This is not a Nobel snub.
The Nobel Peace Prize committee gave Malala Yousufzai the biggest prize of all. It gave her another chance at an ordinary life, as a teenager, a student, a young woman, free from that lifelong burden of expectation that comes with being the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace prize.
It saves her from the Obama effect – the carping chorus who were already wondering what she had actually achieved that deserved a Nobel Peace Prize. Some complained she was a sell-out because she did not vociferously condemn drone attacks in Pakistan while appearing on television shows in the West. They saw her as a young woman being manipulated by the West to whitewash their own crimes and imperial adventures abroad. Others wondered why the Nobel committee did not look to honour those who stayed on in Pakistan and Afghanistan fighting for their human rights. And then there were those who saw the prospect of a Nobel as an insult to Pakistan and Islam, an implicit condemnation of what is done to women in the name of religion.
Perhaps those debates at least can end now.
Malala Yousufzai has achieved more than most 16-year-olds around the world have achieved. She has certainly endured more than any of them should endure.
Whether her astonishing personal story makes her Nobel-worthy is a different debate and now a moot one.
But one thing is clear. Her life has already taken extraordinary turns, far beyond what she or her family could imagine. The stories that have been flooding the media prior to the Nobel announcement were more poignant when read in the light of the family that stands behind her – the devout mother who does not let herself be photographed, the father who refused to clip her wings, the brothers who tease her and play with her.
This Nobel announcement allows for young Malala to return to the folds of that family instead of becoming even more of a global celebrity. Perhaps her family is disappointed right now about the prize that did not happen. In a few days they might thank the Nobel committee for not taking their Malala even further away from them than she has already gone.
Malala has said in an interview with CNN that she wants to become the prime minister of Pakistan. God willing, she will. It’s fantastic that a young woman who came to death’s door because of her indomitable will to study should seize her second chance at life with open arms and dream big.
"The Taliban can shoot my body, but they cannot shoot my dreams," she said. But those are dreams for another day. As they should be.
For now, the Nobel committee gave her a chance at different dreams, smaller ones perhaps, but dreams of the kind shared by other sixteen-year-olds.
It does not mean that in time she cannot be the Prime Minister of Pakistan or even win the Nobel. All that will happen in good time. And it’s actually wonderful that she can have that to aspire to instead of a Nobel to look back to.
Malala Yousufzai can never go back to being who she was before those gunmen boarded a bus and pointed their weapon in her face. But the Nobel that didn’t happen gives her a chance to get as close to that day as she can ever get.
One day Malala Yousufzai will thank the Nobel committee for giving her this extraordinary chance at an ordinary life.
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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2013 15:42:31 IST