated mention of “pbuh” in his book. What “Western World” inspired him to write this masterpiece? Only the Oryas and Abbasis would know.
4. Malala and Jinnah: The Oryas and Abbasis are angry that Malala did not use the term “Qaid-e-Azam” for the founder of the nation. As explained above, the book is intended for a Western audience that does not understand the meaning of Qaid-e-Azam. Note how the biography of Qaid-e-Azam on Government of Pakistan’s officially endorsed page uses Jinnah instead of “Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah” whenever the founder is mentioned.
Moreover, there are many darlings of the right-wing that have not used “Qaid-e-Azam” with Jinnah’s mention. Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, an Ahrar leader, comes to mind. He appealed to the people not to be misled by the slogans for Pakistan and even referred to Jinnah as Kafir-i-Azam. Maulana Maududi asked Muslims not to vote for Jinnah and called Jinnah an immoral man. Would the Oryas and Abbasis have the moral courage to take on the Mullahs who had opposed Jinnah and Pakistan? If not writing “Qaid-e-Azam” before Jinnah’s name is “Western conspiracy” what conspiracy would calling him Kafir-e-Azam be?
5. Malala and the Shias: The rightist pro-Taliban apologists demonstrate their lack of English comprehension skills over and again.
Malala writes in her book, “Every year Shias commemorate the killing of the Prophet’s grandson Hussein Ibn Ali at the battle of Karbala in the year 680 with a festival called Muharram.”
She then writes, “Our own founder, Jinnah, was a Shia.”
The Oryas and Abbasis object to the use of the word “festival” for Muharram, claiming a festival is a joyous celebration or “Mela” in urdu. Perhaps mandatory Arabic schooling would have been a better idea for them. Their English vocabulary is definitely not their strong area. Here is a picture from Wikipedia’s main article on Muharram.
Since the objection is that the Shias are hurt by use of the word “festival,” I ask the Oryas and Abbasis why they are never hurt when the Shias are slaughtered in Hazara and other parts of the country at the hands of those they openly protect and who’s ideology they represent, namely the LeJ/SSP etc?
The attack on Malala’s book is based on hypocrisy, lies, deception and jealousy. It is based on phobia and a threat that a voice of sanity is overpowering the conventional narrative of the right-wing majority in Pakistan. The truth is being spoken out loud.
If the Oryas and Abbasis really love Pakistan, its Constitution and its people, they must start a fight against radicalization, extremism and talibanization in Pakistan. Otherwise, they will be remembered as hypocrites.