Malala Yousufzai, the Pashtun schoolgirl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt in Pakistan’s tribal region, today has left the hospital. Her recovery is not yet complete, and she will also undergo facial reconstruction surgery. The Pakistani government—which once tried to cut a deal with the same groups that targeted Malala and tried to deny her and her peers education solely on the basis of their gender—did the right thing by appointing her father to the Pakistani consulate so that the family might stay in the United Kingdom for the near future.
Malala’s ordeal should be a wake up call for the West. Momentum matters. Obama’s plans to withdraw “on schedule” from Afghanistan will imbue the Taliban with power they have not seen for more than a decade. They will claim that they have defeated two superpowers, and no amount of White House spin or historical fact-checking will change that perception among their Islamist followers. The idea that the Afghan government will stand on its own replicates the Soviet dream that Najibullah would last forever. As Najibullah learned, as soon as the foreign money runs out and the international community starts negotiating with his enemies, all is lost.
Malala’s struggle also highlights international naivete about the Muslim Brotherhood. Malala deserved the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize; what we got instead was pap. In 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize went, in part, to Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni political activist from a Muslim Brotherhood background. It was the latter rather than the former which swayed the Nobel Committee: The head of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee told the Associated Press, “Karman belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.’ He added that ‘I don’t believe that. There are many signals that, that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.’”
The true stance of the Muslim Brotherhood and their offshoots with regard to democracy should now be glaringly obvious, be it in Turkey, in Egypt, in Gaza, or elsewhere. Karman was given the Nobel Prize not only to be a voice for women in Yemen, but also elsewhere. Despite her frequent travels, she did not bother to visit Malala, however, let alone condemn the atrocity perpetrated against her by militant Islamists. Silence can be deafening, especially when it comes from a bully pulpit.
Let us hope that Malala continues her recovery, continues her advocacy, and makes her voice strong. She is more worthy as a bully pulpit and embraces a good cause. Her voice and those of many like her will be sadly needed as Afghans again prepare to face a movement that seeks to drive the status of women back centuries.