Cover Malala ties the knot with her new husband in the UK (Photo: @Malala/ Twitter)

Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel laureate and female education activist, just married Asser Malik in a turnaround that sparked trolling on social media and left some fans questioning if it makes her less of a feminist

Activist Malala Yousafzai announced her marriage to sports entrepreneur Asser Malik on November 9, sharing the good news on her social media pages. “Today marks a precious day in my life,” she wrote, “Asser and I tied the knot to be partners for life.” 

Malala became the youngest Nobel peace prize winner in 2014 at age 17, two years after she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan. Now aged 24, the activist lives in Britain.

“We celebrated a small nikkah ceremony at home in Birmingham with our families,” the post continues. In the photos, Malala is seen wearing a gold and crimson head scarf, matching the golden autumn leaves in the backdrop. “Please send us your prayers,” Malala concludes in her social media posts, “We are excited to walk together for the journey ahead.” 

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The news of the wedding came as a shock to many as it wasn’t too long ago that the Pakistani activist spoke hesitantly on the topic of marriage. In her June 2021 cover interview with Vogue UK, she said, “I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?”

But by the end of the interview, Malala hinted that she had become more open to the idea since the second year of university, and to the possibility of life beyond her career and family, around the same time when she met Asser in the summer of 2018. 

Still, with the surprise announcement of her wedding, Twitter trolls poked fun and labelled her a hypocrite, while some feminists voiced concerns about whether marriage will undermine Malala’s work in empowering girls. 

The day after her wedding, Malala addressed her critics and change of heart in a personal essay for Vogue UK. “My conversations with my friends, mentors and my now partner Asser helped me consider how I could have a relationship—a marriage—and remain true to my values of equality, fairness and integrity,” Malala wrote. 

“In Asser, I found a best friend and companion. I still don’t have all the answers for the challenges facing women—but I believe that I can enjoy friendship, love and equality in marriage,” she continued.

So who is the man Malala has chosen as her partner? An entrepreneur and huge cricket lover, with connections to Pakistani celebrities. According to his LinkedIn, Asser Malik is based in Pakistan and a franchise owner of Last Man Stands, an amateur cricket league; as well as being the general manager of the Pakistan Cricket Board. 

Educated in Pakistan, he participated in theatre and even brought theatrical performances to University College London (UCL) and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to raise funds for flood victims. Adnan Malik, a Pakistani film star and WWF Goodwill ambassador, has commented on Asser’s Instagram posts.

The newlyweds first bonded over cricket and became best friends after supporting each other through thick and thin. The pair continued to bond over cricket together, even going to the Edgbaston Stadium to root for Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 semi-finals against New Zealand. 

Malala’s personal choice to get married echos a line in her June 2021 interview with Vogue: “I didn’t realise that you’re not the same person all the time. You change as well and you’re growing.” That sounds like a perspective worth celebrating. 

The article was first published on November 11 and updated on November 17, 2021

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