Peace talks and peace prizes
Malala Yousafzai’s is a tale of extreme courage, hope, good luck and now appropriation, circulation and legend. She’s, fortunately or unfortunately, popular culture, awaiting Warholisation in technicolours. Whether or not she wins the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, hers is already a story that would be told and retold, with different emphases and accentuations, to drum up different causes, that could range from women’s education anywhere in the world to the fight against an insular backwardness fused with unfathomable cruelty, of which the Talibans are the poster boys.
Clearly, Malala – who has already received several prestigious honours, including the European peace prize and top nods at Ivy League universities such as Harvard, which have publicly acknowledged Malala as a privileged guest of honour, addressing them how to not brand and sell her name as a particular victim of oppression but a force of survival, universal in her appeal – is, undoubtedly above the material equivalences and consequences of actually receiving the prize, for which she’s a top contender. But there’s a deeper and underlying malaise that the young girl has been pointing towards, that of isolating her as a beacon of hope and fighter on the one hand, while carrying on with drone attacks and derailing peace talks with Pakistan, Afghanistan, on the other. Surely, what the world’s most famous 16-year-old can easily understand is that the real world beneath the hoopla of peace prizes is exactly where she belongs, which is outside the cosy comforts of seminar rooms of universities.
Malala’s revelations are also stunning. She candidly confesses that her father had toyed with jihadism during his salad days, but had firmly rejected the idea once secularism and humanism made his soul their homes. It was Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who has been her strongest supporter, never hiding his daughter behind the seclusion of Taliban-imposed purdah or disallowing her to pursue school fearing life threats. Evidently, coming from the Swat valley, a paradisical place with an ugly underbelly of unfathomable gender gap and discrimination, Malala’s father had also been exemplary in his dogged refusal to bow before the Taliban regime. Hence, the international community must think twice before hailing Malala as an ‘unusual Pakistani woman’, whose efforts must be lauded and certified with a peace prize, pushing into oblivion the thousands of other women and men who have made it their lives’ mission to carry out community services. The politics of peace prizes, after Barack Obama, who’s is pursuing a most vicious drone attack policy, was awarded one in 2009, stands exposed.