Religion and secularism portray different aspects of modern society. Certain individuals who believe in the practices of spirituality represent the significance of faith in a religion, while other secular individuals have no association or affliction to spirituality or religion. This essay will discuss the Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai’s perspective on female education based upon human rights. In addition, the opposing terrorist group, the Islamist Boko Haram expose the enactment of school attacks in Nigeria. Furthermore, the examination of fundamentalism explained by Spickard’s in the story, ‘Good old way’, demonstrates religious conservatives and fundamentalist groups spreading ideologies through the new media.
In order to understand the meaning behind an individual’s claim for female rights, it is important to reveal the historical context of the country the individual originates from. This is further noticed in Malala Yousafazi’s story behind her outcry in the media concerning the opposition of female education. Consequently, her outcry in the media comes through the historical and religious context of the extremism, terrorism and violence instigated by Pakistani Taliban groups. Due to the Islamic increase in Pakistan, the Taliban has endorsed the denied freedom of expression which further endorsed the opposition to modern education. As mentioned by Spickard’s 2006 story, ‘good old way’, “fundamentalist groups re-imagine society as following religious codes and laws” (Spickard, 2006, pg. 306), following this quote religious laws are significant in the Pakistan case where the Islamic law had considered secular and also Western idea, which had further caused a “Holy war” (Tolentino, et al., 2015) against modern education for both genders. Due to such war against education, the Taliban had banned female education and bombed more than hundreds of school buildings. Additionally, Malala’s point of view for being determined to receive an education comes through the refusal of “surrendering her rights to education” (Tolentino, et al., 2015) which causes the power of her voice to international attention. Furthermore, Malala’s determination to her education rights is further noticed through participating in interviews stating, “They cannot stop me. I will get my education if it’s at home, school or somewhere else.” (Tolentino, et al., 2015) This further becomes secular modernity in society as Malala’s campaign for “peace, social justice, and education were acknowledged” (Tolentino, et al., 2015). Moreover, the campaign has been noticed by the South African activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu and recognised Malala’s peacemaker to Pakistan and potentially changed the Islamic law. Overall, the effectiveness of contemporary society comes through Malala’s determination to education rights which becomes secular modernity when Gordon Brown launched a UN petition which caused Pakistan’s first ‘Right to Education Bill’.
The concept of a bond among society comes within the religion as relationship. The meaning behind religion as relationship is to ‘Create social change and support in response to the challenges of contemporary society.’ (Woodhead, 2011) Social changes arise through the sudden change from a colonial era to the global trend of terrorism. This trend led to the innocent killings in Nigeria after the colonial era which was originally at peace with the citizens living in harmony had become diminished by a rebellious group called Boko Haram. The Boko Haram group mainly are responsible for opposing female education and in doing so, they have afflicted into, kidnapping schoolgirls and killing teachers as well as religious leaders of both Christian and Islamic faith. The terrorist attacks have brought fear in citizens in Nigeria, bringing the attention of the Nigerian government through the demands of the Boko Haram group, with the abduction of innocent schoolgirls and older females and also demanding the Sharia Law to be applicable all over the country. In comparison to Malala’s case where at the age of fifteen the activist being shot to the head by a terrorist group, as alike in the Boko Haram group case, where abducting school girls and older females became a way to oppose females from attending a school or be educated due to the religion of Islam rules. Furthermore, the ‘religious codes and laws’ (Spickard, 2006, pg. 306) provided by the Islamic group in Boko Haram’s case is taken to the demands to take a separate Islamic state to “practise their religion unhindered” (Abdulrasheed, Joda, 2015). However, in 2009 the leader of Boko Haram was arrested and passed away during custody, but it did not stop the Boko Haram from having a new leader. Additionally, this case becomes a religious conservative with the Islamic group becoming theism towards forcibly abducting schoolgirls and kidnapping women.
Political rights can be endorsed through freedom of speech and expression in most countries around the world. However, in the case of Malala Yousafzai and Boko Haram’s worldview, both cases are in contrast to ‘religious codes and laws’ (Spickard 2006, p. 306) and also relate to ‘rejecting secular modernity’, both cases ‘effectively use new media to spread their ideologies.’ (Spickard 2006, p. 306) In the case of Malala, the effectiveness of the terrorist group, Taliban, who shot her in the head at the age of fifteen, survived the procedure and further fought for the rights of education for females who “remain vulnerable to oppression, and are an untapped potential for the world and themselves” (Upton, 2018). This case proves that secular modernity in contemporary society originates through the outcry on social media as mentioned in the quote, “use new media to spread their ideologies” (Spickard, 2006, p. 306), and was proven by the Nobel peace award that Malala received through the rights to education for female as alike to herself. With regards to Boko Haram’s case, religion is noticed in a disservice in a way where the terrorist group abducted schoolgirls and alike older females, further contrasting to Malala when Pakistan is at holy war with the terrorist group bombing more than hundreds of schools. Boko Haram is known as ‘West education is forbidden’, meaning the Islamic group demand girls to be banned from schools. Additionally, modern society spreads the ideology of the media outcry behind the Boko Haram attacks and the background story behind Malala’s disagreement for the opposition of female education. The opposition of female education comes through the religion law that schoolgirls were abducted because they received secular education, “the militants believe corrupts the value of Muslims” (Signe, 2018). Consequently, the Boko Haram case is known to be of the enlightenment era, as well as the Taliban, due to enlightenment starting with education, and the refusal of girls to be educated, means that Boko Haram are denying female their humanity.
Overall, this essay has discussed both religion and secular modernity respectively contributes to political actions being made to the weak government countries who have gone through terrorism as a belief of their religious law. In both Malala and Boko Haram’s case it is proven that the lack of government causes harmony in a country towards terrorism as one religion demanding to preach their beliefs in the Islamic way, rejecting secular modernity to oppose against female education. However, throughout the essay, it is proven that a female activist at a young age can successfully change the terrorist attacks through the media outcry on the education rights for females. Fundamentalism is also preserved through the re-imagination of society as an Islamic group demand their own state in a country to take over the law, however, the government act upon the terrorist attack and female education is reaffirmed in both Nigeria and Pakistan.