Recently, the Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai was much-deservedly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous stand against the Taliban’s oppression of women.
She was jointly awarded the prize with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian activist who fought against child labour. In a year of stiff (but more controversial) competition from whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, Malala’s award is a change from recent years in which the Nobel committee has been criticised, such as Obama’s pre-emptive 2009 Peace Prize given before even a full year in office, and during both the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, one side of Malala is often neglected in the mainstream media — her support for socialism and her association with the International Marxist Tendency. Her one and only known quote on the topic is from a message she passed to the 32nd Congress of the Pakistani IMT section last year, which is as follows: “First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. “I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for anyone else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves? I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”
The message of solidarity, sent during her recuperation in Birmingham after her shooting in October 2012 has been largely ignored (except ironically by The Spectator), and is symptomatic of the tendency of radical figures to be appropriated over time as figures of secular Western liberalism, regardless of their true personal politics, and in Malala’s case sooner than later.
Congratulations to Malala (who had been risking her life ever since writing on a BBC blog in 2008) and her comrades who uphold the right of girls in Pakistan to attend school — her father Ziauddin Yousafzai among that number.