As a Muslim woman, I couldn’t be prouder to see Malala Yousafzai win the Nobel Peace Prize 2014, that too at a young age of 16.
The girl has been fighting the battle of advocating right to education for women since 2009, when she anonymously started chronicling the brutal Talibani activities in her blog for BBC. She was soon noticed and did interviews, conferences and even a documentary by New York Times.
But the most horrifying incident was, undoubtedly, when she was shot right in the head one afternoon while boarding her school bus. This cowardly attempt to assassinate a young girl was downright abhorrent, and thankfully, people supported her nationally and internationally during her critical, nearly fatal condition; instead of labeling the poor girl as a terrorist and other similar adjectives, like some ignorant people do to any and every Muslim they run into, at any opportunity they get, mainly just to humiliate or pull them down. There were, and still exist, some Malala haters, who are jealous and insecure to see a Muslim woman demand her rights, and be in the spotlight for such a noble cause. To those who believe Muslims are no good, and all they know is to propagate fear and join hands with terrorists; you all can suck it big time.
Malala’s unbreakable spirit is shown not only in taking initiative in resisting Talibani terror, but on continuing her mission with grace and dignity; with her head held high despite all odds; especially after seeing death right in her face. Any person, including me, would have been forced to give up on their purpose after experiencing such traumatic incidents at such an age, but for her to carry on with her quest is an extremely laudable act only few people can manage. Malala, a simple yet bold woman, cherishing such a beautiful dream and taking responsibility in helping others in making their dreams come true gives out a clear message that we Muslim women CANNOT be suppressed; and anyone who tries to tame us will be heavily disappointed.
What delights me most, though, is the cause that the girl championed and has chosen to fight for: Education. Muslim women, in the recent past, have protested for freedom for practising their religion, and both for and against wearing of burqas and hijabs. I might be mistaken; but I don’t really remember women coming out of their houses to fight for their rights to education, and I’m not surprised at all.
It would be wrong for me to generalize, but in most cases, Muslim women are not ambitious. Speaking from, and of an Indian scenario, we subconsciously know that an expertise in household skills would yield us more respect and acceptance in society, than a solid education; because an efficiency in domestic affairs, and carrying out a happy matrimony are the parameters we are judged on, and not on working up our career ladders and making our name for ourselves in the world. What counts as “merit” is our flexibility to adapt and adjust to our husbands and in-laws. Taking risks, going on newer adventures, character-building, excelling in our chosen fields, chasing our dreams, dreaming of whirl-wind romances’, seeking external fulfilment to render meaning to our lives is labelled as wanting too much out of life, or being idealistic and away from reality. I say, life is short; why settle for less?
Also, I feel Muslim women lack perspective. This is partially due to their upbringing, and also because of their own lack of effort and aspirations. We are taught, from a young age, that this world is a temporary residence and that our external abode is Jannah. We are travellers in this world and our sole objective is to worship Allah (SWT) and secure our places in Jannah (Heaven.) Therefore, the more you worship your Lord, the better are your chances for attaining Heaven and escaping Hell fire. You have to be as ahead in this race as you can, for good. This approach towards life is one of the major reasons for lack of ambition in Muslim women. The role and status of a woman in Islam is extremely elevated; but the duties attributed to her are mainly pertaining to family life, viz; taking care of husband and children, preserving and strengthening ties of kinship and observing religious duties to the best of our abilities. As a result, women are consumed in taking care of the said responsibilities, and their own aspirations and vocations take a back seat, because their priorities are not themselves, but others. Usually, in such settings, women push education aside, get comfortable and fail to get out of their comfort zones to make something better of and for themselves. They are satisfied “living” their religion and the life given to them, and lose out on the bigger things that lie behind the spectrum. All they need is Jannah, and they will consciously, or unconsciously, not pursue their scary dreams or try to extract the essence of life.
I have nothing against practicing, religious women,who lead such lives because some of them are phenomenal, like Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed, an internationally acclaimed Islamic speaker, who’s doing a fantastic job in spreading the word of Allah and keeping Islam alive in our hearts. I just feel that Muslim women should not bend over backwards carrying the burden of religion and squandering their lives in mediocrity and mindless pursuits; but should come alive, grab the world by its lapels, and reach out to the world.
Be a badass warrior; like Malala Yousafzai. More power to her.
The International Children’s Peace Prize – which includes a €100,000 project fund sponsored by AkzoNobel – was today officially awarded to 2013 winner Malala Yousafzai by Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman.