Debunking Malala conspiracy theories
If someone asks me what are Pakistanis good at, my instant answer will be making up conspiracy theories. When an innocent courageous 14 year old girl almost died defending girls' right to education, the Taliban apologists and the confused privileged educated urbanites didn't take much time to come up with an unending stream of conspiracy theories.
There is nothing surprising here but what sinks my heart is the fact the temporary sympathy faded away quickly, translating into a resolve to fight religious extremism a far cry. If they can not even sympathise with a 14 year old innocent child without their ifs and buts, what do we call them other than heartless insensitive idiots.
Samia Raheel Qazi: Malala is a CIA AgentThe campaign to malign Malala was lead by the usual suspects - Jamaat-e-Islami and their supporters. Samia Raheel Qazi, daughter ex-Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed was probably the first one to float this conspiracy theory calling Malala a CIA agent. She tweeted an image tagging media personnels.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed's daughter Samia Raheel Qazi calls Malala a CIA Agent
The reality is that this was a UNICEF organised meeting in July 2009 attended not just by Malala Yousafzai and her father but also grassroot activists working in the Swat region. The lady in the picture is not Malala's mother but a women education activist (NGO worker) Dishad Begum. They were all invited to meet Richard Hollbrooke following the Swat operation when military had gained control of the area. The meeting was to discuss the education infrastructure and what follow up activities were required to resume schools in the area were needed. Conspiracy theorists are welcomed to feel ashamed once they listen to what Malala said to Richard Hollbrooke - "if you can help us with Education, then please do".
Here is a video of this UNICEF organised meeting, or watch more detailed video here:
If seen sitting in a meeting makes you a CIA Agent, does it make Imran Khan a CIA agent too? Qazi Hussain Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Islami is on record having said that he feels at home when he visits America, does it make him a CIA Agent too. Qazi's daugher Samia Raheel Qazi leading the propaganda campaign against Malala was educated abroad, is she also an Agent? Why Samia Raheel Qazi getting education abroad is okay but Malala asking for help in education, not for herself but the girls of Swat, wrong?
Is Imran Khan a CIA Agent now?
The next propaganda tactic of the religious right was to cash in on the sentiment of the public associated with Islam and Aafia Siddiqi. Using religion and Anti-Americanism always works in Pakistan considering people's sentiments and that is what the conspiracy theorists cashed in. Anti-Malala campaign was launched using the argument that she had said that her political ideals are Benazir Bhutto, President Obama and Bacha Khan. She was asked this question during a TV Talk Show with Hamid Mir and the question was in political context and hence her answer. The religious right claimed that for a girl whose ideals do not include the Prophet Muhammad does not deserve this sympathy. Further, the compared her with Aafia Siddiqi claiming her ideals were Islam and Quran and she is the real daughter of the nation.
Comparing Malala and Aafia Siddiqi
Let me remind the readers that Al Qaeda Deputy Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri himself came to the aid of Aafia Siddiqi. On 4 November 2010, Al-Qaeeda's media wing released a new audio message where Zawahiri asks, "Who Will Take Revenge for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui?." Can someone tell me how many more innocent Pakistani women, or Muslim women for that matter, had the privilege of getting such support from Al-Qaeda's top leadership? Why is it that from millions of Muslim women persecuted, countless Baluch women abducted, all Zawahiri cared about was Aafia Siddiqi? What prompts such sympathy from world's most lethal terrorist for an 'innocent' Aafia Siddiqi which is missing for many more innocent Muslim women?
If it is unacceptable to sympathise with Malala just because she idealise President Obama politically, why do we conveniently ignore that Aafia Siddiqi, unlike Malala, holds a US citizenship and was educated at the American university MIT on American scholarship funds? Why is the Anti-American sentiment applicable on Malala and not on Aafia Siddiqi? If association with anything American is a scale of how good you are, guess Aafia Siddiqi is the one who is much more 'American' that little child Malala. She holds a Pakistani nationality, never wet to the US, was educated in Pakistani schools and almost gave her life defending the right to education of Pakistani girls. What did Aafia did for women of Pakistan?
I would also like to know which verses in the Quran, which Aafia Siddiqi idealises, promoted her to purchase items on internet including about $10,000 worth of night-vision goggles, body armour and 45 military-style books including The Anarchist's Arsena; and why did she need these. I would also like to understand which sayings of the Prophet prompted Aafia Siddiqi to open up a post box in the name of Majid Khan, an alleged al-Qaida operative accused of plotting to blow up petrol stations in the Baltimore area. By saying that Aafia Siddiqi idealised Prophet Muhammad and Quran and knowing what she has been upto, are we trying to say that Quran and Prophet Muhammad prompted her to become an extremist?
I would also appreciate if someone tells me how did an innocent Aafia Siddiqi managed to marry Ammar al-Baluchi (as second husband), a nephew of the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, at a small ceremony near Karachi. Further, the conspiracy theorists who readily believe in photoshopped images are finding it too difficult to believe in evidence given by Aafia Siddiqi's ex-husband Amjad Khan of her suspicious behaviour and involvement in Jihadi activities. According to him, his new wife was a more fiery character than he wished. "She was so pumped up about jihad," he said. He adds that Aafia wanted the couple to move to Bosnia just 6 months after the marriage - why Bosnia of all places, may I ask? he further tells that in the winter post 9/11, she pressed him to go on "jihad" to Afghanistan, where she had arranged for them to work in a hospital in Zabul province. Khan refused, sparking a vicious row. "She went hysterical, beating her hands on my chest, asking for divorce," he recalled. He also claims that she never went to Bagram and he saw her with his own eyes in Islamabad and Karachi but never went public for protection of his children.
Aafia Siddiqi's uncle Shams-ul-Hassan Farooqi has similar tales to tell. He tells that she begged him to smuggle her into Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban. "That was her main point," he recalled. "She said: 'I will be safe with the Taliban.'"
So, please have a little shame before you compare an innocent child with an extremists - even if you think she was not treated in the right way, there is considerable evidence that she was an extremist.
Malala episode is a staged drama, she was never shotThe next conspiracy completely denies that the event took place conveniently ignoring the fact that it was not just Malala but two of her friends named Shazia and Kainat who got injured too and several people of Swat are eyewitness. It has become a fashion in the country of conspiracy theorists even to ignore the responsibility claimed by the terrorists. They completely ignored the fact that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had claimed the responsibility of the attack and had warned that they will attack her again if she survives. They further added that they will also attack other people who support secular causes. To add to that, they later issued a press statement using verses from the Quran proving that their attack on Malala was legitimate inline with the Sharia.
It did not end here, in the wave of temporary sympathy, Pakistani media sided with Malala but Taliban were not happy with this. They warned the media that they will attack them but this did not convince the conspiracy theorists that this event has actually happened.
All I can say is take you head out of the sand - there has to be an end to this Ostrich Syndrome as you are only making a fool of yourself.
Where was Malala hit? - left or right?Next, they came up with the theory that the Pakistan Army, The US, the hospital management in Pakistan and UK and the media all are party to staging this drama and this incident never happened. They picked up some images of the injured child claiming some of them show the wound on the right while some on the left of her head. A little knowledge of image processing and tools like Photoshop would have been handy to avoid this cheap conspiracy theories. Let me show you how can you invert images from Left to Right or Right to Left on click of a button:
How did Malala's clothes changed all of sudden?
In another bizzare attempt, they claim that Malala's clothes are different in the two pictures above. Lack of knowledge comes to aid again - ignorance is bliss, as they say. She is wearing a hospital gown in blue which is a regular practice in all hospitals worldwide.
The hospital gown is made of fabric that can withstand repeated laundering in hot water, usually cotton, and is fastened at the back with twill tape ties.Healthcare workers, especially in hospitals, find thin hospital gowns convenient for listening to the heart and lungs. For nurses, giving injections in the buttocks, abdomen, or thighs is easier when the patient is wearing a gown rather than street clothing.Hospital gowns are much thinner and looser than regular clothing, so patients are less likely to overheat.
Using fake images of drone attack victimsThe religious right has excelled at using fake images to gather public support. Only few months back they used countless fake images to cash in on sympathy regarding the Burma Muslims. Here is a list of such fake images. Using the same skillset and cheap tactics, this time they used fake images calling them victims of drone attacks and the argument that why so much noise for Malala and not the drone attack victims. One example follows:
Yes, her name is Laiba but she was not a drone victim, instead shot by Pakistan Army/FC in Peshawar. Read more here and DAWN report regarding this girl here. None is stopping you to protest for the drone attack victims but (i) why do you have to resort to cheap tactics, misinformation and lies and (ii) what do you have to remain silent on Malala to do that?
Further, while victims of drones are collateral damage and regrettable (not targetted), Malala is a targeted attack - she was attacked because she took on the Taliban, she took a stand for the education of girls in a war torn region. The civilian drone attack victims are not attacked as a target, they are not victimised for their identity or for who they are or what they do.
Why raise voice for Malala only? What is so special about her?Surprise, Surpirse! What's special about Malala is another concern of the Taliban apologists.
Before I answer that, Malala has actually exposed many bigots within us and left answers why she is special. Below are the press releases of two of Pakistan's political parties issued after the attack on Malala. Although the ideological support for Taliban in Pakistan isn't lacking but this incident, atleast temporarily made them very unpopular and there was a strong wave of sympathy in public for Malala. This was probably one of those chances when one can safely speak for the oppressed and against the oppressor because that was the direction the tide of time had taken, you could go with the flow.
Now read the press releases and tell me if these strong parties had little courage to take on the oppressor even at this moment:
Did you find the word Taliban? Did you see anyone taking on these barbarins when an innocent child is ruthlessly attacked? NO!
PTI Press Release on Malala attack - failing to gather courage to name the culprits
PMLN Press Release on Malala attack - Pakistan's 2nd largest political party still doesnt know who the enemy is after 45000 Pakistanis, 26000 Shia and several thousand Ahmedi, Christian and Hindu deaths
In a country where large political parties do not have the guts to take a firm stand against the oppressor, to speak against brutality and side with the oppressed, this little child had the courage to do that. She did what strong powerful leaders could not do. Listen to this interview of her and tell me if any of the above press releases give you similar condemnations:
Here is another video interview in Pushto with English subtitles and transcript. Below is an excerpt from this interview:
Please tell me which other 14 year old have you heard talking with this clarity and courage that too in a region just got rid of Taliban control? She did not went to an elite school in an urban capital. If a child has the knowledge to understand the problems of her region and country, can talk about them, can say what is right and what is wrong, can take on oppressors with no fear; then that my friend is no ordinary child. She is special.
She was attacked just because of that. She had gathered the courage to do and say what many in this country could not do. I ask you to pickup the press releases issues by leaders and political parties in all those years when Pakistanis were killed by suicide bombs and find the word Taliban. In a country where leaders do not have the guts to name the culprits and suffice on hollow condemnations, this brave 14 year old took on them and was attacked in a targeted episode. Malala reminds me of Zainab in the darbar of Yazid in Damascus in the 7th century.
Malala's links to Adam Ellick, a journalist with alleged CIA linksAnother theory goes on to claim that the journalist Adam Ellick who met Malala and interviewed here was a undercover CIA agent and used to hide his identity not to be identified as an outsider.
Adam's interview with Malala is available here and a related Al-Jazeera report with video can be watched here.
There is nothing fishy about it - it is a regular practice in journalism, the idea behind which is security and a respect for local culture, or sometimes just a personal interest of the journalist to explore and experience the local culture when they are at another place for their professional duties.
The above pictures are from hospital in Pakistan. According to the report provided by the doctors at the Birmingham hospital where she is being treated, the teenager was struck just above the back of her left eye, with the bullet travelling down the side of her jaw and damaging the skull. It went through her neck and lodged in the tissue above her shoulder blade on the left.
Where was Malala shot?
The wound us clearly visible in first pictures and partly in latest images looking blackish where it has been covered by the dupatta. The hospital staff in UK was more concerned about the cultural sensitiveness covering the Muslim girl with scarf and appropriate clothing and didn't realise that in a country of conspiracy theorists, they have to publicly show the wounds of a innocent girl to prove she has been victimised. Further, this is how professional and responsible health care works - putting the patient and their privacy first, not satisfaction of the conspiracy theorists. Also, there are rules governing the media in the UK and unlike developing countries like Pakistan, you can not blatantly show even body parts following a suicide bombing incident.