파키스탄 노벨수상자 ‘극단주의 망령’에 고통받는다

* ‘아시아엔’ 해외 필진 기고문 한글요약본과 원문을 게재합니다.

1979년 약전자기(Electroweak Unification) 이론으로 노벨물리학상을 수상한 압두스 살람(Abdus Salam) 박사. 인도의 아동인권운동가 카일라쉬 사티아르티(Kailash Satyarthi)와 함께 2014년 노벨평화상을 수상한 10대소녀 말랄라 유사프자이(Malala Yousufzai). 이들은 노벨상을 수상하며 파키스탄의 명예를 드높였으나, 극단론자들로부터 생명의 위협을 받고 조국을 떠났다는 공통점이 있다.

파키스탄 최초의 노벨수상자 압두스 살람 박사는 시대를 대표하는 과학자였지만 파키스탄은 그를 인정하지 않았다. 심지어 말랄라의 수상이 발표됐을 때 조차도 그에 대한 언급은 없었다. 멀리 이탈리아 동북부에는 살람 박사의 이름을 딴 세계적인 물리학연구소가 있지만 고국 파키스탄엔 그를 기념하는 건축물이 전무할 정도다.

1960년부터 1974년까지 살람 박사는 정부 자문위원을 역임하며 파키스탄 과학인프라를 구축하는데 지대한 공헌을 했다. 그러나 박사는 1974년 파키스탄 의회가 아마디 교단(Ahmadiyya)이 무슬림으로 인정하지 않겠다는 법안을 통과시키려 하자 이에 대한 항의표시로 고국을 떠났다. 파키스탄에선 살람 박사가 믿었던 아마디 교단을 향한 폭력이 기승을 부렸고, 그는 급진주의자들의 목표물이 될지 모른다는 두려움에 귀향하지 못한 채 영국 옥스퍼드에서 70세를 일기로 생을 마감했다. 그는 하버드, 캠브리지, 예일, 옥스퍼드 등 세계 유수의 대학들에서 강연했지만, 고국에선 극단론자의 반발로 강단에 서지도 못했다. 그러나 모국에 과학 발전기금을 꾸준히 송금하며 변치 않는 애국심을 표했다. 파키스탄 정부는 1998년에 이르러서야 살람 박사의 기념우표를 발행했다.

파키스탄의 또다른 수상자 말랄라는 최근 노벨평화상을 수상했지만 자국민의 반응은 그리 뜨겁지 않다. 그녀의 수상에 의문을 제기하는 단체들이 있는 것도 사실이다. 평화와 민주주의를 위해 스스로를 희생한 베나지르 부토(Benazir Bhutto) 전 파키스탄 총리는 왜 수상의 영예를 안을 수 없었는가? 한 평생 사회봉사에 헌신했던 압둘 사타르 에디(Abdul Sattar Edhi)는 왜 인정받지 못했는가?

2012년에 말랄라는 탈레반으로부터 총격을 당한 이후 영국에 정착했지만 ‘서방의 대리인’이란 달갑지 않은 꼬리표가 따라붙었고, 그녀를 향한 비판도 거세졌다. 총상을 날조했다는 주장과 함께 그녀는 별다른 업적도 없이 국제적 명망을 얻었으며, 부친의 꼭두각시에 불과하다는 원색적인 비난도 쏟아졌다. 다행히 노벨상 수상이 발표된 후, 말랄라는 파키스탄 시민들로부터 인정받게 됐다. 그녀의 이름을 딴 대학들이 세워질 예정이며, 그녀를 싫어했던 사람들도 태도에 변화를 보이고 있다. 파키스탄 분쟁지역인 스와트 출신의 17살 소녀가 역대 최연소 노벨수상자가 됐기 때문이다. 파키스탄은 말랄라 유사프자이에 대해 자부심을 갖고, 그녀를 이해하게 될지도 모른다. 말랄라는 어린아이들과 소녀들이 교육받을 권리를 주장해왔고, 지금까지의 업적보다 앞으로 이루어 나갈 것이 더 많다.

말랄라는 밍고라에 작은 학교에서 교육을 받았다. 파키스탄은 교육환경이 매우 열악하며, 여자 아이는 교육의 기회를 접하기 더욱 어렵다. 그러나 말랄라는 거의 완벽한 수준의 영어를 구사한다. 그녀의 아버지로부터 열성적인 지지를 받았기 때문이다. 어려운 여건 속에서 교육 받고 자란 말랄라는 이제 탈레반과 극단주의 저항의 상징이 됐다. “파키스탄은 국내외 테러로부터 안전하지만, 여성들은 위험에 노출돼 있는 모순을 지니고 있다. 여성폭력을 지지하는 가부장적인 사고를 바꿔야 한다.” 한 인권운동가의 일침이다. 극단주의자들의 위협에도 불구하고, 말랄라는 자신의 뜻을 관철시키기로 결심했다. 최근 말랄라는 한 방송인터뷰서 “탈레반은 사람들의 삶을 비참하게 만들지만, 나는 곧 모국으로 돌아가겠다.”고 밝혔다. 말랄라는 상금을 전액 기부해 어린이들, 특히 소녀들을 위한 학교를 설립할 계획이다. 그녀의 고향 스와트에선 이미 교육환경 개선 프로젝트가 진행되고 있다. 번역 리고베르토 반타 주니어 인턴기자

Extremism haunts Pakistan’s Nobel Laureate

Pakistan’s two citizens ? Theoretical Physicist Dr. Abdus Salam and a teen-age girl Malala Yousufzai won Nobel Prize, one in 1979 and the other after 35 years in 2014, but despite being the symbol of honor for their country, they faced the same unfortunate situation of being away from motherland for threat to their life sounding a message that country continues plunging in deep ravines of extremism.

Dr. Abdus Salam, who had rendered great services for development of science & technology sector in Pakistan, had shared Noble Prize for his contribution in Electroweak Unification in 1979 and a courageous teen-age girl Malala Yousafzai, hailing from a conflict zone of the country, is the joint winner with Indian peace activist Kailash Satyarthi in this year’s Nobel Peace Prize announced recently.

Country’s first Nobel Laureate, Dr Abdus Salam was held as one of the leading scientists of his time but we simply refuse to acknowledge him. Even the TV channels did not refer to him when announcing Malala’s prize.

Dr Salam, for whom institutes had been named at Trieste in Italy, one of the leading centers of physics in the world as well as at other places, is a man few children even know the name of in his own country. Till the year that he died at the age of 70 in 1996 at Oxford in the UK, he was virtually unable to return home for fear that he would become a target in a climate where the members of Ahmadiyya community were subjected to more and more violence. His grave at Rabwah in Punjab province is visited by only a few.

There is no monument in his name, and the small but tiny bungalow at which he was born in Jhang city stands deserted. In fact, after he won the Nobel Prize, Dr Abdus Salam was ‘rewarded’ in his own country by being barred from lecturing at public universities within it under pressure from right wing student groups. Elsewhere in the world, he spoke at the most prestigious colleges: Imperial College, London, Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge and Yale.

Dr Salam quietly sent home money to the country he loved to be used to teach science to children. He offered to pay for science centers to be set up. His contributions have never been acknowledged. Even after he was named one of the key scientists behind the discovery of the so called ‘God particle’, the mysterious particle which is said to give mass to matter, and is one of the greatest achievements in science for the last 100 years, he was not spoken of at home.

Dr. Salam was a science advisor to the Government of Pakistan from 1960 to 1974, a position from which he played a major and influential role in Pakistan’s science infrastructure. Salam was responsible for not only major developments and contributions in theoretical and particle physics, but promoting scientific research to maximum levels in his country as well. Salam was the founding director of Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), and responsible for the establishment of the Theoretical Physics Group (TPG) in Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). As Science Advisor, Salam played an integral role in Pakistan’s development of peaceful use of nuclear energy, and may have contributed to development of atomic bomb project of Pakistan in 1972; for this, he is viewed as the “scientific father” of this program in the views of the scientists who researched under his scientific umbrella. In 1974, Abdus Salam departed from his country, in protest, after the Pakistan Parliament passed a controversial parliamentary bill declaring the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as non-Muslim. The then government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, had to move the bill to appease the right wing parties who had launched agitation against his government. Many years later in 1998, following the country’s nuclear tests, the Government of Pakistan issued a commemorative stamp, as a part of “Scientists of Pakistan”, to honor the services of Salam.

And now in case of Malala the honor that should have been hailed with widespread joy across the country has been somewhat muted because of her controversial status. Certain quarters question her winning the Nobel Prize: Why not former Prime Minister Ms. Benazir Bhutto was honored with this prize for sacrificing her life for peace and democracy? Why Mualana Abdul Sattar Edhi has been neglected despite spending his life for social service?

In fact a deliberate campaign was launched to malign Malala soon after she was shot by Taliban in 2012, when she was dubbed a western agent. Claims were made that she had faked the injuries; the accusations were hurled that she had done nothing at all to win international acclaim and that she was a puppet in her father’s hands. All this appeared to be rooted in jealously, ignorance and the right leaning mindset that seems to have become the norm in our country.

Fortunately, after the Nobel Prize announcement, Malala has to a degree been granted the status of hero by most of the people of Pakistan. There is talk of universities being built in her name and persons who initially said they hated her appear to be changing their mind, mainly as a result of the international accolades that have poured in for the girl from Swat who at 17 becomes the world’s youngest winner of the prestigious prize.

So, maybe Pakistan would be able to take some pride in Malala Yousafzai and people will try to understand her story a little better. While this story centers around her calls for the right to education for all children and especially girls around the world made with an especially powerful voice since 2013, there is more to it than that.

Malala, educated at a tiny run-down school in a dingy street in Mingora town of Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw province, must be applauded for reaching the point where she today stands. Simply acquiring an education is hard enough for deprived children in the country ? all the more so if they are girls. Malala was able to acquire not only this but also to mastering English to near perfection mainly through the encouragement of her father who has also been labeled as a villain. Malala has now become an international icon of resistance, women’s empowerment and right to education. There are many people in Pakistan for whom Malala’s name has become synonymous with the fight against extremism and the Taliban.

In fact, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a human rights activist known for his works of quiet philanthropy in Swat should be held up as a man of courage who dared to go against tradition and allow his daughter to develop a voice, an opinion and a strong will of her own.

On social media and on other forums, Malala continues to be debated, labeled as a person who enjoys only ‘westernized’ citizens’ support.

Malala has been portrayed as a western agent in Pakistan – a country brimming with anti-West sentiment. Anyone seen as pro-West in the country becomes a target for scorn, ridicule, hatred, and even violence.

“Isn’t it ironic that Pakistan is considered a safe place for national and international terrorists but not for its own female population?” some human rights activists opined. “We have to change this scenario, and also the patriarchal mindset which supports violence against women.”

Despite such perils of extremism hounding her, Malala is determined to continue her mission. “Talibans are the terrorists who have made the lives of people miserable, but I will return soon to my motherland,” she said in a recent TV interview. She intends to build schools for the children, especially the girls, spending all of her prize money. Some education projects are already underway in Swat.