The CIA, Jewish lobby and R&AW have all recruited Malala Yousufzai—if Pakistani social media is to be believed. SAMAA TV’s show 7 to 8 decided to take a look at the various claims that are made and the images that have been circulated about her. One of the guests on the show, Mufti Muhammad Zubair provided this perspective: “It is un-Islamic to make false allegations against anyone. This is against the Sharia.”
He went on to say that it is “completely wrong to spread propaganda”. “If anyone has not committed any blasphemy or has no sympathy for a blasphemer, it is wrong to make false accusations against him,” he said. “Malala herself had ridiculed hijab, women’s testimony and praised statues of God in her book,” he said. This is not, in fact, the case. Another guest on the show, activist Farnood Alam said the mainstream media misquoted Malala’s book and social media had lifted the propaganda.
“People don’t share content on social media on the basis of ethics but the content which suits their views,” he noted. Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman, the Karachi chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, added that there must be some reason why there was so much criticism against Malala. “We saw chaos in Swat due to American slavery. Due to the chaos, more than 3.8 million people were displaced after the military operations,” he said. “Why was Malala given the Nobel Peace prize? Why was the Nobel not given to Dr Adib Rizvi [of SIUT],” he questioned.
One example of the way social media vilified Malala was a photo that went viral, saying she was standing against controversial British writer Salman Rushdie. The man standing next to her was actually Martin Schulz, a German politician. Another fake news item appeared in one of Pakistan’s most read Urdu papers that Malaysia had banned the book ‘I am Malala’ but it was completely false. Did Malala come to Pakistan via special plane? No, she didn’t but the social media wants you to believe the lie
Where did it all begin?
A PTI MNA Mussarat Ahmadzeb, who is a member of the Swat royal family, said that the attack on Malala was staged. A series of articles against Malala were written by scholar Sultan-e-Room in Swat newspapers. This formed much of the base from which the fake news emerged. There is a comparison with Aitzaz Hasan Bangash, the boy who stopped a suicide bomber from reaching his school. It is a fact though that for two days no one knew this had happened and the local media was too scared to share the information because of the Taliban. It was only when a special effort was made by reporters from outside Swat that the news came out. It helped that the army chief sent a bouquet of flowers to his grave.
“This nation believes only in sainting people who die,” said Iftikhar Firdous, a journalist in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We have problems believing in heroes who live. The entire business of Malala being called a CIA agent came from a 2009 documentary by Adam B. Ellick. Because he was living in Peshawar and was with the New York Times, he was thought by many to be a CIA agent. Many people doubted that a 12-year-old girl could write a column like hers. Others were jealous. Pashtun society has, like any others, a sense of class and tall poppy syndrome in which someone’s progress or ambition cannot be stomached. All of these factors provided grist for the fake news mill.