|Poverty of the Heart|
|Speaking at the UN Ingrid Stellmacher explores 'poverty of the heart' and launches the Dignity Diaries, a campaign to explore what dignity and honour really means
The founder of Pakistan advocated the rights of women
'No nation can rise to the heights of its glory without the participation of women alongside it's men'.
Mohammed Al Jinnah - Founder of Paksitan
‘There are two powers in the world; one is the sword the other is the pen. Great competition and great rivalry exist between the two. But there is a third power, stronger than both, and that is women”.
These famous words from the father of Pakistan, Mohammed Al Jinnah, became buried all too quickly after the creation of his country and sadly the rights of most women along with it. It is a phrase that comes to mind each time I hear a negative story about the treatment of women and girls in Pakistan and the attempted assassination of 14 year-old Malala Yousafzsi on her way to school brought that quote alive for me once again, from a man who believed that the success of his nation depended on the successful inclusion of its women.
That Malala’s shooting took place in the same week of the world’s first International day of the Girl Child drew attention all too graphically to the reason behind the campaign to highlight the plight of many girls around the globe. It also drew attention to how far Pakistan has strayed from the ideals of its founder and advocate of the rights of women.
The Day of the Girl Child focuses on the widespread denial of the basic lack of human rights given to girls in some cultures, including the right to education and protection. A denial highlighted to the extreme by the attack of Tarkik-i-Taliban (TTP), the group claiming responsibility for Malala Yousafzi's shooting and propelling
the activities of this hard line group and the plight of girls, not only in Pakistan, into frontline news.
Ordered by TTP’s leader, Mulana Fazlullah, nicknamed ‘Radio Mullah’ for his underground radio broadcasts, Fuzlullah has vowed to shoot Malala again if she survives, and her father if he continues to campaign for her right to be educated. That the ‘mighty’ Mullah sent a special hit squad to attack a lone little girl demonstrates just how far from the heart of Islam Fazlullah has strayed and how afraid he has become of her and the power of the simple truth she wields. The Prophet himself (PBUH) advocated the importance of seeking knowledge, ‘Even if you have to go to China” He said. All Malala wanted to do is go and open a book. If the TTP are advocating this is a crime then are they calling the teachngs of the Prophet criminal too?
It’s not merely Malala’s resistance to Fazlullah’s authority or ‘the old ways’ he promotes that he fears of course but what she represents; the very idea of education itself. The idea of having access to ideas other than his own; the idea of being free to choose whose ideas to follow and to engage in the critical thinking around making that decision. It is a freedom Fazlullah wrongly equates with the secularism he fears will rush in through the doors of ‘Western thinking’, pushed open by inquiring minds and innocent hands like Malala's. Flooding the Swat valley with an ‘enlightened modernism’ that will corrupt all it touches and the real reason given behind her attack.
Yet Fazlullah does his followers and the people of Swat a grave injustice by assuming they are not capable of the critical thinking Islam calls for in the pursuit of knowledge and that freedom is a secular Western idea with no place in the beautiful green valleys they inhabit. Freedom of ideas is not the preserve of the West. It lives in the hearts of men and women everywhere and it was what Pakistan was founded for but sadly so far floundered to achieve because the wound of partition
has been prodded and poked and prevented from healing and new wounds inflicted upon the old.
But if healing were to take place what then? How would Pakistan look? Perhaps it's time to stop hating each other and blaming each other, including their neighbours, and take charge of its own healing that is its right and make turning their backs on the Taliban the beginning of that process. Fazlullah’s ideas have long been his powerbase, guarded with great jealousy like any other possession, but ironically his actions are likely to bring about the very thing he fears; ideas that challenge his own and on a scale he could not have imagined. With a hit squad coming after him following the announcement of a $1 million reward for his capture from President Al Zadari’s government, the hunter has now become the hunted.
Fazlullah’s greatest arrogance of all is he seems to have forgotten that even if he had succeeded in killing Malala, you cannot kill an idea. And as history has proved time and time again, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. The battle between the sword and the pen has been waged and that third ‘more powerful force stronger than both’ has been unleashed. And she is called freedom.
Ingrid Stellmacher, 09/10/2012