By Daniele Bassi
Muslims have another reason to be apologetic. After feeling guilty about inventing algebra and astronomy and much more, now the Islamic world has to come to terms with the fact that Malala Yousafzai has just won the Nobel Peace Prize.
For those blaming Islam for the violence the world is sunk into, accepting that a 17-year-old Muslim girl received such recognition isn’t going to be easy. The anti-Muslim bigots will definitely have to change the rhetoric contained in their misguided speeches. Despite all freedom women have in Western countries, it took a Muslim teenager to defend one of the most basic rights that guarantees gender equality.
When Malala was shot in the head on 9th October 2012 the latest version of the iPhone was certainly not in her mind. Different from what we consider to be the typical adolescent who dreams of meeting Justin Bieber and becoming popular, Malala’s ambition was simply go to school.
Born in the Swat District located in the north-west of Pakistan, Malala began writing a diary for BBC Urdu when she was just 11 years-old. Her words exposed what it was like for a girl to live under the Taleban rules, grabbing the international media’s attention as her struggle for education became known worldwide. After a normal day at school, Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman. But the assassination attempt and the seriousness of her wound didn’t put her off fighting for her and her female peers’ rights.
The announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winners (which includes the Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi for his work against child exploitation) comes at a difficult time. In the past few weeks journalists and aid workers have been beheaded in front of cameras by ISIS and this week has been marred by the battle of Kobani. Since 9/11 there has never been so many fingers pointed at the Islamic world, with Islamaphobia still on the rise in the West.
Malala’s work as an education activist and the awards that accompany it light a ray of hope the world so desperately needs. It gives a hint of positivity and pride for those who often are judged to be terrorists. But she’s certainly not the first Muslim to achieve such honour and she won’t be the last. Since the Egyptian policy-maker Anwar al-Sadat became the first Muslim to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 there has been a long list of nobel prize laureates. The Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 was awarded jointly to Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat and Menachem Begin and in 1994 Yasser Arafat was honoured “for his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East”. In 2011, the Yemeni Human Right Activist Tawakel Karman was the first Muslim woman to have recognized her outstanding endeavoured to live in a peaceful world.
The fact that the Pakistani girl won the most prestigious award on earth goes beyond acknowledging her contribution to peace. It also serves as a good tool to defeat stereotypes and religious prejudice. If the act of a few individuals is enough to judge nearly 24 per cent of the world population, Malala’s ought to be taken in consideration, too. There are plenty of reasons to make #muslimpride the new social media trend. Malala is just one of them.