Malala Yousafzai, 14-year-old socialist and campaigner for girls’ education, has now been flown to Britain for hospital treatment, following her attempted murder by the Pakistan Taliban. Bill Weinberg considers the mixed response of the “anti-imperialist” US Left. Originally appeared in World War 4 Report – Editors
Malala Yousafzai has been moved to a hospital in Rawalpindi, the military administrative center outside Islamabad, and we are told the next 24 hours are critical for her survival. News media in Pakistan and the Subcontinent are expressing the widespread awe at her heroism and disgust at the cowardly attempt on her life. Islamabad’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar called the shooting a “wake up call” that could represent a “turning point” for the nation, Pakistan’s Express-Tribune reports. An editorial in India’s Hindustan Times hails her as “the braveheart who took on the Taliban.” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper calls her a “symbol of courage,” and its columnist Syed Fazl-e-Haider has an op-ed in the New York Times, entitled “Malala Has Won.”
Malala is the victim of Talibanization, the radical mind-set spawned from a theocratic and obscurantist interpretation of Islam. Talibanization is about forcefully imposing a theocratic agenda on the people. It is about radicalizing them. It is about creating more and more suicide-bomb squads in the name of jihad against liberals and moderates, Muslims and non-Muslims. The attack on Malala liberated many shackled and Talibanized minds. She has won.
Dawn and Express-Tribune also note the candlelight vigils being maintained in support of Malala in cities across Pakistan, with such slogans as “These gun-toting mullahs are afraid of an unarmed girl.”
The Taliban, however, haven’t skipped a beat. The Express-Tribune reports Oct. 12 that Malik Gul Zada, a village militia leader who stood up to the Taliban, was assassinated in Barawalis tehsil (county) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the slaying.
Meanwhile, what have progressive voices in the West to say about Malala? Precious little, and some of it unbearably stupid. One ultra-paranoid blogger calling himself American Everyman has two posts seizing in lugubrious manner on the inevitable inconsistencies in the early coverage of the shooting as well as purely imaginary inconsistencies in some of the accompanying photos to make the case that the whole thing is a charade spawned by some neocon conspiracy. Under the headline “The Staged Malala Yousafzai Story: Neoliberal near-Martyr of the Global Free Market Wars,” he writes: “The ‘brave Malala’ story is completely fake just like the Jessica Lynch story, just like the Nurse Nayirah story, just like the Nada story from Iran…”
The “Nada” (sic) referenced is presumably Neda Salehi Agha Soltan, the young woman killed by security forces during the 2009 protests in Tehren—whose death was very real despite the ugly conspiracy theories that were spun by the official media in Iran. “Nurse Nayirah” was the woman whose bogus testimony about non-existent Iraqi war crimes in Kuwait helped lubricate Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and of course Jessica Lynch was the US army private whose supposed “rescue” in Iraq in 2003 really does appear to have been staged. But nothing indicates that Malala was thusly manipulated. What cruel, maddening, reactionary idiocy. Recalls the “leftist” paranoids who could only see a neocon conspiracy in the Egyptian revolution. Only even worse.
As we have noted, the “neoliberal” Malala is actually a Marxist revolutionary! The one leftist website in the West we’ve been able to find that has anything principled or intelligent to say about Malala is In Defence of Marxism, UK-based site of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), the Trotskyist current to which the precocious Malala apparently gravitated:
IMT sympathiser shot in Swat — Barbarism must not prevail!
The suffering of the people of Pakistan is largely unknown in the West. A veil of silence has been carefully drawn over the number of people killed every day by American drones and Taliban murders. But recently a small corner of the curtain was raised as the result of a particularly appalling event.
Yesterday Malala Yousafzai was brutally shot by gunmen as she was returning home from school. Masked assassins stepped onto a bus filled with terrified children, identified her, and shot her at point blank range in the head and neck.
Who are these men who wage war on defenceless schoolgirls? We know who they are because they have already admitted their guilt. The cowardly murderers who perpetrated this vile deed feel no need to hide away from public opinion. They feel no shame, for they are utterly shameless. The Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for this act of bloodthirsty savagery.
What crime did this fourteen year-old girl commit that could justify the taking of her life? Was she a friend of American imperialism? Did she support the occupation of Afghanistan? Was she on the side of the Pakistan government and its army?
No, she was none of those things. On the contrary, Malala was on the side of the oppressed people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and every other country. She was an enemy of imperialism, landlordism and capitalism. She stood for the cause of freedom, progress and socialism. And for that they have tried to take her young and innocent life.
And what do anti-war sites in the US have to say? We see nothing—not a word—about Malala on the pages of the War Resisters League, United for Peace & Justice or US Labor Against the War. We are happy to note that Code Pink (which sparked recent controversy in Pakistan by participating in a cross-country march in protest of the drone strikes organized by Imran Khan, a politician widely considered too soft on the Taliban) at least sports a lone Tweet reading: “We condemn the shooting of #MalalaYousafzai by the #Taliban. Raised funds to support her school ow.ly/eoEbl #Pakistan.” Nothing on the front pages of Toward Freedom, TruthOut or AntiWar.com. (Don’t even bother with the openly reactionary International ANSWER, International Action Center or Workers World.)
A pretty pathetic record for the stateside left, so far. As we have pointed out time and again, Pakistan and Afghanistan (and Iraq and Yemen) are between two poles of terrorism—that of US imperialism and that of political Islam. Of course our first responsibility is to protest the drone strikes, which are carried out in our name and with our tax dollars. But we cannot do so effectively without actually grappling with the reality on the ground in Pakistan (and Afghanistan, and…).
If only progressives in the West could realize it, Malala is ours—not the neocons’, not the neoliberals’, not Hillary Clinton’s. She is our ally, and has displayed a heroism that puts the best of us to shame. We have a responsibility to loan her vigorous support—not only because basic human solidarity mandates it, but also because shrewd tactics demand it. We cannot allow her legacy to be usurped by the war-mongers.