By: Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Malala Yousafzai’s recently launched book “I Am Malala” has a lot to make this teenager extremely controversial besides providing her critics something “concrete” to prove her as an “agent” of the West against Islam and Pakistan.
The book, which is more reflective of Malala’s father’s experiences and thoughts than her own, softly talks of the most hatred blasphemer Salman Rushdi and his sacrilegious book The Satanic Verses.As has been the view of the West in general, she writes: “My father also saw the book as offensive to Islam but believes strongly in freedom of speech.”
“Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam,” she quoted her father as saying and shifted all the blame on what she called a “mullah close to our intelligence services” to have ignited the feeling of the people of Pakistan to protest.
Like any western authors, Malala in her books refers to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) on many occasions but did not use what is considered mandatory for every Muslims to say/write either Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) or Sallallu Alaihi Wasallam (SAW).
She even reflected negatively on Islamic laws. She writes: “But General Zia brought in Islamic Laws which reduced woman’s evidence in court to count for only half that of a man’s.” She also found the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan as “stricter”.
“In Pakistan we have something called the Blashphemy Law, which protects the Holy Quran from desecration. Under General Zia’s Islamisation campaign, the law was made much stricter so that anyone who ‘defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet’ can be punished by death or life imprisonment,” her book reads.
As against her abhorrence for General Ziaul Haq and his Islamisation, she was positive for General Musharraf and his policy of enlightened moderation. On page 78 and 79 of her book, she says: “In some ways Musharraf was very different from General Zia. Though he usually dressed in uniform, he occasionally wore western suits and he
called himself chief executive instead of chief martial law administrator. He also kept dogs, which we Muslims regard as unclean. Instead of Zia’s Islamisation he began what he called “enlightened moderation’. He opened up our media, allowed new private channels and female newsreaders, as well as showing dancing on television. The celebration of Western holidays such as Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve was allowed. He even sanctioned an annual pop concert on the eve of Independence Day, which was broadcast to the nation. He did something which our democratic rulers hadn’t, even Benazir, and abolished the law that for woman to prove she was raped, she had to produce four male witnesses…….”
While referring to Ziaul Haq and the Islamic Laws, she wrote on page 24, “But General Zia brought in Islamic Laws which reduced a woman’s evidence in court to count for only half that of a man’s. Soon our prisons were full of cases like that of a thirteen-year-old-girl who was raped and became pregnant and was then sent to prison for adultery because she couldn’t produce four male witnesses to prove it was a crime. A woman couldn’t even open a bank account without a man’s permission.”
Registering her subtle protest to Zia’s policy of preventing sportswomen from wearing shorts, she said, “As a nation we have always been good at hockey, but Zia made out female hockey players wear baggy trousers instead of shorts, and stopped women playing some sports altogether.”
She also said during Zia’s regime many madrasahs were opened. She added, “In all schools religious studies, which we call deeniyat, was replaced by Islamiyat, or Islamic studies, which children in Pakistan still have to do today.”
Then she talked about the Pakistan’s history and wrote (page 24), “Our textbook were rewritten to describe Pakistan as a ‘fortress of Islam’,which made it seem as it we has existed far longer than since 1947, and denounced Hindus and Jews.”
Then she continued on page 25 to adjudge, “Anyone reading them (the rewritten textbooks of Zia’s era) might think we won the three wars we have fought and lost against our great enemy India.”
About Salman Rushdie and his highly blasphemous book, she wrote (page 36-37), “It (The Satanic Verses) was a parody of the Prophet’s life set in Bombay. Muslims widely considered it blasphemous and it provoked so much outrage that it seemed people were talking of little else. The odd thing was no one had even noticed the publication of the book to start with- it wasn’t actually on sale in Pakistan- but then a series of articles appeared in Urdu newspapers by a mullah close to our intelligence service, berating the book as offensive to the Prophet and saying it was the duty of good Muslims to protest. Soon mullahs all over Pakistan were denouncing the book, calling for it to be banned, and angry demonstrations were held. The most violence took place in Islamabad on 12 February 1989, when American flags were set a
light in front of the American Centre- even through Rushdie and his publishers were British. Police fired into the crowd, and five people were killed. The anger wasn’t just in Pakistan. Two days later Ayatollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s assassination.”
She added, “My father’s college held a heated debate in a packed room. Many students argued that the book should be banned and burnt and the fatwa be upheld. 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!”About Zia’s policy of supporting Afghan Jehad, she wrote, “It was as if under Zia jihad had become the sixth pillar of our religion on top of the five we grow up to learn……… My father says that in our part of the world this idea of jihad was very much encouraged by the CIA.”
On page 45 of her book, she wrote, “On Pakistan’s fiftieth anniversary on 14 August 1997, there were parades and commemorations throughout the country. However, my father and his friends said there was nothing to celebrate as Swat had only suffered since it had merged with Pakistan. They wore black armbands to protest, saying the celebrationswere for nothing, and were arrested.”
In her book she generally used the term Mullah for religious scholars and religious leaders. On page 55 she referred to Mullah Omar as “a one-eyed mullah” whom she cited in her book for “burning girls’ schools”. She added that the one-eyed mullah forced men to grow beards and coerced women to wear burqa about which Malala wrote, “Wearing a burqa is like walking inside beige fabric shuttlecock with only a grille to see through and on hot days it’s like an oven. At least I didn’t have to wear one.”
She said that Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a shia and remembered Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the past alliance of religious political parties, negatively. Referring to the 2002 elections, she said, “In our province these elections brought what we called a ‘mullah government’ to power.” She also talked of peoplejokingly referred to the MMA as the Mullah Military Alliance.Talking about the creation of a number of madrasas during Afghan Jihad in Pakistan, she said that most of them were Saudi funded and as per her father that was the start of the “Arabisation” of Pakistan.
On the Lal Masjid issue, she wrote on page 105, “Around the same time as our Taliban were emerging in Swat, the girls of the Red Mosque madrasa began terrorising the streets of Islamabad. They raided houses they claimed were being used as massage centres, they kidnapped women they said were prostitutes and closed down DVD shops, against making bonfires of CDs and DVDs. When it suits the Taliban, women can be vocal and visible…”
About May 2 incident and Osama bin Laden, she on one point on page 176 said, “We couldn’t believe the army had been oblivious to bin Laden’s whereabouts.” She added on page 177, “My father said it was a shameful day. ‘How could a notorious terrorist be hiding in Pakistan and remain undetected for so many years?’ he asked. Others were asking the same thing.”
She further explained, “You could see why anyone would think our intelligence service must have known bin Laden’s location. ISI is a huge organisation with agents everywhere. How could he have lived so close to the capital- just sixty miles away? And fo so long! May be the best place to hide is in plain sight, but he had been living in that house since the 2005 earthquake. Two of his children were even born in the Abbottabad hospital. And he’d been in Pakistan for more than nine years…….”