Ever since Malala Yousafzai -- winner this month of the Nobel Peace Prize -- came on the scene in October 2012 in a shocking way, after being shot in the face by the Taliban at the age of 15, I have been watching the conspiracy theories unfold.
Malala Yousafzai is awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg on November 20, 2013. (Image source: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons)
One of the highlights of The Girl Summit, hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron in the UK last July, was that Malala attended, along with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. As a fellow Pakistani, I congratulated him on Malala's successes and for being the model father that every girl would want to have. He said thank you but acknowledged, sadly, that in Pakistan there is a lot of hostility against them.
This did not come as a surprise. Not everyone is proud of Malala. Sadly, Pakistan has not fully celebrated its Nobel laureates, and conspiracy theories still abound.
The first Nobel peace prize for a Pakistani was given to Mohammad Abdus Salam, a theoretical physicist, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to electroweak unification. For this, he was alienated and rebuked in Pakistan because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya community. He was also called a spy. He eventually left Pakistan and died in the UK in 1996.
Malala -- at 17, an incandescent example of peace, hope, women's rights and the struggle for freedom -- for her bravery in standing up to the barbarians who call themselves Taliban ["students"], will, if she returns to Pakistan, likely be killed. She has been alienated from her homeland.
According to the conspiracy theorists, Malala's father is a CIA agent and arranged for the CIA to come and shoot her in the face. The rest is scripted by the "big bad West."
One blogger writes that Malala hates Pakistan's military. I believe it is the other way around. While Pakistan's military has lost three wars, this young girl stood up to the people who nearly destroyed her country. She essentially stole the thunder from the military, and the humiliation is hard for the military to digest.
Malala has never spoken ill of Pakistan in any of her public appearances or speeches.
The elite are jealous because they feel Malala got a free ride to the West, while they struggle to send their children abroad to study. They complain that there are other girls also fighting for justice. But how many of them have been shot and then continued to fight for justice?
Bureaucrats in Pakistan are disgruntled because the area that Malala comes from (Swat Valley) has slipped out of the hands of the government. To them, Malala represents success in the face of a failed state for which the bureaucrats are responsible.
The religious fundamentalists are incensed because Malala is a girl. Only that. A girl who has stood up to the establishment and said openly that she will fight not only for women's rights but, more importantly, for the right of girls to be educated. In a country where a huge chunk of the national budget and aid from foreign countries goes towards the military, Malala represents hope for the masses who are illiterate.
The Malala Fund has already helped thousands of girls, from Nigeria to Syrian refugees. The Global Partnership for Education, which works in low-income countries to ensure basic education for all, announced in June that a grant from the Malala Fund would support a first-ever youth delegation to a world education conference in Brussels. Malala has spoken of a special interest in the rights of children in developing countries.
Perhaps most of all, Malala announced that her mother has just learned to read and write. Malala is a charting a course from which our younger generations will only benefit.
I would so like to see the day that Malala would be welcomed back in Pakistan, with the whole country cheering. She deserves it.
Raheel Raza is President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow.