Malala’s speech in the UN, hatred of women and distorted sexism globally

Yesterday evening the Pashtun girl Malala Yousefzai from Pakistan  held an important speech in the UN. It was on her 16th birthday. She was born on July 12th 1997 in the city of Mangora in the Swat district in Pakistan as daughter of Ziauddin Yousefzai, who’s a poet, educational activist and school owner of the Khushal Public Schools in the country. Malala very early on showed huge talents and was encouraged by her father to go public. Already at the age of 11 Malala Yousefzai held her first public speeches. She’s fervently fighting for the rights of girls to get education in a country surveyed and harrassed by the Taleban and Al-Qaeda. In the summer of 2012 the Taleban decided to assassinate Malala and her father. On October 9th 2012 Malala was attacked by Taleban on a bus on her way to school. The man shot her in her temple and some of her female friends. Malala though survived. I wrote more about this in my text “Malala – A young heroine from my perspective” on January 4th 2013. You might read it there. Malala was then treated on hospital in Pakistan and England. She survived and has recieved huge support both in Pakistan and internationally.

Yesterday she held a speech in the United Nations, New York. Many people listened and her speech was a very moving and important speech and deserves to be recognized as one of the most important of our times. This is how it started: “In the name of God, The Most Beneficient, The Most Merciful. Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-Moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honourable UN envoy for the global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum”. Malala spoke calmly and clear while she brought up many important aspects of the world we live in, and her speech will no doubt go down in history. As a symbol she had dressed herself in a shawl that had belonged to the late Benazir Bhutto who was the first woman to rule a Muslim country, Malala’s country Pakistan. Malala then said: “First of all thank you to God for whom we are all equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life”. She explained how grateful she was for the support from all over the world, how important it was to get education, and that there is an equal chance for both sexes. This teen-age girl said many wise things that deserve to be pondered upon and acted according to: “If we want to achieve goals, let us empower ourselves with weapon of knowledge, let us shield ourselves with peace and unity”… “Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights”… “Thousands of people have been killed by terrorists and millions have been injured”…. “Extremists are afraid of women, education. They are afraid of change”. She also explained that even though the Taleban hated her and had tried to kill her she didn’t hate them back, and if she had a gun she wouldn’t shoot them. After the assassination attempt on her she had learned the meaning of forgiveness and compassion. She had learned it from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. “This is the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinna”, she continued. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. “Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone”“We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world”. “Peace is a necessity for education… We are all tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world”. Here she explained how difficult it is in the countries which are poor, or just in war, and how patriarch structures destroy things.

Unesco and Save the Children have made a report recently which shows that 95% of the children who don’t go to primary school live in low and middle income countries: 44% in sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in south and west Asia plus 14% in the Arab states. In 2012 more than 3,600 documented attacks on education, including violence, torture and intimidation against children and teachers leading to serious injuries or death were made. We have to consider this to make things better. There are no doubt problems with misogyn attitudes in countries such as Pakistan, in other Muslim countries, but also in the West. I will come to that in a moment. There are however different levels of how that misogyn hatred is manifested and “accepted” in society. On March 26th this year a fatwa which called Muslim young women to a sexual jihad in Syria was stopped in Tunisia. The fatwa had appeared on the Internet, and called young women to support the rebell soldiers in the Syrian civil war, the mujaheddin, with sexual favours. Among others had 13 Tunisian teen-age girls and young women gone to Syria and headed to the battle-fields in response to the sexual jihad fatwa, written by one Sheikh M.A. Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs Noureddine al-Khadimi rejected the fatwa and told the Tunisians that they didn’t have to listen to that fatwa.

Yesterday, Friday July 12th 2013 former dentist assistant Melissa Nelson, 33, lost a second hearing in front of the Iowa Supreme Court, USA. She had been fired after ten years work as dentist assistant by her until now boss James Knight, because he found her “irresistable” and was afraid that he migh be tempted to have an affair with her. He wanted to save his marriage, and made this as a precaution. Melissa Nelson though had not been flirtatious, but lost her job all the same. The Iowa Supreme Court agreed that she hadn’t done anything wrong, but they still said that James Knight couldn’t be blamed for wanting to save his marriage. So…Melissa Nelson lost her job and her income.

Here in Sweden another gender-based bomb has exploded this week. Earlier this year I wrote on this web log about the hatred against women on the Internet here in Sweden. This week it came again. Male sport journalists have mocked, hated and ridiculed female football-players on Twitter. Here are a few of their tweets in English translation: “Why expose oneself for watching 22 lesbians who play football-players…What the.” “The ladies national team… Lesbian whores that’s what you are”. “Look. Sweden’s whores how can they kick such penalties hahaha what bloody losers, ey”. These are the words of grown-up Swedish sport journalists this week in July 2013. Anja Gatu, chief editor for the sport pages on the newspaper Sydsvenskan have this week commented these tweets and this phenomenon. She explained in a filmed interview on Dygnet Runt/24 Hours by Bengt Arvidsson yesterday that this hatred is very common, and that it becomes even more distinct in bigger competitions and she too get her share of male hate for her line of work and her person. Maria Hagberg, social worker and expert on honour-related issues wrote on Facebook yesterday: “In Spain they don’t even show EM in ladies football on TV despite the fact that Spain is participating and despite Aldomovar”.

This negligence and hatred is not of the same level as the physical lethal attack on female students in Quetta, Pakistan recently, but the mechanism is the same and just as despicable. What happened in Quetta?  The young women were attacked on their way to university by a group of Taleban who blew bombs, threw granades, injured and killed several people. When the survivors came to hospital new Taleban waited there and continued the attack, slaying surviving women, nurses and doctors.

All these aspects are important to consider. How do we end the gender hate? I sometimes criticize women too, and I might be clear in my criticizm since I also see women participating in destructive and evil structures in our societies, making bad choices and evil deeds, but I try to be fair and also criticize both myself and other men as well. Why? Because we must find ways to build bridges between men and women in a positive and loving way instead. That’s why constructive criticism in a fair way is needed, so that we might work together and love each other, instead of continuing on a way of rivalry, spite, intrigues and feeding a road of male hate of women and female hate of men. Here education and awareness is of the essence, and peaceful solutions in our troubled, fragile and sometimes dangerous world. That’s why we all are important and need each other in a good way. That is also why Malala’s speech and her message is vital for our way forward, for the survival of our world and our species.

Anders Moberg, July 13th 2013


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