This post was written by guest contributor Ossob.
Looking back at recent media attention on Muslim women, the story of Malala Yousafzai stands out because it simultaneously inspired and frustrated me. A young Muslim woman had captured the attention of the global media for, it would appear, all the right reasons. Malala Yousafzai, the bright 14-year-old activist brutally attacked by the Taliban, has not fit neatly into the dominant narrative of Muslim women as oppressed, feeble, and silent. Her triumphs and trials have inspired the world and elevated her to near sainthood. But the ensuing media frenzy has buried the complexities and nuances of her story under mounds of simplification and speculation. Major Western news networks have taken the lead in conveniently glossing over contextual realities. In response, many have rejected the feel-good story to expose the hypocrisy of Western selective outrage and to bring a more critical perspective to the coverage.
Elements of the Western media took a particular liking to Malala’s story, which could be attributed to their weakness for headliners involving brown women of the global south overcoming adversity. Malala’s story was probably even more appealing because the adversity was none other than the Taliban, the west’s sworn enemy and the epitome of Islamic barbarity. It was the perfect recipe for a story to go viral and soon enough, campaigns and funds, were dedicated to Malala’s heroism. Celebrities and renowned political figures were also paying homage. Former prime minister of the UK Gordon Brown has written several articles on her. His articles rarely (if at all) take into consideration the effects of the war on terror in which his country is still actively engaged. Madonna gave a shout out to Malala during a concert and then dedicated a striptease to her, which was alleged to be a “naked publicity stunt,” aside from also being glaringly inappropriate and narcissistic.