By Atif Rasheed
There haven’t been many proud moments for Pakistan in recent history. With civil and political turmoil, religious intolerance, military coups, corruption, terrorism and injustice, there probably isn’t much more that could have possibly gone wrong wth a country.
It’s not all bad however, this month Pakistanis all over could rejoice with the news that Pakistan has the honour of producing two nobel laureates, a fact not all that many Muslim countries can boast. Its ironic though that while both Pakistani laureates were born and educated in Pakistan, they both were prevented from going back to the country they had built their successes on.
When Dr. Abdus Salam won his Nobel prize for Physics in 1979, it was a great day for not only Pakistanis but also Muslims across the world. He was the first ever Muslim to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, now Malala has become the youngest person ever to win a Nobel prize.. How disheartening is it though that while Pakistan can be honoured for producing 2 Nobel Laureates, it seems as though the country which produces these stars hates success and is bent upon its own destruction. It’s as if they would banish anyone who achieves great success.
In 1979 when Dr Abdus Salam became the first ever Muslim to reach the lofty heights of becoming a Nobel Laureate, he credited the Holy Qur’an for his achievement. Despite that, he was condemned as an apostate by religious fanatics, prevented from opening a research centre in his name (which was then subsequently was built in Italy) and now is hardly known by many in pakistan as his name is blacked out from the Pakistani history books – due only to religious hatred and intolerance. Salam belonged to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community within Islam, a group still violently persecuted in Pakistan.
Similarly, Malala Yousafzai in 2014 is subject to the same medieval mindset that has crippled the country which once had so much potential. For representing what are essentially Islamic values – equal rights for women, she has had to endure the violent and heinous backlash of the same backward minded extremists which Dr. Abdus Salam did. Now residing in England where she has taken refuge, she has all the freedoms she wishes she could see back at home for all the girls who still endure the backward mindset of extremists in Pakistan.
Malala has become a spokesperson for oppressed women everywhere and a symbol of what a Muslim woman is all about. Despite what some may say about Islam’s attitude towards women, she has shown that Muslim women can still achieve the highest honors possible (while wearing the hijab too!) and have all the same opportunities as others. Indeed, it was the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) teaching that it is incumbent upon every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge. Malala is fighting so that Muslim women everywhere can live up to the Prophet’s teaching and gain the education that is a fundamental human right for all.
History has a lesson for the oppressors and those beset with intolerant and backward ways. Professor Abdus Salam was shunned some 30 years ago for his religious beliefs and Malala today is exiled from her homeland, yet while the unjust persecutors have gained nothing but the curse of all good people in the world, both Nobel Laureates’ work lives on and will shape the future of the world forevermore.