When a major Taliban commander wrote an open letter to schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai telling her that she deserved to be shot because she was running a “smear campaign” against the movement, the world was horrified.
Adnan Rasheed’s open letter to the teenager and outspoken defender of girls’ education shed light on the violent, and paranoid mindset of the movement.
But a growing backlash in Pakistan against Malala has raised fears that the Taliban’s extremist rhetoric is uncomfortably close to mainstream thinking.
On social media, the 16-year-old, who on July 12 made a passionate plea to world leaders to fund universal, primary education has been described as a western stooge, a CIA spy and even a prostitute. Like this one:
As Pakistani analyst Raza Ahmad Rumi, tweeted:
While supporting Malala’s message of education, Pakistani journalist Assed Baig wrote in a comment piece for the Huffington Post that her cause had been “hijacked” by the “western savior complex.”
“Malala is the good native, she does not criticise the West, she does not talk about the drone strikes, she is the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native,” he wrote, referring to the American drone program which has killed hundreds of Pakistanis in the tribal areas.
And on Facebook one Pakistani writes: "Now, CIA agents will give us all lectures on education and rights of women. And no, she is not at all a representative of Pakistani women."
It seems the more fame and applause Malala receives in the west, the more backlash she suffers in her homeland.
Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour