Malala Yousufzai and Madonna

by Alec Metz on 10/20/2012 · 6 comments

Western celebrities and complex situations in Central and South Asia rarely do well together. Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran a story called “Crooners and their Dictators” that called a number of musical acts, from Seal to Mariah Carey, to task for their capriciousness (or stunning inability to google the guy who signed their million dollar checks) in playing for regimes of dubious morality and thereby lending them a shred of legitimacy. Albeit on the periphery of Central Asia, three incidents in the last 12 months are worthy of mention: the birthday bash of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov last October, which featured Hilary Swank, Seal, and others, the outcry over Pussy Riot in Russia over the summer, in which three intentionally provocative musicians received more attention than has ever been accorded murdered journalists and others in Putin’s Russia (and in fact drowned out other, arguably more legitimate human rights abuse claims), and the case of Malala Yousufzai.

Malala, the 14 year old Pashtun girl in Swat, was deliberately targeted by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) for her blogging and calls for education for girls, and barely escaped death. Her shooting has garnered a massive amount of attention in Pakistan, and rightly so. The vast majority of Pakistani’s deplore the violence unleashed in the name of Islam at the girl, and are demanding the government do something. Hopefully, this will push the government of Pakistan closer to severing ties with militant groups and the radical fringe that support them. Yousufzai is about as pure a face of tolerance as one could ask for; she is Pashtun (making her relatable to many in Khyber Pakhtunwa), she blogged for the BBC (a respected source of news in Pakistan), and she was shot at point-blank range while on her way home from school by grown men. It’s proving a public relations nightmare for militant groups. Or was; enter Madonna…

On October 10 last week, Madonna did a striptease in “support” of Malala, revealing a temporary tattoo of Malala’s name on her lower back. To call the action tactless, insulting, and pathetic would be an understatement, and like most of what Madonna does, it could safely be ignored. She did a similar stunt with Pussy Riot, and among the barrage of rhetoric, including from otherwise intelligent folks, it passed largely unnoticed. But the case of Malala is special, and Madonna’s actions have in some circles provided an ipso facto reason for the condemnation of Malala. While the vast majority of English-language Pakistani reactions to the shooting of Malala have be anti-Taliban, that can generally be expected. The educated elite, or even middle class, are not going to support a violent imposition of Deobandi Sharia. But further down the socio-economic ladder, support for Malala has been more tempered; she was writing for the west, she showed her face across the globe, she opposed those who impose Sharia, etc. Pictures of a Western woman on stage in her underwear “supporting” Malala are not going to help.


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This post was written by...

– author of 18 posts on Registan.net.

Alec Metz is an independent policy analyst focusing on security and development in South and Central Asia.

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{ 6 comments }

Bobby October 21, 2012 at 12:06 am

Get will soon Malala Yousufzai

sana October 21, 2012 at 4:22 am

get well soon Malala Yousufzai

Realist Writer October 21, 2012 at 6:48 am

Get well soon everyone who have been shot and are currently wounded in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kashmir, India, China, Bangladesh, Nepal…

jakob October 21, 2012 at 7:01 am

you assume the support for rightwing-nutcase-fanaticism is inversely proportional to socio-economic status in pakistan (or anywhere else)? – twitter-feed-induced-flawed basis for reasoning!

Qutubuddin Mirza October 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

I pray Allah for Malala fast recovery.Pakistan need girl like you.

david October 24, 2012 at 4:14 am

Malala i hope you have a speedy recovery keep standing up for basic rights for girls to an education.
The Taliban and mujahidden dont desrve an education and ther schools and madrassa should be closed and burnt down .
Get well soon and keep doing what you are doing

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