Why did the Taliban shoot Malala Yousafzai?
So far that’s the question everybody has been afraid to ask, mainly because we already know the answer. The Taliban tried to murder young Malala because Islamists tremble at the thought of a woman – any woman – demanding the right to an education. In the case of the Taliban the fear is of women demanding anything beyond a dull life of housebound slavery.
We know why the Taliban shot Malala because, when its guard slips, the Taliban tell us why. Not through words, but with deeds. Take a moment to read the stories, if you can stomach them, of the past atrocities: the bearded ideologues throwing acid into women’s faces, the stoning of rape victims and the fear of schoolgirls like Malala. Do so and you will soon notice that Islamism is, at its core, little more than male insecurity on steroids – in the Taliban’s case enforced with Kalashnikovs and IEDs.
The other reason nobody has yet asked why the Taliban shot Malala is because the latter is still enjoying her honeymoon period with western intellectuals. In an age where our own children are increasingly disinclined to so much as open a book, Malala was willing to die for the right to read and joyfully – joyfully – imbibe the wisdom found on the page. How could your average western liberal fail to warm to young Malala Yousafzai?
But at some point western liberals will turn on Malala, just as they did with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch-American feminist, before her. Whether they turn on Malala next week, next month or next year is less certain; the fact, however, is that they will turn on her in order to maintain an illusion they have been clinging to for the past 10 years: that extremism is, when it comes to the pinch, a problem caused by the west. The fact that Malala was shot for wanting to go to school is incompatible with this belief, and therefore another question will be soon be asked in the universities and the pages of the London Review of Books: why did the Taliban ‘really’ shoot Malala?
This will happen, ultimately, because Malala Yousafzai has put many liberals in the west in a very tight spot. If you have spent a great deal of your time since 2001 arguing that Islamist fanaticism is at root a response to western foreign policy, how on earth do you now explain away what the Taliban did to young Malala? How do you even begin to argue that the attempted murder of a schoolgirl is really just a misguided ‘anti-imperialist’ response to … schoolchildren dying in drone strikes?
You can’t, unless you start to ask the question: why did the Taliban ‘really’ shoot Malala?
Tortuous arguments and feats of logic will be used to justify the asking of the question, too. There cannot, some will reason, be movements which are motivated solely by a hatred of women and a fear of sex, therefore the Taliban must have attacked Malala, not because she wanted an education, but because of George Bush, or Iraq, or Palestine, or ‘cultural imperialism’, or drones (insert preference). Rather than grasp what is right in front of their noses – that there are and always have been lots of men, in both east and west, who are terrified of female empowerment – many will prefer to go in the search of less disconcerting justifications which fit more comfortably with already-existing worldviews.
This is why, before long, Malala’s honeymoon with the west will be over, and many liberals will start to ask why the Taliban ‘really’ shot Malala. Doing this will be a great deal easier than grasping that the past decade spent looking for a ‘root cause’ for terrorism has been wasted. Even if it does mean abandoning Malala.
James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward. He tweets @J_Bloodworth
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