NSS Secularist of the Year prize money donated to charity in honour of Malala Yousafzai

A GLOBAL charity that campaigns for girls everywhere to have equal access to education has received £7,000 from the National Secular Society, which today donated its Secularist of the Year prize fund to Plan UK in honour of Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban in October for campaigning in support of female education.

Her story sparked outrage around the world after the Taliban said they shot Malala for “promoting secularism”.

Malala Yousafzai pictured last year recovering in hospital, surrounded by her family. Photo: Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham via GETTY

Malala Yousafzai pictured last year recovering in hospital, surrounded by her family. Photo: Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham via GETTY

The prize was collected today at the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year event by Debbie Langdon-Davies, whose father John founded the charity in 1937. The prize was handed over by NSS honorary associate Michael Cashman MEP.

The money will be used to support Plan’s Girls Fund which, as part of its ‘Because I am a Girl‘ campaign, helps girls to claim their rights and access life-changing education.

Malala Yousafzai was nominated for Secularist of the Year by NSS supporters for campaigning for girls’ education in the face of violent and brutal Islamist opposition.

News of the award in Malala’s honour will not please Islamic hardliners. Towards the end of last year a group of fanatics said they planned to gather at the notorious Red Mosque in Islamabad to denounce her as an apostate, accusing her of turning her back on Islam.

Anjem Choudary, the lunatic London-based Muslim hate preacher who is one of the founders of al-Muhajiroun, which was banned in the UK in 2010, said the gathering would announce a fatwa against the teenager.

But although apostasy carries the death sentence according to Islamic law, he insisted he was not calling for Malala’s death.

Later, the Freethinker received an email from Iftikhar Ahmad, of the Lndon School of Islamics, who laid the blame for Malala’s shooting on the girl herself and the BBC.
He asked:
What is so special about this Malala, that she has been honoured with a peace prize, and nominated for Noble (sic)?

Ahmad continued:

At the age of 11 Malala began writing, under a pseudonym, for the BBC. Did the BBC encourage Malala, knowing she was only 11? If that is the case, what an irresponsible, unethical act!! I am sure that the BBC feels somewhat remorseful that this story ended the way it did, and they are the ones who are paying for Malala’s treatment in England. I wonder if Malala’s parents were aware of their daughter’s blog.

As a matter  of fact they were, and very proud of the fact too. With the encouragement of her father, Malala began blogging in her own name and revealed her face to the world.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said:

Plan UK does fantastic work campaigning for girls’ education so we are delighted to be able to offer this award. It is also important to honour the incredibly inspiring Malala Yousafzai, who risked everything to stand up for her, and others’, right to an education.

Secularism will always champion human rights above religious discrimination and oppression – which is precisely why secularism offers hope to oppressed women and minorities everywhere.

A special achievement award was also presented to the Nigerian Human Rights campaigner Leo Igwe.

Leading African humanist Leo Igwe

Leading African humanist Leo Igwe

Leo has campaigned at much risk to himself against the naming of children as “witches” and “warlocks” by manipulative and fanatical evangelical churches. Children branded in this way are often abandoned by their parents or become the subject of mistreatment or even violence.

Sanderson said:

Leo Igwe is an incredibly brave and tenacious fighter for human rights in very difficult circumstances. He has been harassed and threatened by those he has opposed, and so has his family. We were very honoured to have him at this occasion and to honour him in this way. Few people deserve it more.

An award will also be presented to Queen Mary University of London Atheism, Secularism & Humanism Society for their efforts to promote secularism on campus and in particular their defiant and robust response to attempts to close down free expression on campus.

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year award is sponsored by NSS honorary associate Dr Michael Irwin and is presented annually in recognition of an individual or an organisation considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the secular cause.

Previous winners include Peter Tatchell, Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Southall Black Sisters, Maryam Namazie, Professor Steve Jones, Mina Ahadi, and Evan Harris MP with Lord Avebury.

Plan UK is the UK branch of the global children’s charity Plan International. It is a registered charity in the UK (number 276035) and has no religious or political affiliations. As part of its “Because I am a Girl campaign”, Plan UK’s Girls Fund helps girls to claim their rights and access life-changing education.