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The (not so) Nobel Award

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 17th October 2014 15:27

The Nobel Award and the Not-So-Noble Propaganda Campaign
Dhul Hijjah 21, 1435 | October 16, 2014

By Khalid Baig

"The US corporate media loves talking about the remarkable bravery and strength of Malala and the brutality of the Taliban forces that almost killed her. Such coverage fuels its racist, orientalist, neocolonialist narrative about “backward,” violent, misogynist Muslims and their need for “white saviors,” thereby legitimizing Western imperialist interests in South and West Asia. (Ben Norton in Dissident Voice)
The news of the award of a Nobel Prize for Peace to a Pakistani girl was accompanied by a condemnation of the Pakistani society in the mainstream media. Its crime: Its people were not dancing in the streets to celebrate the honor given. They even had the temerity to question the motives of the award givers and the actions of the recipient. They refused to take the attacks of the young recipient on Islam in stride. If it was trying to give a message to Pakistan, the Nobel committee must have felt that it was doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful. Poor, fanatic Pakistanis who cannot appreciate a good thing. "By winning the Nobel prize, Malala joins Pakistan’s loneliest club," announced the Washington Post in a bold headline.

The distance between the make-believe world of the media and the reality can be seen in that headline itself. Did she win, as the headline says, or was she awarded? You win, say, a marathon race, by being the first to reach the destination. It reflects effort and achievement. You do not get it because of the largess of the judges. They do not declare you a winner to promote the diet and exercise routine that you had followed. A Nobel prize, on the other hand, is an award--- a political decision made by the judges aimed at achieving a political goal. Even the award announcement makes it so clear. It says: "The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism." This is loaded political language.

Obviously if one does not agree with your political goals, one will not support the decisions made to advance those goals. There will be no reason to celebrate the award, in contrast to the win in the race. The media showed a singular inability to understand the distinction by blaming the Pakistanis for not celebrating the "win."

Education is a wonderful thing. But what exactly do you want to teach? In case of Malala the agenda is very clear. In the writings that have been published in her name, she looks down on the education in the core values of one's faith. She does not like Islamic studies. She is concerned about the increase in the number of madrasahs. She condemns female students who were the victims of barbaric military atrocities including dropping of phosphorous bombs on their own school. So much for being a champion of universal education!
Beyond education she also has statements to make on important issues of the day in Pakistan, like Blasphemy laws, Islamization of penal code, Hudood ordinance, even Muslim protests against the intensely provocative insults of Salman Rushdie. And on all these issue she parrots the lines taught by her imperial mentors. It is obvious that all her utterances are scripted. Further, her script writers and those who have awarded her for reading from the script are certainly working in harmony.

And then the pundits wonder with perfect disingenuity why the people are not rejoicing over her "win."
But there was some consolation for the media. For some people did fall for the trap both in Pakistan and in the diaspora.

If you are suffering from a very low self esteem (itself a gift of the media) you would be excused for grabbing on to anything to raise it up, including a tainted award. They exhibited the signs of an inferiority complex: Denial, day dreaming and wishful thinking. Denial that a young girl is being used (Even when many of them agreed that her book is a case of that. No one defends her book and people in Pakistan are not rushing to the bookstores to get a copy.); daydreaming that the powers that be are choosing to honor a Muslim girl because of her goodness; and wishful thinking that some good can come out of the plans which are anything but good.

Their infatuation with the Nobel prize ---itself a mark of colonization of the minds---led them to accept the Malala-for-education-versus-Taliban-against-education narrative. Little did they realize that this is a false dichotomy created by the propaganda machine. She is no champion of education and those questioning her status as a heroine are not against education. She did not build schools or help anyone get an education. She did not come up with any program for spreading education. She only allowed herself to be used by faithfully uttering the propaganda lines that she had been assigned. In a way she had been abducted. Her Nobel Prize award was a certificate that her abduction was complete.

After reading her book and her pronouncements the most charitable thing that can be said is that she is young and innocent and is unfortunately being used by powers with an agenda. This admission will lead us to pray for her liberation from the trap she has fallen into.

Let us mourn the abduction of a daughter of this ummah. And let us also mourn the celebration in some quarters of this abduction.
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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 17th December 2014 10:56

Malala, where is your money?

Nora Lester Murad

December 16, 2014

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai announced a donation of  $50,000 for the reconstruction of Gaza’s schools. That was in October, in the wake of Israel’s summer assault that affected some 113,500 homes  in addition to schools, public buildings, hospitals, utilities and other essential infrastructure. 

As part of an investigation into Palestine’s broken aid system, I set about tracking down where Malala’s money is. One month later, I have few answers and my list of questions is growing. UNRWA, the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees and the recipient of Malala’s donation, could not tell me when anticipated repairs would commence or if Israel’s complex restrictions on importation of cement and other building supplies would affect the timeline. It is already nearly four months since the ceasefire agreement, and two months since the donation was made.

I had expected to find out that a portion of Malala’s contribution would go to high overhead costs and that some would be pocketed by Israel in the form of import taxes, security fees, and corporate profits. I did not expect to be unable to get reliable information. 

Problems with transparency and accountability are not unique to any one agency. Rather, it is a consequence of an entire aid system that has an interest in protecting itself from scrutiny to avoid being exposed as complicit in the ongoing denial of Palestinian rights. 

U.S. taxpayers give more than $400 million  of their hard-earned money to Palestine annually. This supports dozens of aid organizations with noble mandates. But most U.S. taxpayers would be saddened to learn that assistance delivered through the aid system may sometimes do more harm than good.  

Off the record, everyone admits that real development in Gaza requires the siege to end and the occupation to cease. But why would Israel end the occupation when it’s so profitable? International donors pay to fulfill obligations that Israel has under International Humanitarian Law, and when Israel destroys donor-funded projects, the donors build again

Instead of exerting political and economic pressure on Israel to recognize Palestinian rights, international governments offer aid to Palestinians as a sort of “consolation prize.” Then, when Israel makes the provision of aid difficult, the aid actors again fail to stand up for Palestinian rights. In trying to find ways around Israel’s siege, aid may actually entrench it further

Rather than pointing the finger at particular aid agencies, the taxpayers in whose name aid is being given must demand accountability not only in terms of budget sheets but also in terms of impact. 

This is not to say we should expect a quick fix. The urge for simple answers and fast spending is part of the problem. Our objective should not be to simply provide Palestinians with new schools. What we must demand is a bold plan that sees aid disentangled from Israel’s regime of siege and occupation. Rather than merely providing a stopgap until the next bombardment, the process of rebuilding must respect Palestinian rights. Moreover, the aid system must serve the interests of Palestinians in ways that are accountable to Palestinians, taxpayers around the world, and other stakeholders. 

Aid actors have a hard job to do. They work in a highly politicized environment, with tremendous security risks, and often without political support from governments. Yet they are legally obligated as duty bearers and by ethical mandates that they must uphold, even in situations like Palestine where “pragmatism” suggests they compromise in order to deliver aid. By accepting billions of dollars in trust for the Palestinian people, aid actors agree to be held to these high standards. 

If Malala really wants to help Gaza, she may want to do more than just give money. She may want to ask where it is. Asking for accountability doesn’t show lack of trust, nor does it undermine aid actors’ ability to perform. Asking for accountability is a way of ensuring that international aid doesn’t just do the best it can within a broken system, but that systems be built to ensure that aid actually helps not hurts.

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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 30th June 2016 14:23
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