Friday, October 19, 2012
Why Malala Matters
Malala Yousafzai, aged 15, was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she returned home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Her alleged offense? A yearning for an education and her public pronouncements in pursuit of it.
Even as she recovers, after being flown to a hospital in Great Britain, the Taliban chillingly re-stated their intent to kill her - should she survive.
Fundamentalism is unbending and the Taliban’s obscurantist interpretation of Islam has nothing to do with religion. Scratch at the surface of this and many other authoritarian creeds and you’ll see a play for power and control. Imposing your will by force.
Malala, with her books and outspoken denunciation of school closings, threatened that; the alternative is to be a second class citizen.
A fundamentalist may claim that theirs is the path to true salvation, but how can faith be real and true if coerced? It is knowledge they fear. And it is knowledge that will set you free.
The enduring menace of the Taliban will have consequences for girls and women long into the future though perhaps this brave girl’s actions will a more enduring impact; after all, the Taliban targeted her because they fear the future that she embodies.
Three years ago she spoke out, in turn giving voice to thousands of girls like her – banned from attending school and hidden from public view. Her courage in facing down the Taliban is a sign they cannot win because without tolerance and education there is no future.
I hope Malala will inspire a new generation. The future lies in protecting children like her -- and there are millions of them.