Myanmar netizens rally to smear Malala

Malala has the Rohingya-haters feeling some type of way.

Anyone with global name recognition who stands up publicly in support of the Rohingya risks being targeted by Myanmar’s nationalist meme machine.

This has been the fate of UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, several Turkish politicians, the BBC, and as of this week, perhaps its unlikeliest target: 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai.

On Sunday, the Pakistani education activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and survivor of a vicious assassination attempt posted a message on Twitter calling for the Myanmar government to end its violence against the Rohingya minority and grant them citizenship. She also criticized fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the “tragic and shameful treatment” of the Rohingya.

She seems to have struck a nerve.

But rather than changing minds about the Rohingya, Malala’s statements have instead inspired a wave of ferocious personal attacks that appears to have few, if any, limits.

Some of Malala’s new detractors insist they once respected her. They say Malala’s non-violent fight to bring education to women in Taliban-held territory mirrors the Myanmar military’s operations against the “Bengali terrorists” in Rakhine State, the twisted logic being that they’re both working against potential Islamist takeovers.

They feel sorry to have lost a hero. Or so they say.

Other critics say Malala’s failure to condemn the “terrorists” whose attacks on Myanmar police outposts sparked the current conflict in Rakhine State is evidence of either her ignorance about world politics or her intentional blindness to the suffering of non-Muslims.

Beyond that, many are trying to discredit Malala and her personal story altogether, accusing her of being a puppet in an international conspiracy to weaken Myanmar, denouncing her success as unearned, and even saying her opinion doesn’t matter because Aung San Suu Kyi has endured more suffering than she.

Anti-Malala sentiments can be found in the replies to her original tweet and across social media, but here’s a roundup of the most popular arguments:

‘Malala has changed’


‘Malala is blind’


‘Malala is a unworthy’

Bonus category: Misogyny

malala troll face meme
The caption includes a play on Malala’s name that compares her to the Burmese dish mala hin, which the Troll Face character “likes.”

Do you agree with any of Malala’s critics? Do you think she missed an opportunity to speak to all sides of the conflict? Or has this been a massive knee-jerk reaction to a truth that some folks in Myanmar will always refuse to hear?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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