Everyone Loves Malala’s Vogue Cover Except These People Who Love to Hate Malala

Pakistani trolls attacked the global icon's comments on marriage but her father says the magazine interview is being taken out of context.
Pallavi Pundir
Delhi, IN
June 4, 2021, 10:04am
Malala yousafzai, pakistan, marriage, online hate, trolling, marriage, british vigue
Malala Yousafzai's recent interview at the with the British Vogue has been largely loved, except by Pakistanis who love to hate her. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images 

As people the world over are clearly smitten by the British Vogue cover featuring Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, a relentless group of Pakistanis have been trolling her for an interview with the magazine - specifically for her take on marriage.

“I still don’t understand why people have to get married,” the 23-year-old global icon was quoted as saying. “If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?”

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Within hours of the interview being published, Pakistani social media was inundated with the hashtags #ShameonMalala and #Malalaonmarriage, with tweets often linking to a meme which manipulated her comments.

Marriage is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where patriarchy dictates social and cultural norms. Pakistani women on social media often speak about the pressures and trauma around questioning or rejecting marriage. A 2018 government survey showed that 1 in 4 Pakistani women experience some form of marital abuse or violence.

The comments that attacked Malala ranged from dogmatic disappointment that she didn’t believe in marriage, a cherished institution in Islam, to extreme violence including calls for the Taliban to take a “perfect headshot next time” or naming her the new Mia Khalifa, the former porn star, who Pakistanis also love to hate.

Right-wing local language publications also misquoted Malala as saying, “Why do people get married? They should spend their lives as partners instead.”

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As hate and abuse mounted, Malala’s father Ziauddin felt compelled to clarify his daughter’s comments on marriage, specifically replying to a Muslim cleric’s tweet. “The media and social media have taken the excerpt of her interview out of context,” he tweeted back.

Usama Khilji, the director of an advocacy and internet policy organisation in Pakistan, Bolo Bhi, told VICE World News, “The trolling on Malala signifies the deep crutches of patriarchy where a young woman cannot easily share an anecdote regarding a discussion with her mother about apprehensions related to marriage without being viciously attacked and accused of immorality,”

Pakistani researcher Ammar Rashid also spoke about the need for Pakistanis to reflect on their relationship with marriage. “We really need to interrogate our obsession with ‘defending our family system’ against the dangers of women seeking equality,” he tweeted.

Despite the hate, many Pakistanis stood by her. “Love Malala’s refreshing views on marriage,” tweeted one. “A modern Pakistani icon.” Another tweeted, “Extremely graceful. Keep blooming, Malala. We are proud of you.”

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“You see a rebel, I see a woman who's finally found some peace and quiet. We stan forever, Malala,” tweeted Erum Haider, a professor from Karachi. 

Born in the Swat district of Pakistan, Malala was shot in the face in 2012. The Taliban targeted her after she spoke up against their ban on girls going to school in Swat. Today, she’s a global icon and a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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