GV Face: Malala's Pakistan

Malala, the 16-year-old girl that survived a bullet from the Taliban and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize is being celebrated for her compassion and bravery the world over. But she continues to be polarizing figure in her home country Pakistan. 

In this week's episode of GV Face, we talk about why Malala's country feels so conflicted about her. We also look at the role social media has played in Malala's fame and the spread of negative propaganda against her. Activist, blogger and GV Pakistan author Sana Saleem (@sanasaleem) joined us from Karachi. And Irfan Ashraf joined us from Illinois, USA. He's a Pakistani reporter who co-produced the New York Times film, Class Dismissed, the first documentary on Malala made for an international audience in 2009.

I'm the Deputy Editor at Global Voices, also a Pakistani journalist (@saharhghazi) and I hosted the Hangout. When I asked Sana if people in Pakistan really hated Malala, she said [01:00 – 02:50]: 

I don't think the hatred is towards Malala, as a young girl or woman or  Malala herself, the hatred is towards Western coverage of issues in Pakistan, and specific coverage or also the selective coverage whether is Western foreign policy or Western agenda. So the hatred and there is a lot of vicious hatred honestly, is wrongfully directed towards Malala, but it is basically about anything or anyone that gets any sort of limelight in the Western media and specifically if that person gets limelight on human rights violation, there is this form of animosity that you are washing your dirty linen in public. […]

In Malala's case she's lucky because the government at least or public figures have been openly very supportive of her. But unfortunately, a lot of the hatred that is meant for Western selective coverage or that is supposed to criticism of how they perceive us or their condescending coverage of certain issues, is being directed towards Malala. 

During the conversation, Irfan said [17:00 – 18:30]:

We should not look upon this issue in a binary way, like West or East, or that Malala has been hijacked by the Western media. In our area we have a huge problem with “masculinity”; a masculine culture that is being strengthened by the militarization in our region, as a result of which, whenever a female voice is raised, even for the sake of education, it is branded as Western or as too liberal, and is projected in a way that is not seen as a basic human (need), rather it is seen as a conspiracy. So instead of East or West, I think we should also look upon our own culture which is so masculine.[.. ]we have just made women as a site of contestation between the two cultures. Where as I think this is a high point for women too, to raise the issue of Malala,  as a sign of liberty, as a sign of liberation from a masculine culture that they are being raised, nourished and brainwashed in – this is a high point for them.

In this episode Irfan also talks more about Malala's hometown Swat, a place she calls paradise on earth. Taliban's were cleared out of the Valley by the Pakistani military in 2009, but the area still struggles to educate its young, after hundreds of schools were reduced to rubble by the Taliban. 

Here's an audio version of the Hangout on Soundcloud:

We also answered questions from the audience during the Hangout. More details on our event page. 

Read our complete coverage of Malala here. 


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