“This apparently inconsequential diary by a child, this “de profundis” stammered out in a child’s voice, embodies all the hideousness of fascism, more so than all the evidence of Nuremberg put together.” – Jan Romein
Jan Romein, a Dutch historian, wrote this in spring of 1946 about landmark Diary of a Jewish girl, Anne Frank, chronicled between 1942 and 1944 in the backdrop of heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by Nazi Germany. The diary, in days to come, turned out to be a classic example of atrocities committed against the Jews during WWII surpassing, in significance, mere facts and figures that weigh human lives in numbers. Anne Frank became immortal with her diary.
Malala’s diary, written for BBC URDU in 2009, is more significant and consequential than that of Anne Frank in terms of perils attached to writing against the bloodthirsty mindset and that too while living amidst the reign of terror. She wrote her heart out when writ of the state was nowhere to be found in Swat district. When every morning would bring with her gifts of slaughtered human heads hung on poles in proverbial ‘Khooni Chowk’ (bloody crossroad) of the city. When the foes of education and enlightenment had already pulled down 150 schools of the region and more were being demolished in pursuit of imposing their stern interpretation of Shria law. Lest we forget, those were the times when most of her fellow Pakistanis were unaware or had opted for turning a blind eye to the savageries committed by the Taliban in once peaceful region. Not much has changed since then. Her fellow Pakistanis, largely, still are clueless.
Malala’s is an intramural struggle against hate, intolerance, misogyny and militancy – a struggle from within. She is way more momentous than so-called silent majority because she signifies the shades of indigenous resistance that is the most vital aspect if to get rid of frankensteins we have nurtured ourselves. She represents those who have nothing to do with the doctrine of oppression and hatred – those who cannot empathize with darkness. As she herself has to say, Bacha Khan’s philosophy of non-violence inspires her. She idealizes charismatic personality of Benazir Bhutto that is epitome of struggle of a woman in a not-so-friendly society. She is the follower of great Pushtun poet Rehman Baba and understands the value of knowledge. She pays heed when the great Rehman Baba says:
عالمان دي روښنايي ددې دنيا
عالمان دي د تمام جهان پېشوا
Lights in the world are those, who know
Guides of mankind are those, who know
که څوک لار غواړي و خداى ته و رسول ته
عالمان دي ددې لارې رهن
When looking for the road to God
And prophet, ask from those, who know
هر سړى چې رتبه نۀ لري د علم
سړى نۀ دى خالي نقش دى گويا
Those are not humans, only shells
The empty ones, who do not know
If Malala is not fortunate enough to have many companions in this bloody feud against specter of extremism, she does have handful of fellow travelers who stood up to the tyranny and met the same fate. As we are at it, this is the time to acknowledge and pay homage to resilience and sacrifices of the people of Swat in particular. Among them most prominent figure is Afzal Khan Lala who refused to leave the area to Taliban. In recent past, there were many attempts made on his life, killing his relatives and bodyguards. Many others who refused to bow down to coercion were murdered in darkest alleys. The stories written with blood on the soil of Swat call for due attention if to understand the gravity of matter.
Unlike us, the befuddled ones, the enemy within is far more shrewd and clear about who may possibly prove to be a hindrance in his way of implementing the interpretation of religion he deems right. Not many have been spared who showed audacity of speaking up. One is compelled to recall the last speech of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi wherein she vowed to wave Pakistani flag in Swat. She exactly knew what she was striving for and how it could jeopardize her life. But like Malala she went on in the face of impending threats and refused to back down. She had the vision to comprehend the point of quandary and the importance of struggle from within. In her book, ‘Reconciliation – Islam, Democracy and the West’, which published posthumously she writes:
“Muslims are dealing not with a clash between civilizations but rather with a clash within a civilization. The most critical battle for the hearts and the souls of successor generation of Muslim leaders, and for the passion of the Muslims around the world, is not a battle with the West…If modernity is dogmatically resisted, the existence of Muslims as a viable community will become vulnerable.”
A problem cannot be solved unless it is recognized as a problem in the first place. Condemnation of attack on Malala’s life would suffice if only coupled with unequivocal disapprobation of the perpetrators who have come out in open time and again. Denial of the undeniable is not an option anymore. The argument that no Muslim can do this is tantamount to brushing aside the reality that suggests otherwise. The savages who are committing these vicious crimes in the garb of Islam must be denounced as they are and not on the grounds of our narcissist whims.
The Diary of Anne Frank is not relevant because it chronicles the life of a girl but it is significant for bringing up the crimes of fascism. Standing by Malala, in real sense, asks for speaking up against the mindset that has brought misery to myriads of children of Pakistan who want to continue their education and life in peace. If not, we must get ready to sacrifice the future of our children at this altar of ignorance and darkness.
Writer is a Graduate of Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden and a member of PPP Scholars Wing