The Deep Resonance of Malala–and Why We Really Don’t Understand Af-Pak

The stereotypes that we carry in our mental maps of the Af-Pak region are inadequate, argues Wilkiam Dalyrimple.

The fact that all this history surprises us as much as it does is a measure of how far we have allowed the extremists to dominate our images of what it means to be a Muslim in general, and Pashtun in particular. It is certainly true that both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have been lacerated by violent extremism and misogyny — ever since the United States, the Saudis and Pakistan’s intelligence agency armed religious extremists in Peshawar in the 1980s to take on the Soviet Union. But it should be remembered that the main resistance to extremism has been the local Pashtuns themselves .

Via Before Malala


8 thoughts on “The Deep Resonance of Malala–and Why We Really Don’t Understand Af-Pak”

  1. This author gives a unique perspective that I think we often fail to recognize. There is so much behind the scenes and back story that are so often left out of the story. This results in this idea that everyone in that area is a violent terrorist that can’t act rationally. I think stereotyping reflects ignorance. I found it very interesting to hear about the stories of those women who played such an instrumental role in history. It is comforting to know that despite all of the conflict and war that surrounds the middle east in general, that there are just as many people if not more combating it and trying to have what we all want which is peace.

  2. What a great way of honoring the multiple women that have helped in the Pakistani region. I like the sense of camaraderie in this article that explains that our current generation should have much gratitude for the previous generations who fought for our rights. One of my favorite quotes from Madeline Albright is when she said that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” It is nice to see that Malala is not alone in this endeavor and that she is still willing to be an example to others who may not be so bold as she is. Like the article asserts, “Indeed the greatest weapon we have in the war on terrorism in that region is the courage and the decency of the vast proportion of the people who live there.” It is this courage that will change things in the near future!

  3. The thing that strikes me most about these sort of articles is that women have been the same throughout history. Perhaps the society has not allowed for so much open expression of personality as it does now, yet even in the most patriarchal societies in the world there are women who have strong personalities, women of courage, and women who change history. That is phenomenal and suggests that it really isn’t just the society which shapes people but there is something innate to both men and women which isn’t formed or broken by their particular circumstances. This reinforces that truth that more than anything, we are a human family. I hate to wax poetic here, but this the truth of our astounding similarities far outweighs the surface differences among us. It is an encouraging thought for a world which has so suddenly and unexpectedly become as global as ours has.

  4. I am glad to hear more stories of women in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan who have fought for justice and have given their lives to the cause. I hope that one day, these countries can really realize the important place women have in this world. I like how this article suggests that the best way to fight the terrorists is through the courage and decency of the people in that region. I love how despite the oppression that these women go through, there are still some of them who will stand up for certain causes. Women have been prominent in history, and I really wish that more societies would take note of that.

  5. This is a great article for the people of the Middle East. I like this post for two particular reasons: First, it gives important historical background about this region in the Middle East and second, portraying Malala as a role is a tremendous uplift for its people. Like the previous comments, I also agree that there are many stereotypes about the Middle East which are typically misconceptions so it is important to learn about the historical background in this region in order to come to a better understanding of what these countries are today. Also, I think there has been great progress in spreading Malala’s story along with her movement for education.

  6. I really liked what madeleineary said above. What stood out to me from this article is how it’s almost a shame that we don’t recognize more the efforts of women and all citizens fighting for justice. I think it’s easy for us to look at Malala and be amazed at the fact that not only is she a woman, but that she is so young and standing up boldly for her rights, but while we shower her with praise and prizes and our admiration (which certainly is due to her), there are still many people out there with just as much bravery and determination as she. While she absolutely should be honored for her efforts, it is important that we remember she is not alone. As the article stated, “Indeed the greatest weapon we have in the war on terrorism in that region is the courage and the decency of the vast proportion of the people who live there.” It is the combined effort of many brave people fighting for a common cause that effects true change.

  7. The refreshing point made in this article is that women being brave during wartime and making a difference is not something new. It has been going on all throughout the ages. Now that doesn’t take away from the great work that Malala has done in our time but I think it shows the power that history and role models have. The article states that Malala is named after another heroic woman during wartime, and it makes me wonder what that contributed the girl that Malala has grown to be. I think now more than ever, it is important to recognize the contributions that women have made in history, as individuals and as a whole, to give young girls someone to look up to. No matter the region or crisis you’re in, women have an important role in keeping the peace and determining history. The people of a region can influence what happens to them, but they can’t do it if they only acknowledge half of the population.

  8. I love this perspective on this region and religion because I think that as members of the LDS church we can all relate a little bit. All of use have had that experience where we tell people that we are Mormon and get asked if we are polygamous. This article highlights the fact that other religions, the Muslims in particular, are being characterized by the extremists among them and it isn’t fair.

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