Which teacher, which pen and which book should change the world?
It’s quite a daunting task to figure out who’s more absurd between those who believe that Malala Yousafzai is a Western agent and those who believe that she was targeted by the Taliban because she wants education. Both arguments have their respective demerits, abundance of ignorance and volumes of hypocrisy. Saying that the Malala episode was a “staged drama” fits in seamlessly with the popular opinion in our neck of the woods, where people dutifully buy the conspiracy theories Zaid Hamid and his creed earn their rather expensive bread and butter from. While saying that the Taliban couldn’t stand a girl wanting education, despite resulting in a noble international campaign for female education, reduces a grave reality into its rather simplistic – and misapprehended – undertone.
A 15-year-old girl being shot at sent down shockwaves both domestically and globally. Whether it was the bewilderment regarding the “hoax” or the disbelief with regards to the “heinous act”, the tremors were – deliberately or inadvertently – forced to divert away from their epicentre. It was neither a staged drama, nor a terroristic manoeuvre to curb female education; the epicentre of the Malalaquake can be traced above an ideological fault line wherein two contrary belief-systems are relentlessly at loggerheads.
Taliban commander Adnan Rasheed’s letter to Malala published on the web on Wednesday, which echoed Ehsanullah Ehsan’s open letter dated October 16, 2012 – written a week after the attack on Malala – reconfirms that she was never targeted owing to her stance on education. It was because of her leaning towards the “wrong” side of the ideological fault line, which led to the shooting and in turn the international convulsion.
Probably the most famous line from Malala’s speech at the UN was, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” And this is the bizarre smokescreen that the poor child doesn’t even know that she’s fueling. The Taliban do not have an issue with teachers, pens or books, their concern is: what is being taught, what is being written and what is being read.
An excerpt from Adnan Rasheed’s letter reads: “You say a teacher, a pen and a book can change the world, yes I agree with you, but which teacher which pen and which book? It is to be specified, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said I am sent as a teacher, and the book He sent to teach is Quran. So a noble and pious teacher with prophetic curriculum can change the world not with satanic or secular curriculum.” And voila! Herein one can trace the aforementioned epicentre: which teacher, which pen and which book should change the world, the ones that follow the “divine” guidelines or the ones that extol ideals propagated by human intellect? For, rest assured, these two are virtually disjoint ideological sets.
Ehsanullah Ehsan’s seven-page letter elaborated the reasons behind the attack on Malala and comprehensively justified it according to the Shariah, Islamic scriptures and historical precedents. Her writings against the “Mujahideen-e-Islam” and in favour of the leaders of Dar-ul-Harb sufficed in forcing the Taliban to fire a bullet with Malala’s name on it. And Ehsanullah Ehsan, after quoting many noteworthy examples, argued whether the universally extolled leaders of Islamic history would’ve reacted any differently to a “conspirator”. The honest answer to that question should instigate a rude awakening.
As invigorating as it sounds, the Taliban-Malala battle is not one between the bullet and the pen. The Taliban’s conflict with Malala, much like their combat against all their adversaries, is a clash of religious teachings and humanistic viewpoints. It’s a battle between orthodoxy and modern-day nonconformity, a tussle between enchainment and freedom, a fight between bigotry and universal brotherhood and seemingly an unyielding war between the 7th century and the 21st century. The Taliban devoutly follow antediluvian theologies, while Malala stands for enlightenment. The Taliban adhere to the deity’s commands, while Malala on the face of it challenged their adherence. The Taliban represent blind faith, while Malala opposes the status quo. And when you try to force these contradictory viewpoints to coexist, or try and merge them into one, you formulate a fault line, which eventually leads to epoch-making upheavals.
Which teacher, which pen and which book should change the world? It sounds mundane, but Adnan Rasheed’s question to Malala, puts all of us in the line of fire, facing an ideological shotgun, one that the West successfully overcame during the Reformation and the ensuing Renaissance. Many an imperialist has posed as a teacher, using swords to pen down fallacious books brimming with the legacy of their veneration. The blood of the opponents and sceptics was used as the ink, while an intangible, superhuman dictatorial clout was used as justification, as they indubitably changed the world. This kick-started centuries’ worth of devout following, the Taliban are the most bona fide offshoot of which.
The Taliban are following the ideology their teachers promoted, and using the proverbial pens and swords to propagate the message of their books as every TTP press release showcases. It’s now up to us to earmark our teachers, our pens and our books, which can’t obviously be the same as the Taliban’s if we plan on countering their threat. This is precisely why it is pivotal to identify and be honest about the epicentre of the Malalaquake and the fault line that divides the Taliban and their genuine opponents. For, the fault lines are becoming more conspicuous with every passing moment and every single one of us would have to pick a side sooner rather than later.
The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @khuldune