The noose around Malala is evidently tightening. With the peace prize from Norway under her belt, she’s all set to be launched in the wrong direction. Five years ago, new to his job and with little more than high-sounding rhetoric to show for his presidency, Obama was awarded the same peace prize. Since then, he’s transformed into a war-making monster that makes Bush Jr. and Sr. look like teddy bears. Is it now Malala’s turn to bear the cross of Nobel’s devious legacy?

The unmitigated reverence accorded to the Nobel peace prize by the liberal intelligentsia and our elitist leaders of public opinion is more than a bit misplaced. They speak about it like devotees gathered at the temple of an idol to worship it. They speak about it with a blind faith, the sort they have for other gods in their pantheon; the UN with its many arms, the Dollar-god with its many heads, the Oscars, Washington Post and what not. To question the hollowness or hypocrisy of these idols, even when their feet of clay are sticking out more and more like sore thumbs, is considered blasphemy by our movers and shakers.

Obama might be the most glaring example of the peace prize’s mixed up priorities from recent history but he is not the only one in the long list. Leaders of Israel presiding over the violence of an apartheid regime, dissidents from China and Iran inconsequential to their societies, an unscrupulous war-monger like Henry Kissinger, and international organizations presiding over an increasingly violent world like the EU and the UN, are some of the other individuals and entities awarded the same ‘prestigious’ peace prize. Given its choices, and the way it is chosen itself, does it make any sense to treat the decision of the Norwegian Nobel committee as divine decree?

To begin with, the 5-member committee that decides about the peace prize is appointed by none other than the ‘holy’ Norwegian parliament itself. This, of course, is not the end of it. The entire process that starts with inviting a select group of power-wielders to nominate the candidates is mired in secrecy. There is no transparency about the short-listing of nominees by the committee, their whetting by permanent advisers at the Nobel institute and selected Norwegian academics, the reports they submit about the nominees to the committee or the considerations of the committee while deciding the winner. The cherry on top is that the prize is awarded by the chairman of the committee in the presence of the Norwegian king. Those lapping up the prize as some sort of an epitome of human achievement would rather not notice these big chinks in its establishmentarian armor.

Nobody is supposed to question the worth of the Nobel peace prize just like nobody is supposed to take a critical look at the Malala phenomenon. All of us must celebrate this ‘doubtless’ honor conferred upon a Pakistani girl as a great honor for the country. We all must hail her as a heroine out to save humanity by educating children. There are no ifs and buts. You are a Malala-hater if you don’t express an unqualified admiration and adoration for her and show a flag-waving enthusiasm for the fact that she’s won the peace prize. Somehow, I find it hard to join this blind-folded celebration.

If anything, I feel sympathy for Malala. This might sound preposterous coming from someone who has not been awarded even a small local prize, let alone the mother of all international prizes, but I have my reasons. In my mind, Malala is frozen in the image of her pre-attack days; the courageous schoolgirl from Swat with honesty in her eyes and a candor to keep the flame of education alive among her neighborhood girls against all odds. I know much water has passed under the bridge since then, but I’d still like to see the same schoolgirl trapped within the confines of the Malala-phenomenon being craftily constructed around her by the international establishment.

The way she has been catapulted as an international celebrity by those moving the world in all the wrong directions and shaking it numb with unprecedented violence is worrisome. All the powerful villains that propel our rotten world order, from Obama to Gordon Brown, the UN and the World Bank, Time Magazine and Madonna, have done their bit to prop her up. The phenomenon of Malala is being managed by a PR firm that is embedded in the imperial matrix. She is shipped around to make the ‘right’ statements about ‘relevant’ issues like Boko Haram, to receive one ‘prestigious’ prize after another and join causes and projects within the humanitarian development industry. Such intensive cultivation by entrenched centers of power is obviously producing results. When the Israeli soldiers were killing Palestinian children, she called for restraint from both sides.

I would still like to retain the distinction between Malala-the-schoolgirl and Malala-the-international-celebrity, though the recent peace prize is a sort of a confirmation that the transformation is now complete and Malala lies buried within the phenomenon created around her. Her love for her homeland and her sincerity to the cause of education might still be there, but she is unlikely to translate these feelings into anything meaningful given her present context. From a brave girl with the promise to become a leader of change, she has been reduced to a chorus-girl for the imperial narrative about ‘barbaric’ Muslim societies that shoot girls who wish to educate themselves. She’d invest a lot of time and energy on projects and causes sanctioned by the empire to whitewash its crimes and make just the right noises about just the right things. She’d stand next to those bringing our world to ruin and speak their language.

In an interview from that time when she was still a courageous schoolgirl from Swat, when asked about what she wanted to be, I remember her saying that she wanted to be a teacher but her father wanted her to become a politician. It seems like her father had his way.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.

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