Note: This was originally posted in Tamil on Facebook by an anonymous person! On reading the original I beat my breast and said: “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! Lord, I too have erred! I am no exception.”
This is what most people post on Facebook!
After bribing the traffic police:
“Let us do away with bribe“
The once erratic drivers and riders after marrying and begetting children:
“Obey road rules!“
After bargaining with their labourers:
“Down with capitalism!“
After drinking Pepsi and devouring KFC chicken:
“For economic growth of our country drink king coconuts.
Save our country from foreign entrepreneurs!“
The guy who rides his bike to go to the next street:
“Save the environment. Avoid pollution!“
Romeos who ogle women on the street:
“Respect Women. They are like your mothers and sisters!“
The person jealous of his neighbour who earns 10 rupees more:
“Unite. We are all brothers!“
One who takes two steps back when an old destitute stretches her hand towards him:
“Help the poor and the needy. Let us eradicate poverty!“
The guys who show a quick face for namesake at the funeral of his neighbour:
“My heart bleeds for those dying in Palestine, Israel, Africa and Timbuktu…“
Fellows who don’t even speak a few words with his mother:
Writes pages of poetry about love for one’s mother!
Though stingy, project themselves as philanthropists on Facebook!
And some women
Flirt in life, but manifest as a virtuous person on Facebook!
I edit what I write several times before I hit the “Publish” button.
On many occasions I leave my darlings aside for a fortnight or so; and then I read them, cut, append, read, juggle sentences and paragraphs, juxtapose, add, drop, umpteen times in no specific order until satisfied to a certain extent. In most cases I publish only about 60% of what I originally typed.
Being a good writer means knowing how to edit: taking what you’ve written and stripping out the dulling distractions so your ideas shine. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary.
She quotes American writer and Nobel Prize laureate, William Faulkner: “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”
This is Michelle’s advice to bloggers:
Today — whenever you’re reading this — start a new post. Write until you’ve said everything you want to say, then save your draft — but don’t publish.
Tomorrow, open the post and check the word count (hint: it appears at the bottom of the editing box). Edit your post down by 10%, then save it and forget it again.
Repeat on two more days, until you’ve done three days of editing.
After three days of editing, hit “Publish.”
If your original draft was 1,000 words, the piece you ultimately publish should be around 730; if you started with 500, you’ll end up with 365 or so. If you’re a flash fiction writer who starts with 50, you’ll need to get yourself down to 36. (If you have a bolt of searing editorial insight and want to cut it down more than 10% on any day, feel free.) Whether you’re a long-form or short-form blogger, learning to wield your red pen ruthlessly will improve your writing.
A fellow blogger and poet Tom Balistreri commented to Michelle’s post:
After I write I go back and remove all my typos. Then I go back and correct my sentence structure. Then I correct my grammar. Then I throw out anything that’s frivolous or doesn’t make sense. At that point I have a blank page.
Internet users coin “internet slang” to save time on keystrokes. It saves the writer’s time, but most writers do not realize that the reader of their slang spends more than twice the time to understand what the writer is trying to say. That is why I strive not to use internet slang in my communications.
While surfing, and by searching the internet, I deduced the meaning of a few internet slang plus a few others which I would like to share here with you.
Listing of Internet Slang and Acronyms
Slang and Acronyms = Meaning
1 = One / exclamation mark
2 = To / Too / Two
4 = For or Four
AFAP = As Far As Possible
A&F = AAF Always And Forever
A3 = Anywhere, Any time, Any place
AA = Alcoholics Anonymous
AAB = Average At Best
AAK = Alive And Kicking
AAMOF = As A Matter Of Fact
AAP = Always A Pleasure
AAR = At Any Rate
AAYF = As Always, Your Friend
ABD = Already Been Done
ABH = Actual Bodily Harm
ABN = Asshole By Nature
ABT = Absolutely
ABT = About
ADL = All Day Long
ADMIN = Administrator
ADN = Any Day Now
AEAE = And Ever And Ever
AEAP = As Early As Possible
AFAIAC / AFAIC = As Far As I Am Concerned
AFAICS = As Far As I Can See
AFAICT = As Far As I Can Tell
AFAIK = As Far As I Know
AFC = Away From Computer
AFD = All F***ing Day
AFT = About F***ing Time
AGW = All Going Well
Aight = Are you alright, Yo
ALOL = Actually Laughing Out Loud
ANY1 = Anyone
AYSOS = Are You Stupid Or Something?
B = Be
B4 = Before
Bb = Bye Bye, Goodbye
BBIAB = Be Back In A Bit
BBL = Be Back Later
BBS = Be Back Soon
BD = Big Deal
BRB = Be right back
BRB = Be right back / Bath-room break
BRT = Be right there
BTW = By the way
C = See
CSWS = Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
CU = See you
CUL = See you later
Cuz = Because
CYA = See you
CYS = Check Your Settings
da = The
dat = That
der = There
DIAF = Die In A Fire
Dunno = Don’t know
FAQ = Frequently Asked Questions
FOAD = **** Off And Die
FTL = For The Loss
FTUW = For The Uber Win
FTW = For The Win
FWIW = For What It’s Worth
FYI = For Your Information
G2G / GTG = Got to go
GAL = Get A Life
GFY = Good For You
GG = Good game, Good going
GIYF = Google Is Your Friend
HAND = Have A Nice Day
HS = Holy Shit
HTH = Hope This Helps
IACL = I Am Currently Laughing
IANAL = I Am Not A Lawyer
IANARS = I Am Not A Rocket Scientist
IC = I see
ICYDK = In Case You Didn’t Know
IDGI = I Don’t Get It
IDK = I Don’t Know
IIRC = If I Recall Correctly
ILY / ILU = I Love You
IMHO = In My Honest Opinion
IMNSHO = In My Not So Honest Opinion
IMO = In My Opinion
IRL = In Real Life
ITT = In This Thread
IYDMMA = If You Don’t Mind Me Asking
JJ = Just Joking
JK = Just Kidding
JOOC = Just Out Of Curiosity
JP = Just Playing
K = Okay
KKOk = Cool / Ok Kewl
KL = kool, cool
Kwl = Cool
L8r = Later
LLAH = Laughing Like A Hyena
LMAO = Laughing My Ass Off
LMFAO = Laughing My F*cking Ass Off
LOL = Laugh Out Loud
LQTM = Laugh Quietly To Myself
M8 = Mate
MYOB = Mind Your Own Business
NLS = Not Life Safe
NOYB = None Of Your Business
NP = No Problem
NSFW = Not Safe For Work
NVM = Never mind
NWS = Not Work Safe
O = Oh
O3 = Out of Office
OIC = Oh, I see
OJ = Only Joking
OMG = Oh My God! / Oh My Goodness!,
OC = Out Of Character
OP = Original Poster / Original Post
OT = Off Topic
PEBKAC = Problem Exists Between The Keyboard And The Chair
Pic = Picture
PITA = Pain In The Ass
Pix = Pictures
Plz / Pls = Please
PPMSLL = Pissing/ Pissed Myself Laughing
POSL = Piece Of ShIt
PPLL = People
PTTLL = Pop To The Loo
RL = Real Life
ROFL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing
ROFLMAO = Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off
ROFLMAOL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Out Loud
Shudda = Should Have
SMH = Shaking My Head
SO = Significant Other
SOS = Same Old Shit
Soz / srry = Sorry
SSDD = Same Shit, Different Day
STFW = Search The F*cking Web
sup = What’s up?
sup homes = What’s up, friend?
SWW = Sorry, Wrong Window – typing in the wrong box
Earlier on January 8, 2013, the SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS posted the article titled “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week“. The NATIONAL REPORT just copied that article word-for-word. The only change was in the title – the Indian state “Assam” was substituted in lieu of “Punjab” to read: “The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week.“
The article claiming a non-existent, wishful (in the mind of the author) vulgar event taking place in India was a spoof by a person writing under the pseudonym Jimmy Rustling.
The social media was abuzz with reactions to the article. So far, it has been shared more than 312,000 times on Facebook and around 3,000 times on Twitter. It has besmirched the image of Assam and has sparked widespread protests in the state.
The article does not display any disclaimer saying it is a spoof. However, there is a general Disclaimer page on the NATIONAL REPORT website:
DISCLAIMER: National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental . The views expressed by writers on this site are theirs alone and are not reflective of the fine journalistic and editorial integrity of National Report. Advice given is NOT to be construed as professional. If you are in need of professional help (and you may be if you are on this page), please consult a professional. National Report is intended for a mature audience and not for children under the age of 18.
Linked to the “Rape Festival” articles in SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS and NATIONAL REPORT is a common website Giveindia.org that looks like a genuine Indian website seeking donations for the welfare of Indian women.
At the end of the article there is the following statement:
For more information about the festival or if you would like to participate, please call the 24-hour India Rape Festival hotline at (785) 273-0325.
I googled and found that the given hot line number (785) 273-0325 belongs to Fred W. Phelps Sr., an American pastor heading the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas in 1955. Address: Westboro Baptist Church, Address: 3701 SW 12th St, Topeka, KS 66604, United States.
According to Phelps, basically everyone, who isn’t a part of their “religion” and “church” is doomed and will go to hell.
Phelps’ group protests all over the United States at Gay funerals and Soldiers funerals. The first Amendment under the U.S. Constitution protects them to do these despicable hate acts.
Although the “church” started as only hating “fags” they have now moved on to hate Australians, Canadians, Jews, Swedish, and even the Amish. To picket hey use signs such as: “God Hates Fags“, “Fags Hate God“, “America Is Doomed“, “Soldiers Die God Laughs“, “Thank God for 9/11“, etc.
Many people in USA, India and other countries believed the contents of the article as a true fact even though no such festival exists or existed in any part of India. And the article was widely shared even now via social media. It has been blindly copied and posted in sundry websites around the world without verifying the facts, thereby tarnishing the image of India.
Here is an example of this spurious, apocryphal copying:
On November 6, 2013, Patricia Kahill, posted the article verbatim without verifying facts in UGOnews with the following introduction:
Reports from National Report say that this week in Indian men readied themselves to begin celebrating the annual Assam Rape festival. This festival sees that every unmarried girl between the age of 7-16 who has not been hidden is raped. (sic)
This article published in UGOnews evoked many scathing comments. I have reproduced some of them here:
Prashant Moni · Textiles It is very sad that some mentally sick peoples are publishing the scenario of a region in a very bad manner. To be make clear that there is NO ANY SUCH FESTIVAL in Assam or even in any other region in India. This is nothing but an output of mentally sick person (s). (sic)
Rajeev Gohain · J.B College, Jorhat What a rubbish story. The picture is from a festival from Uttar Pradesh, Tamilnadu is lakhs km far. The names are not Assamese. The creator of this story is that the psychic who is dreaming about this type of festival , so that he also can go and participate it.. I am requesting to whole the world not to believe this type of fake story, but come and enjoy a beautiful green Assam famous for One horned Rhino and Tea.
Ashish Das · Online Entrepreneur and Blogger Stupid website… research before publishing.
Manashwi Sharma · Student This is absolutely NOT TRUE. There is no such freaking festival celebrated in Assam or in any part of India. I Request everyone NOT TO BELIEVE whatever is written on this website. This is totally a FALSE NEWS.
Prasanta Dutta · Guwahati College I am from Assam and 33 year’s old, Its a is totally a Stupid news. Women is always respected in Assam more than other part of the world. (sic)
Sukanya Goswami · Dibrugarh University this is unacceptable!!! shame on your mentality!!! u people published such a wrong thing about a region without knowing any thing!!! shame on u!!!! go and research before doing such stupid things!!!! u people dont knw any thing ,never heard about assam and but ready to publish nonsense about it!!! stupid website!!!! (sic)
Shreeja V Shetty · Software Tester at GlowTouch Technologies Well this news is surely not true. India is a lovely country. But action should be taken on the one who wrote this! So that nobody repeats such nonsense again!
Lekha Borah · Works at Working as a Freelance Photographer Want to make it clear that there is no this kind of \\”DIRTY FESTIVAL IN ASSAM”// or in INDIA. This is nothing but a fake RUMOUR of some mentally sick persons.Very sad and very shameful thing happened made by psycho people. (sic)
Slickèr Qalie Ndlovu · Member, Organisation of African Youth (Zimbabwe) people stop lying please (sic)
Last week we reported about the Assam rape festival a controversial and satire story that was first published by National Report a USA based website, lead to a number of comments on our site from the Indian community.
According to Lets Gist the point of the story was activism, to educate people about what is going on in India on a daily basis, because a lot of people don’t know.
Hindustan Times received a statement from Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam immediately that said:
“the fraudulent and extremely unethical article about the completely fictitious festival is an act of serious disrespect and total disregard shown towards the humble and unsuspecting people of our beautiful state of Assam. The writer of such a piece of pure evil is not fit for human society.”
Bharat Narah, press adviser to Gogoi, told Gulf News:
“The Assam Rape Festival article is not at all humorous. It is distasteful, unethical, abominable, despicable and must be abhorred by all sections of society. We have taken up a suo moto case against the website and the author of the piece. It is a highly sensitive matter which cannot be ignored. We are assessing all our options and are in touch with the Cyber Cell of the Police Department.
Regardless of race, culture, or nationality, any decent and moral person should be offended by this filth. Media plays a very critical role in forming opinions. If media will start acting so naively, then the responsibility of spreading information through media should be taken away. We Indians know that this news is totally fake, but people in other parts of the world are getting the wrong message about our nation. This mischief by the media should be dealt with very strictly.“
The comment by Nancy Powell, US ambassador to India, when she addressed the students of Xavier Institute of Social Science (XISS) in Ranchi, on November 19, 2013, is an epiphany for the state of affairs now prevailing in India.
When a student asked: “Why aren’t American students coming to India for studies?”
She replied: “The concern for personal security and perceived increased danger to women as a result of the rape cases was perhaps a factor in US students’ decision regarding study in India.”
Since January 2013, this article, camouflaged as a news item, circulated through blogs, email, and social media. Its claim that the tradition of the Punjab Rape Festival dates back to 43 BC is utter nonsense. Factually, there is no such event as the Punjab Rape Festival. The story was simply concocted by the psychotic Jimmy Rustling.
This obviously false story caused a great deal of apprehension and dismay after it spread through the media. Not realizing that there is no such event and never ever was, many decried the imaginary event and wanted it stopped.
The comments for the post “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week” show that the average follower of SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS is an ignoramus who could be manipulated to believe any unauthenticated absurd news, as he would when he reads the religious scriptures, mainly because it is in print.
As usual, pranksters too joined in and added fuel by defending the festival and stating they were looking forward to participating in the hypothetical event.
Sarab H: This is so messed up! I demand justice!
M Shelat: I agree. Something needs to be done to stop this!
Mark Dauglas Znenitz: I would go to this festival. Probably not participate but I would go
Eva Monreli: They are not even considering that one can get viral diseases (Like AIDS)from these people. This should be stopped!
Holly Marys: I have many many many MANY demons in me that need uncorking. May I, as an American and not Punjabi, participate so that I may perhaps be rid of my demons once and for all?
Catherine: Sick people! This is 2013 for God’s sake. Stop these archaic Men form doing injustice to the girl child.
Sharell Cook, an Australian traveller researching distinctive cultures from her early 20s, initially visited India in the year 2000 and found it a total assault on her senses, confronting, but then oddly inspiring and captivating. Even today, this impression about India has not changed. Even now, Sharell is residing in cosmopolitan Mumbai where she writes full-time while learning Hindi. This is her impression about the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela:
“The Kumbh Mela in India is as mesmerizing as it is spiritual. This ancient northern Indian festival is a meeting of mystical minds. The largest religious gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela brings Hindu holy men together to discuss their faith and disseminate information about their religion. It’s attended by millions of people each day.”
Many Indians living in the United States called for the removal of the article from the website and wanted authorities to take punitive action against the author and the website that published it.
In late January 2013, the writer responding to the angry calls posted the following message on his Facebook Page:
I’ve been getting emails from people saying that I should remove my story entitled, “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week.”
The point of the story was an activism piece to educate people about what is going on over there on a daily basis, because a lot of people don’t know. I read everything I can get my hands on and every day there’s another story about another horrible rape or murder of a young girl in India…. usually where the guy gets off, not being punished, or worse, where the victim is forced to marry her attacker.
So I wrote up the most exaggerated, ridiculous thing I could think of… it gets people to pass around the story and then question what’s going on over there if they didn’t already know. A simple Google search of “Punjab rape” brings up 100+ different stories of young girls getting raped, murdered, forced to marry the man who raped them… it’s disgusting.
Anyway, that’s the point of the story and I’m not pulling the article.
In an email to hoax-slayer.com the author wrote:
One of the other MAJOR factors for doing the story was collecting money for the women of India for schooling, clothes, help in leaving abusive situations. So, a few months ago I added this to the bottom of the story:
WANT TO HELP THE WOMEN IN INDIA? THEN DO SOMETHING! Click here to learn more.
I checked out that charity thoroughly. They are 100% legit giving 90-95% of collected funds to the cause.
Once again the stupid readers of this post came out with absurdities:
Sarah H: They give awards to men in India for raping woman? WOW.
Samantha: This is just disgusting! They don’t arrest them for rape but they give them awards??? SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS!
Lena: Govt must come forward to support RAPE FESTIVAL. This is the only world class entertainment ,where every one love to participate. Tourist visits to India ,will generate collosal amount for the nation. Allow everyone to participate,give them FREE CHANCE to win award. GOVT must provide FREE VISA Access. Let people of the world to enjoy and feel free to taste of RAPE. RAPE reduces heat,its good for health and for the growth of man kind. C.M needs to be changed,since he wants to snatch this freedom from people of punjab, which is against the will of the nation. Democracy in India should not tarnished at any cost.
Readers of SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS made these comments despite the following image posted proudly on its site on the page “Super Official Awards.”
The name Jim Rustling is the pseudonym of an author named Paul Horner, a Staff Writer for NATIONAL REPORT who claims to have won numerous awards for journalism including a Peabody Award and a Pulitzer Prize.
How authentic are the writings of Jimmy Rustling a.k.a. Paul Horner?
I understand that “Fred Dursk” is another pseudonym of Paul Horner. Now, I wonder how many other pseudonyms this person has, and whether the name “Paul Horner” itself is real, or is it another pseudonym of some other person hiding behind these names.
A disclaimer right at the bottom of the posts in SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS reads as follows:
Disclaimer: Lulz killing of any kind will not be tolerated. If you are being a buzzkill, your comment can be altered or deleted. This entire site is pretty much just a resume containing a collection of my writings and such for the off chance that someone like The Onion or The Daily Show ever happens to stop by. Until then just remember, if it’s on the internet it must be true.
Many probably have their own pet peeves while writing. I am not an authority on writing. When I was young I overcame the writer’s block on reading the masterpiece “Say What You Mean” by Rudolf Franz Flesch. Even so, I confess that my grammar is not that good and I do make silly mistakes in my writing.
Here are some common phrases which I have come across that needs everyone’s attention whether they are bloggers or not. I feel the phrases on the left are incorrect,
while the ones on the right seem to be correct.
01: All of my children | All my children
02: A mute point | A moot point
03: Anyways | Anyway
04: Baited breath | Bated breath
05: Begging the question | Raising the question
06: Brother-in-laws | Brothers-in-law
07: Case and point | Case in point
08: Chester drawers | Chest of drawers
09: Circumvent the globe | Circumnavigate the globe
10: Curl up in the feeble position | Curl up in the fetal position
11: Each one worse than the next | Each one worse than the last
12: Expresso coffee | Espresso coffee
13: Extract revenge | Exact revenge
14: Fall by the waste side | Fall by the wayside
15: For all intensive purposes | For all intents and purposes
16: Free reign | Free rein
17: He did good | He did well
18: Head towards the door | Head toward the door
19: Hunger pains | Hunger pangs
20: I’m giving you leadway | I’m giving you leeway
21: I could care less | I couldn’t care less
22: I made a complete 360 degree change in my life | I made a complete 180 degree change in my life
23: Irregardless | Regardless
24: It’s a doggy-dog world | It’s a dog-eat-dog world
25: Jive with | Jibe with
26: Make due | Make do
27: Momento | Memento
28: Near miss | Near hit
29: Nip it in the butt! | Nip it in the bud!
30: Old timer’s disease | Alzheimer’s Disease
31: On accident | By accident
32: On tender hooks | On tenterhooks”
33: One in the same | One and the same
34: Outside of | Outside
35: Pick / Peak my curiosity | Pique my curiosity
36: Runner-ups | Runners-up
37: Scotch / Scott free | Scot free
38: Self-depreciating | Self-deprecating
39: Less than 300 characters | Fewer than 300 characters
40: Should of | Should have
41: Sneak peak | Sneak peek
42: Statue of limitations | Statute of limitations
43: Step foot | Set foot
44: Suppository of information | Repository of information
45: The spitting image | The spit and image
46 They made her an escape goat for the breakup of the family | They made her a scapegoat for the breakup of the family
47: What’s your guyses opinion? | What’s your opinion, guys?
48: Without further adieu / Without further a due | Without further ado
49: Wreck havoc | Wreak havoc
50: You have another thing coming! | You have another think coming!
ShehrbanoTaseer takes an insider’s look at the 15-year-old girl who may finally turn the tide on extremism.
The teenage girls chatted to each other and their teachers as the school bus rattled along the country road. Students from a girls’ high school in Swat, they had just finished a term paper, and their joy was evident as they broke into another Pashto song. About a mile outside the city of Mingora, two men flagged down and boarded the bus, one of them pulling out a gun. “Which one of you is Malala Yousafzai?” he demanded. No one spoke—some out of loyalty, others out of fear. But, unconsciously, their eyes turned to Malala. “That’s the one,” the gunman said, looking the 15-year-old girl in the face and pulling the trigger twice, shooting her in the head and neck. He fired twice more, wounding two other girls, and then both men fled the scene.
Over the screams and tears of the girls, a teacher instructed the bus driver to drive to a local hospital a few miles away. She stared in horror at Malala’s body, bleeding profusely and slumped unconscious in her friend’s lap, then closed her eyes and started to pray.
As of this writing, Malala fights for her life at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. Her would-be killers have not yet been caught. But it’s clear who bears responsibility. And in the days since the Oct. 9 assault on her, sadness, fury, and indignation have swept the world.
For months a team of Taliban sharpshooters studied the daily route that Malala took to school, and, once the attack was done, the Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan gleefully claimed responsibility, saying Malala was an American spy who idolized the “black devil Obama.” She had spoken against the Taliban, they falsely said, and vowed to shoot her again, should she survive.
The power of ignorance is frightening. My father, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered last January after he stood up for Aasia Noreen, a voiceless, forgotten Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. My father, the governor of Punjab province at the time, believed that our country’s blasphemy laws had been misused; that far too frequently, they were taken advantage of to settle scores and personal vendettas.
In the days before my father’s murder, fanatics had called for a fatwa against him and had burned him in effigy at large demonstrations. His confessed shooter, a 26-year-old man named Mumtaz Qadri, said he had been encouraged to kill my father after hearing a sermon by a cleric, who, frothing at the mouth, screeched to 150 swaying men to kill my father, the “blasphemer.” Qadri, a police guard, had been assigned to protect my father. Instead, on the afternoon of Jan. 4, my brother Shehryar’s 25th birthday, he killed my father, firing 27 bullets into his back as he walked home.
My father, one of the first members of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, was frequently imprisoned and tortured for his unwavering belief in freedom and democracy under the harsh dictatorship of Gen. Zia ul Haq.
But in later life, as he spoke against the blasphemy laws, his views were distorted to suggest—wrongly—that he had spoken against Prophet Muhammad—just as Malala’s views were twisted by both her Taliban attackers and opportunistic politicians peddling poisonous falsehoods for their own gain.
One would think the nightmare and the brutality of the Zia regime ended when the tyrant’s aircraft fell out of the skies in 1988 and he was killed. We were so wrong.
What the attack on Malala makes clear is that this is really a battle over education. A repressive mindset has been allowed to flourish in Pakistan because of the madrassa system set up by power-hungry clerics. It’s a deeply rooted indoctrination, and it sickens me to see ancient religious traditions undermined by a harsher form of religion barely a generation old. These madrassa, or religious schools headed by clerics, are the breeding ground of Islamic radicalism. The clerics don’t teach critical thinking. Instead, they disseminate hate. These clerics are raising merchants of hatred who believe in a very right-wing and radical Islam, to hail people like Osama bin Laden and Mumtaz Qadri as heroes. They train children how to use guns and bombs, and how not to live but to die.
Since my father’s murder, I have often wondered if Qadri would have killed him had he known my father’s actual views and not what they had been twisted into by media anchors and clerics on a hysterical witch hunt. Maybe if he had listened to what my father really said, Pakistan would not have lost its bravest man and I my center of gravity.
After his bloody deed, Qadri was hailed as a hero by right-wingers and fanatics. In a loathsome display in front of the court where he was to be tried, hundreds of lawyers charged with upholding justice instead showered the murderer with rose petals in praise of him taking a sacred life.
But terrorism bears within it the seeds of its own destruction. What schools with a good syllabus can offer is the timeless and universal appeal of critical thinking. This is what the Taliban are most afraid of. Critical thinking has the power to defuse terrorism; it is an internal liberation that jihadism simply cannot offer.
This time, with the attack on Malala, what is different—and encouraging—is the outpouring of support in Pakistan for this young girl. We cannot, and we will not, take any more madness.
Malala was only 11 when she started blogging entries from her diary for the Urdu-language website of the BBC. Her nom de plume was Gul Makai, meaning cornflower in Pashto and the name of the heroine of many local folk stories. A star student with olive skin, bushy eyebrows, and intense brown eyes, Malala wrote about life under Taliban rule: how she hid her schoolbooks under her shawl and how she kept reading even after the Taliban outlawed school for girls. In an entry from January 2009 she wrote: “Today our teacher told us not to wear colorful dress that might make Taliban angry.” She wrote about walking past the headless bodies of those who had defied the radicals, and about a boy named Anis, who, brainwashed by the Taliban, blew himself up at a security checkpoint. He was 16 years old.
Encouraged by her father, Ziauddin, a schoolmaster, Malala quickly became known as she spoke out on the right to an education. Ziauddin had two sons also, but he told friends it was his daughter who had a unique spark. She wanted to study medicine, but he persuaded her that when the time came she should enter politics so she might help create a more progressive society—at the heart of which was education for all. In Pakistan, 25 million children are out of school, and the country has the lowest youth literacy rate in the world.
“I hope you won’t laugh at me,” Ziauddin wrote in an email to Adam Ellick, an American filmmaker, after Ellick had stayed with the family in Swat for several months. “Can I dream for her to be the youngest to clench a Nobel award for education?”
In the film that Ellick made for The New York Times in 2009, the bond between Ziauddin and his daughter is evident as is his pride in his young daughter’s accomplishment. “When I saw her for the first time, a very newborn child, and I looked into her eyes, I fell in love with her,” Ziauddin says at one point in the film, beaming. “Believe me, I love her.” (Her mother, a homemaker who speaks only Pashto, is also supportive of Malala’s work; she wasn’t depicted in Ellick’s film for cultural reasons.)
At the time, the Taliban had swept through Swat, banning girls’ education and attacking hundreds of schools in the province. But Ziauddin—who, in addition to running a school, is also a poet, a social activist, and head of the National Peace Council in Swat—defied the Taliban by refusing to cancel classes, despite continued death threats. “They were so violently challenged,” says Ellick, who is still close to the family.
As Ziauddin explained his motivation at one point: “Islam teaches us that getting an education is compulsory for every girl and wife, for every woman and man. This is the teaching of the holy Prophet,” he said. “Education is a light and ignorance is a darkness, and we must go from darkness into light.”
Ziauddin “has given Malala a love, strength, and confidence that’s rare,” agrees Samar Minallah Khan, a Pakistani journalist and filmmaker who knows the family. “She has an incredible spirit and a mind of her own because of the confidence he has given her.”
In three short years, Malala became the chairperson of the District Child Assembly in Swat, was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu, was the runner-up of the International Children’s Peace Prize, and won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. More recently she started to organize the Malala Education Foundation, a fund to ensure poor girls from Swat could go to school.
Sharing her father’s eloquent and determined advocacy made Malala a powerful symbol of resistance to Taliban ideology.
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown said the attack had given rise to a children’s movement, with children proudly wearing “I am Malala” T-shirts and defiantly asserting their rights. “Young people are seeing through the hypocrisy of … their leaders [who] deny millions of girls and boys the opportunity to rise,” Brown said in an email. “For one Malala shot and silenced, there are now thousands of younger Malalas who cannot be kept quiet.”
Ziauddin is reportedly shattered by the attack on his daughter and unable to speak, yet he plans on returning to Pakistan once her treatment is complete. He wants to return to their work on education with renewed commitment and strength. He told Ellick: “If all of us die fighting, we will still not leave this work.”
In order to operate, the Taliban need the acceptance—or submission—of the population. A Gallup poll conducted two years ago shows that only 4 percent of Pakistan’s 180-plus million population views the Taliban in a positive light. But the TTP, as they are known, have capitalized on the mounting anti-Americanism spurred by civilian casualties of U.S. drone strikes. Keen to cultivate favorable public opinion, Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, issued a “new code of conduct” in 2010 that banned suicide bombings against civilians, burning down schools, and cutting off ears, lips, and tongues. On the Web, the TTP rallied against drone strikes, condemned attacks on shrines, hospitals, schools, and marketplaces. In practice, however, the code was spottily enforced and did not necessarily mean a gentler insurgency. Critics claim that any changes were cosmetic—a tactical shift in preparation for a long-term fight.
The assault on Malala seemed a departure from Mullah Omar’s “charm offensive”—a desperate but well-known attempt to spread fear. Even among those who had supported the TTP’s ideological goals in the past, there was revulsion at the attack on the little girl. “The shooting could be an attempt to show that they are still active,” says author and analyst Zahid Hussain. “They want to send a message.”
Instead of being chastised by the popular outrage both in Pakistan and in the West, the Taliban has responded by threatening local journalists who have covered the attack on Malala. The TTP has even threatened cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, claiming he is a liberal and therefore an infidel. The threats surprised many since “Taliban Khan”—as many refer to him—is perceived as an apologist for the extremists. In fact, in the days after the attack on Malala, Khan was strongly criticized for not taking a more forceful stance on her shooting. (Khan said he could not speak too openly against the Taliban because that could imperil the lives of his supporters in the north.)
“Pakistan has arrived at its with-us-or-against-us moment,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the president, told Newsweek by email. The 24-year-old Bhutto Zardari succeeded his mother, Benazir Bhutto, as chairman of Pakistan’s ruling party after her assassination in 2007. (The family believes that the Taliban killed her, though an al Qaeda commander initially claimed responsibility.)
Even as Malala fights for her life, people continue to twist her views and words to suit their own incendiary narrative. Samia Raheel Qazi, herself a mother and a senior figure in Pakistan’s largest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, posted an image of Malala, her father, and the late U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on Twitter, adding a caption that falsely claimed that Malala had attended “a meeting with American military officers.”
In Pakistan such character assassinations and conspiracy theories are unfortunately not uncommon—and they benefit the Taliban’s odious campaign. “Liberals would like to believe this is a turning point for Pakistan,” says journalist Najam Sethi. “That’s what they thought when a Swati girl was publicly flogged by the Taliban in 2009.” Pakistanis were at first outraged, but the anti-Taliban consensus soon evaporated, he recalls. Sethi believes that upcoming Pakistan elections will further politicize the attack. “The government will make the right noises but fall in line with exigencies of party politics. No general or civilian will risk precipitous action.”
Pakistan’s government is funding Malala’s treatment and will present her with a national award for courage. It has also promised jobs to the family members of the other two girls who were shot. But many fear that—despite the arrest of almost 200 people—the investigation into the attack will conclude as most investigations do: with a failure to prosecute those responsible. Our antiterrorism courts have a shoddy record of convictions. The judiciary and law-enforcement agencies clearly lack both the will and the means to bring perpetrators to justice. “If we do capture the terrorists who attacked Malala, I do hope they are brought to justice,” says the government spokesman, Bhutto Zardari. But sounding less than convinced, he cautions in the same email: “This is a war zone. Just as NATO or the U.S. will not capture every terrorist in Afghanistan we cannot capture every terrorist in Pakistan.”
Malala’s English teacher, who is close to the family, clicks his tongue when asked if he believes the attackers will get caught and punished. “I don’t think so at all,” he says. “When have they ever?”
There is talk now in Pakistan of further military sweeps of militant strongholds. But it is clear that the solution cannot be purely military. The government must address the root causes of terrorism as Malala argued. “If the new generation is not given pens, they will be given guns by the terrorists,” she said before she was shot. “We must raise our voice.”