Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Am Malala: by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Rating: WORTHY!

If I have to relate Malala Yousafzai's story here, then clearly you're not going to get it at all. This is a story which should be known already so this review talks about issues related tot he book, not the book itself, which I consider to be a worthy read. I've been wanting to read this book for a while, so when I saw it in the library I snatched it up at once. I'm so glad I did.

This book isn't perfect, nor should it be. It's a young woman's account of a very personal and tragic story of oppression and attempted assassination. After I had read it and was ready to review it favorably, I went onto Goodreads and looked at the negative reviews, curious to see an opposing PoV. Initially I was surprised that there were so many, but then I found myself asking, "Why am I surprised?" This girl's entire life has consisted of one awful wall of suppression and oppression by religious elements, so why would it be a surprise that these very same elements seek to treat her the same way as she continues to speak out against that oppression?

In truth, I think the real surprise came from the ignorance of the negative reviews, and not only from religious elements. There were were many negative reviews from those who had no religious ax to grind, but which instead sought to blame her youth, or her co-author, for a bad book, claiming things were lost in translation, or whatever. There was no translation! Did these people not read the same book I read? Malala Yousafzai was and is fluent in not only her native Pashto, but also in the commonly spoken Urdu, and in English. She has better English than a lot of adult Americans. She's a straight-A student in an English school in Birmingham, (love the Brum dialect!), and it's demeaning and insulting to talk about language difficulties or about things being lost in translation, or about her youth and 'inexperience'. She had no problem putting her thoughts down in English or in writing this book, and it's ignorant at best, and downright mean and petty at worst to suggest otherwise.

I am not usually complementary about co-authors and ghost writers, but I think the only contribution Christine Lamb made was in helping to set Yousafzai's thoughts and views into a cogent narrative, and also in setting her personal story into an intelligible historical framework. I think she did an admirable job, but Yousafzai's story was her story - no one else's. Lamb is the foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times, but her credentials are, as wikipedia has it, that "Her first major interview was with Benazir Bhutto in London in 1987 where subsequently she was then invited to her wedding in Pakistan later that year. From here, she began her life as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan, journeying through Kashmir and along the frontiers of neighbouring Afghanistan..." In short, she knows her stuff, and she knows the region.

There are those who claim that Yousafzai is dissing Pakistan, but they obviously read this book with blinkers on. There are others who claim Islam is not as harsh on women as Yousafzai portrays it (although she actually doesn't cast it in a bad light - merely those who would use their religion as a means to suppress and control others). The facts argue otherwise. UNICEF notes that out of 24 nations with less than 60% female primary enrolment rates, 17 were Islamic nations; more than half the adult population is illiterate in several Islamic countries, and the proportion reaches 70% among Muslim women. This is not an exaggeration, it is a fact.

Yousafzai was a Muslim child who was shot because she refused to bow down before the false god of the Taliban. She did not revile Pakistan. She did revile those people who sought to destroy the country she loved and to oppress people in general and women in particular, based on nothing more than a self-serving and absurdly narrow view of Islam. The Koran wishes women to be educated about religion, not educated in general. The Prophet Muhammad praised the women of Medina for their pursuit of knowledge: "How splendid were the women of the Ansar; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned in the faith." Not learned as such, only learned in the faith, but the fact remains that there's more to education than just religion. This misbegotten desire to suppress women and keep them in the back seat will fail. People like Malala Yousafzai, Hala Alsalman, Asma Jahangir, Baroness Uddin, Lira Bajramaj, Arfa Karim, Mishal Husain, Aliya Mustafina, Adeeba Malik, Razia Sultan, Hassiba Boulmerka, Azadeh Moaveni, Al-Malika al-Ḥurra Arwa al-Sulayhi, Samera Ibrahim Islam, Hayat Sindi, Raha Moharrak, Sayeeda Warsi, Durriya Shafiq, Shazia Mirza and hundreds of others, far too many to list, in all walks of life, have and will push Muslim women to the forefront of nations, Islamic or otherwise, whether men like it or not.

I recommend this book as part of an ongoing education into tragedies caused in this modern world by organized religion.