Can you imagine being a mere 17 years old and getting the Nobel Peace Prize?
After that, what choice do you have but to be a political activist and celebrity? Do you have the liberty to become someone else when you are 18 or 19? How will you be someone who is a real person – as opposed to a symbol – to others in your life? You will always bear the burden of symbolism.
I am proud of Malala’s strength, courage, wisdom, balance, and ability to NOT play into the hands of those who would commodify her. But what a burden for a teenager who should still know how to play.
Malala is a child. But she has been forced into the fray of civilizational battles. There are those who bitterly criticize her – for no fault of her own – because she is used as a symbol of the endangered, besieged Muslim female, contrasted with the dangerous, violent, brown Muslim male. This is not her fault. She doesn’t play into this discourse. She is remarkably balanced and wise for her years. But she is stuck in this role, in this incredibly complex adult space of politics.
Dear Malala – continue to be strong though grabby hands snatch to get a piece of you, using you as a placard, a foreign policy justification. And don’t forget you have the right to be just Malala – just a child.