Sunday, 28 October 2012

Attempted assassination of a 14-year-old girl: In the name of Islam?

“If Malala had been killed in a drone attack, you would not hear her medical status update, neither would she be called "daughter of the nation"; and neither would the media make a fuss. Neither would General Kiyani come to visit nor would the world media criticise and repeatedly report on it. This I'm afraid is the bitter truth of the matter.”
                                                                                      (Author unknown)

Despite being enemies, it seems the Taliban and the Americans have something fundamental in common: intolerance. Both advocate killing innocent people when they do not concur with them; the attempted execution of Malala Yousafzai and the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and his family members have the same underlying theme of intolerance.  The Americans want to impose western liberal democracy and the Taliban want to impose a draconian (literal) version of Islamic law where there is no room for differences. What do the ordinary masses want in Pakistan or any other Muslim country? Apart from economic security and political stability, they want a society where there is room for dialogue and discussion - freedom of expression within sensible boundaries.

As for the attempted execution of a 14-year-old girl, a soft target by any standards and no doubt a cowardly act, there are two pertinent issues; the Taliban ideology and the media duplicity.  

On the latter, the media duplicity is obvious, the selective outrage sparked by an attack one teenager (Malala Yousafzai), yet there is total silence on the many faceless and nameless Pakistanis killed and maimed by the American drones over the last decade. The issue has nothing do with compassion for Malala; the undue international media coverage is entirely political, another point scored in construing the problem of militant Islam and Pakistan’s failure to deal with it.

The last time I recall seeing the Taliban on the media presenting their side of the story was prior to the American invasion back in 2001, since then they have been largely absent from the media. Under such circumstances, there has always been an element of doubt in my mind, when I hear stories of violent attacks, reported as the work of the Taliban. I ask myself, maybe it is another covert CIA-led operation designed to tarnish the Taliban.

Did the Taliban in Pakistan really attempt to execute this young girl? How could they? Apart from violating Islamic law, it’s politically suicidal. How do the many impartial masses in Pakistan interpret this? And the widespread protests are a sign that has sealed the Taliban’s future political fate. Perhaps it’s some rouge elements within the Taliban, but then the duty is on the leadership to clarify its position, and the reports so far state that the Taliban have admitted to carrying out the attack, as the girl was allegedly spreading secularism.  How could an Islamic group compose of devout Muslims act in such blatant violation of the Islamic principles? This raises the of the Taliban ideology.

From the gamut of evidences taken from the Quran and Hadiths, the position is clear on the issue of violence towards women; one of the first commandments after the revelation began was the prohibition of burying new born baby girls alive; the penal code is prescribed for slandering a woman; in times of war clear commandments were given not to attack women, and the penal code on apostasy takes a lenient view on women as compared to men. The Prophet (saw) never hit any of his wives and was always exhibited kindness towards women. Even when individuals showed hostility, the first response from the Prophet was to reply with kindness and attempt to persuade the individual through discussion.

Therefore, for similar actions between genders, one has to show much greater leniency towards women. Even in the West with its militant feminist ideology that advocates gender equality at every level, still maintains the ‘un-feminist’ ethos: do not hit women. As nature and the long human history tells us, they are not built to take physical punishment, they are vulnerable, more so when they conceive a child. I wonder if it would have made any difference to those who attacked Malala, if they knew she was married and pregnant. 

Let us assume Malala was guilty of something really serious - suppose she had espoused open relationships between genders outside the fold of marriage or written some sexually explicit novel. The accused has to be brought to trial, then once found guilty, only the legitimate authority can pass and enforce judgement. Before dispensing punishment, the Islamic law strongly emphasises on forgiveness. This, even if the accused is found guilty in court, he should be given a second opportunity like the Prophet (saw) did on numerous occasions?

These radical groups seem to think they have the authority to exercise force like some bandits, without even engaging in dialogue and applying the due process of law. They often say they are acting in the name of Islam for the interest of Muslims, yet they fear to compete with the secular groups in an open and fair election to acquire legitimacy from the masses.

“We sent you (O Prophet) only as a mercy to all people” Quran [21:107]

Yamin Zakaria (, #yaminzakaria)

Published on 27/07/2012

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