Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Malala Yousafzai: Bone-chilling Contrasts in the West
by El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Let me begin by stating loud and clear, this writer is proud to know that a Muslim woman, Malala Yousafzai, has become the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. While her young age (17) might raise the eyebrows of some, in my humble opinion she is far more deserving than a number of much older Nobel laureates who immediately come to mind (I won’t mention any names).
This commentary is about something else, however. With the attention and celebration that greeted the selection of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for the world’s most coveted peace prize, one would think that the American establishment has a special regard for young, accomplished (and committed) Muslim women. An honest review of the record would show that quite the opposite is true.
After news of the selection hit the air waves, this writer heard a regrettable BBC interview of a Pakistani editor who not only didn’t agree with Malala’s selection, but publicly “condemned” the Noble Committee’s decision. (In pockets of the Pakistani community, both here and abroad, there is a visceral hatred felt toward this amazing young sister.)
The remarks of this Pakistani editor against one of his own (during the course of that interview) underscored how blind, unforgiving and irrational hatred can be. That same blind, illogic thinking can also be found in America toward Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, as evidenced by the position that some within the US political and media establishments (and a minority of voices within America’s Pakistani community) have taken on her plight. Their thinking and response is just as dumb-founding and shameful as the Pakistani editor who doesn’t believe Malala was even shot – it’s all a “conspiracy,” he argues.
With that said, the parallels between Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Malala Yousafzai are striking!
- Like Malala, Aafia was already a well-educated young sister when she came to the West at the age of 18. (Aafia entered the US as a promising young immigrant, while Malala was transported to the UK in critical condition following a gunshot injury to the head, at the tender age of 15.)
- Aafia received her university training in America, graduating with honors from MIT and Brandeis. Malala has resumed her educational pursuits in the UK, and this writer predicts that she too will complete her educational pursuits with honors, insha’Allah.
- Both demonstrated a passion for Muslim women’s rights. In the case of Aafia, she campaigned for a full recognition of women’s rights across the board – see the youtube video of a 19 year old Aafia Siddiqui speaking at the University of Houston: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Skmj16h40wE ; for Malala, the right of Muslim girls (specifically in Pakistan) to be educated was, and is, her passion.
- Both grabbed the attention of special interests in the West, but with very different results. While Malala Yousafzai is being celebrated for her accomplishments and yet unfulfilled future potential, Aafia Siddiqui is wasting away in a maximum security prison cell on a military base in the land of “liberty and justice for all!”
While I could on, I think the point has already been made. And my advice to Malala, given the vagaries of American political conscience, don’t think about taking up residence in the United States any time soon!
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan, Peace Thru Justice Foundation
Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, Aafia’s sister had this response to the recent court order:
“This is not Aafia’s decision. I know because my last conversation with her was that she was visited [in her dreams] by our prophet Muhammad, saw, and he was pleased with my efforts and the appeal. She said it is for this reason I consent, and if we don’t connect again DO NOT believe any statement to the contrary on my behalf.”
Since then we have had absolutely no contact with her. I know she did not withdraw of her own free will. She has been coerced. God knows how much torture [she’s been forced to endure], complete solitary and manipulations…. It horrifies me to even think about what she has been forced to go through.”