Did Malala deserve the Nobel Prize?

“Let us pick up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapons”

Captivated by the first line of this soon to follow 1868 words article? No? What if it is mentioned here that it is a quote from Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize recipient? Suddenly there is an extra charm, a profound meaning, a deep sense of philosophical weltanschauung added to the initially sober and colourless statement, Right? How very opinionated have our minds become that we start attaching a certain degree of mindless respect and appreciation to something just because it has been presented to us in an orchestrated manner with words like ‘change’, ‘revolution’ and ‘brave’ carelessly thrown in. When would this affixation with judging things not by their content but by their source stop? How much has this fixation with media induced empathy driven our minds that even the few logical brains of the planet have lost all grounds of reason and factuality? Simply put, did Malala deserve the Nobel Peace Prize she has been conferred with by the some of the greatest minds of the century?

The author of this article gives a straight-forward ‘NO’ to this question. While sympathies and best wishes lie with Malala for her struggle as an individual in life and for the dangers she has come out of in just seventeen years of her life, a glorification of the person to the extent that she is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is certainly not justified. History has been  a witness to the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize has itself been awarded and rewarded by recipients like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Betty Williams, Tenzin Gyatso, Aung San Suu Kyi, Kofi Annan, Wangari Maathai, Liu Xiaobo and other greats. The Nobel Peace Prize once saw a time when it was not even awarded because “there was no suitable living candidate” (a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi the year he died). A prize having such a legacy behind it and an association with names of people who gave their entire lives to push humanity forward faces a pervasive threat today- the threat of influence. At times when awards and rewards have become a consequence of pomp and show and mindless media hype, very few honours still remain which retain their sovereignty and trust. The Nobel Prize inarguably stands at the top of these few. But unfortunately, it too seems to have come under the influence of media’s razzmatazz and puffery. A prize of the stature of the Nobel should, nay, must be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses” as the textbook criteria for the same goes. An award as such cannot be driven by emotion or sentiment and awarded to a person who has done apparently no actual work for the cause she is being vested with a prize. Simply repeating words like “education” and “peace” in interviews, speeches and discussions and getting an applause because your reputation precedes you is not worthy of such a distinguished decoration.

Any person of logic who is fully aware of the matter at hand and undeterred with pomp and show will agree to the fact that Malala, although a respectable individual, did not deserve a Nobel. Having said that, there seems to be no need of going through this article and wasting time on the author’s thoughts. But keep reading anyway because this might be one of the very few pieces you would come across on the web that is undeterred with cheap influence. Now,  the author himself does not want to keep repeating words like “undeserving” or “hype” or their synonyms here and thus, we are really going to analyse the works of the decorated laureate.

The first (and perhaps the only) real work in the direction of a fight with terrorism and oppression by Malala began on 3 January 2009, when her first blog was posted on BBC Urdu whereby she cited her feelings on the First Battle of Swat and her sorrows on less accessibility of education in the Swat valley.  She continued to write about how education for girls was banned by Taliban and how she doesn’t feel like studying in such a tense environment. Other posts by her included the general public’s views upon the peace agreement between the government and the militants and how they feel it wouldn’t last for long. With about two months of writing behind her and an unprecedented fame to follow, a documentary was made on the life of Malala by New York Times reporter Adam B. Ellick. Thus began the series of interviews and talk-shows making Malala a media favourite activist overnight. She got interviewed by Daily Aaj, Toronto Star, and other prominent media programmes like Capital Talk. Soon, she was awarded with the National Peace Award for Youth by Pakistan’s Prime Minister. With her popularity growing and identity revealing to more and more people, she fell into a tragic series of events whereby the Talibani militants decided to assassinate her. On 9th October 2012, she was shot in head, “on the left side of my forehead” as Malala puts it, by a Taliban gunman. Courtesy of immediate medical aid and timely intervention by top medical institutes of the world, Malala survived this disaster.

With this incident, a tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support began for Malala from all nooks and corners of the world ranging from top world politicians, leaders, activists, media houses, writers, freelance journalists, stars from the entertainment industry to the general masses who came to know of the heinous attack. After her rehabilitation, World leaders like the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, US President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II invited her to meet them. Funds in the name of Malala were started and got a big response. In July 2013, Malala appeared before the United Nations and gave another speech expressing her gratitude to people who prayed for her recovery and spoke about Women’s rights and their access to education. With similar speeches then and now, Malala Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on 10th October 2014. Further ‘works’ of Malala include her memoir “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb. The book itself received much polarised views with most of the western world appreciating the struggle of Malala and Pakistani educational institutes rating it as being against Islam.

While this pretty much sums up all works of Malala and no real work worthy of a Nobel was found, it can be argued that the prize was not awarded to honour the individual but to foster peace in the world. But that is not how the concept of being awarded with a prize goes. In all probability hence, this is not a valid excuse to the error that has been made and from which there is no turning back.

While there may not be a strong rational explanation for Malala receiving the Nobel, there are myriads of voices stressing the contrary point. Opinions held by such people  find a place here if not anywhere else. Even people in her valley of Swat believe that she did not deserve the Nobel as they believe that Malala’s interviews overseas do not change anything for even the girls in her home valley. They also believe that the high profile campaign is being orchestrated by shadowy foreign forces. While people may disregard such voices as being orthodox or patriarchal, the simple truth plainly put remains that she has not changed the life of even a single child on the planet.

Malala today gains education in one of the best schools of Birmingham in England. She has come out of the strenuous and tense environment of Swat courtesy of the support of world governments. Is this a victory worthy of a Nobel? People in the world have spent entire lives to a cause and sacrificed their personal life, spent every bit of their money on social cause. They are working on the ground instead of simply rattling off speeches at events. The co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi himself worked 30 years to eradicate child labour saving about 83000 children in the process. While Malala enjoys comforts of a western lifestyle today, reflecting upon her thoughts of how she wanted to be a doctor but now wants to become a politician (a rosy dream born out of her huge mass media backing), particularly the Prime Minister of Pakistan, she gives signs of an individual who saw a high point in her life and after which it would be all downhill. She very well might not even go back to Pakistan and live there let alone becoming the PM of the country. She gives signs of immaturity now and then by making such statements as she seems to herself not completely understand her agenda in future. And is there an agenda? –One might enquire. It is thus imperative to suggest here that the Nobel committee, with all due respect, was at fault in making this decision. How could they equate a life time of work which requires exceptional dedication and several personal sacrifices, touching thousands of lives in a real sense with somebody who has fought a personal attack and talked and talked and talked about it? Malala may have the potential to do good to the world but it’s not for potential that somebody is awarded such a prize but for hard, proven successful work born of dedication and labour. There are values of integrity and excellence that people associate with prizes like the Nobel and they should not be shadowed or tarnished by what certain high profile sections of the society ‘think’.

While this article does not aim to vilify the decorated person in any way whatsoever, the author is compelled to express his deep condolence to the Nobel committee which as a consequence of such a decision has lost many of its believers. The motivation of creating a peaceful society is inherent in everyone; people try to bring about such a creation in their own ways. While some sit dormant in face of bad happening in the society thinking that it would not affect them, they react when they face the heat. And then there are people who give up all their happiness and worldly pleasures and devote themselves to the service of mankind. Such are the people who move the world forward and such are the people who deserve this prize.  Nobel Prize is not meant for upliftment of oneself as an individual but for contribution to and upliftment of the society as a whole. With all regards to the aforementioned Nobel Peace Prize winner and hopes of her really being able to contribute to world peace, the author would like to perorate this article in the same way he began it – YES!-with a Malala quote from her Nobel Prize acceptance speech-

                    “I think I do not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. I still believe that.”

Yes Malala, you are right !

P.S.  Your opinions are valuable to us and so is your time. So lets keep it objective here.
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2 Comments
  1. arpit kothari 3 years ago

    Whooaa!!! Nicely written and yes this kind of Article is difficult to find on net. 😎

  2. Anand Brahma 3 years ago

    This is a very good article on role of Nobel prize committee and media.These days,media is prominent to highlight; same-way it can defame and glorify overnight.

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Did Malala deserve the Nobel Prize?

by Sarthak Brahma time to read: 10 min
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