‘I see Malala as my leader’, says father of young Pakistani activist made famous by Taliban attackers

Malala Yousafzai with her father Ziauddin during her recovery from a Taliban gun attack. The young activist caught the world’s attention with her campaign for education rights and her refusal to bow to extremist threats.( Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2019

‘I see Malala as my leader’, says father of young Pakistani activist made famous by Taliban attackers

  • The father of the young education activist targeted by the Taliban is in Dubai to launch his book ‘Let Her Fly.’
  • He tells Arab News about his trailblazing daughter’s fight for equality — and why she is a star in her own right

DUBAI: “For Malala it is not about becoming prime minister of Pakistan but about what contribution she can make to society.”

Those are the words of Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala, the young Pakistani activist, Taliban attack survivor and winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Now studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University in the UK, Malala Yousafzai has said before that one day she hopes to become prime minister of Pakistan.

“I can say that she has the wisdom to focus on areas where she can contribute to the nation and to the world in general,” her father said. “But her objective is definitely not simply to have the title of a prime minister. It’s a good wish to have, but not the ultimate one.”

Yousafzai was speaking to Arab News during a visit to Dubai this week to launch his book “Let Her Fly,” which details his daughter’s achievements and ambitions.




Malala receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. (AFP)

“Her entire struggle has been about equality and justice. She has stood for these values, and it is more important than just attaching a label to her name,” Yousafzai said.

“When Malala was growing up, I was her inspiration. Now I am among her millions of followers and I see her as my leader.”

Yousafzai is more than just the proud father of a young woman who became arguably the world’s most celebrated teenager when she survived an attack by Taliban gunmen in 2012. He has been an education activist in Pakistan all his life and is now helping the Malala Fund, which runs education projects around the world.

Yousafzai said that the security situation in Pakistan has improved considerably, but education still leaves much to be desired.

The Malala Fund has helped to set up modern schools in areas where underprivileged girls need better access to education.

“Things are moving in the right direction, but a lot still needs to be done when it comes to providing access to education for all segments of society,” he said.

According to UNESCO, about 262 million children and youth lacked access to education worldwide in 2017.

Recounting the horrific days when Malala battled for her life after the brutal Taliban attack, Yousafzai recalls the support of people around him and the government of Pakistan at the time.




Malala presenting her autobiography to Queen Elizabeth in London. (AFP file photo)

“I was only saying yes to whatever people around me suggested, and I am extremely thankful that they collectively took the right decisions. I was then just the father of a critically injured daughter, and all I wanted was her life to be saved,” he said.

He is also indebted to those who decided to fly her to the UK for treatment — a decision taken after consultation between military doctors and the government. “She may have survived even if we stayed in Pakistan, but a lot of the reconstruction surgery wouldn’t be possible back home.”

Yousafzai said the family had lived happily in the Swat Valley until the terror attacks of 9/11 when the Taliban began to extend its influence, often attacking educational institutions.

“They had neither missiles nor suicide bombers at the time, so they started destroying girls’ schools. They banned women from going to the markets and started controlling the kind of clothes they wore, which was unacceptable,” he said.

The family decided to raise their voices against the violence and, almost by default, became Taliban targets. “They were silencing dissenters one by one, and it was only a matter of time before they attacked one of us.”

This marked the beginning of a struggle that has been detailed in Yousafzai’s book, which is subtitled “A Father’s Journey and the Fight for Equality.”

“Malala was the youngest of them all, but her voice was the loudest,” he said. “Maybe she was attacked because they looked for a soft target, but she was a star in her own right.

“Whenever she appeared on television, she had a certain charisma. She used to speak up for the girls whose rights had been taken away. She was speaking for the 50,000 girls who were being denied education by the Taliban,” he said.

For more than 20 years, Ziauddin Yousafzai has been fighting for equality — first for Malala, and then for young women around the world.




Malala meeting US President Barack Obama in 2013. (AFP)

________________

TIMELINE

1997 Malala Yousafzai born July 12, 1997, in Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

2008 Eleven-year-old Malala gives her first speech — ‘How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?’ — to a press club in Peshawar.

2009 Writes for the BBC Urdu blog under the name Gul Makai.

2011 Fourteen-year-old Malala is nominated by South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She is also awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Award for Youth.

2012 Pakistani Taliban target Malala. A gunman fires four shots, hitting her and wounding two friends. She is flown to the UK for treatment.

2013 Addresses UN General Assembly, her first public speech since the shooting, and calls for free universal education. Speaks at Harvard University, meets Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama, and is nominated again for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her autobiography, ‘I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,’ is published.

2014 Wins the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist. She becomes the youngest Nobel laureate and the only Pakistani winner of the peace prize.

2015 On her 18th birthday, Malala opens a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. 

 


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 22 min 14 sec ago

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”