As an American, it is sometimes impossible (and other times, all too easy), to imagine what we would do – what I would do – if my beloved country was taken over by religious extremists.
Malala Yousefzai doesn’t have to imagine; she’s living it. And she has the bullet wounds to prove it.
A SWAT That Once Upon a Time, Was Peaceful
When I think of Pakistan, I envision walled compounds on dry, dusty plains. Crowded cities full of big-eyed, emaciated children, and turbaned fanatics waving scary-looking weapons. (At least, that’s what I used to think.)
Yet this, too, is Pakistan.
The Swat Valley reminds me of the Crescenta Valley and San Gabriel mountains in Southern California, where I raised my own son. Mountainous, green, lush, somewhat secluded, if a bit overdeveloped and smoggier than the Swat Valley…
La Crescenta via Wikimedia
We all get very emotionally attached to the places we call home. And Malala’s homesick longing for hers, a place from which she is currently exiled for her own safety – comes across clearly in the autobiography, I Am Malala.
Malala was named for a legendary Pashtun heroine, and though she has two younger brothers, to her father Ziauddin’s credit, he recognized her brilliance early on, and encouraged it, rather than passing her over to focus on her brothers.
What surprised me when I read that book, was what a mishmash of culture Pakistan is/was. Intermittent electricity – and Ugly Betty DVD’s. There isn’t public education, as there is in the US, but individuals – and, often, mullahs, may start local schools. Sometimes the schools started by the mullahs are the only game in town – and then parents must decide, do they send their sons (rarely daughters) to the extremist schools, and hope to counteract any religious teachings at home (much the way some Jewish parents send their kids to Catholic schools in the US), try to educate their children themselves, or leave them without ANY education?
Ziauddin Yousafzai decided on another path. He would start a school, not only to educate his addicted-to-learning daughter, but other girls, and boys, as well.
Malala started a blog for the BBC in 2009, when she was only 12, about the Taliban’s threats to deny her (and other girls) an education. She began making speeches on the subject.
When She Was 14, the Taliban Issued Death Threats Against Her
Is there any message that shouts louder, “I am insecure about my manhood, and honest competition terrifies me,” than trying to keep others from an education, especially keeping girls from an education?
When She Was 15, Some Gutless Wonder Did Shoot Her
Got to wonder, if the brainwashed young man who fired three shots at her on 9 October 2012, feels more manly now. Or, does he wonder if all the propaganda he was fed was, in fact, neither effective nor true?
Because if anything, his act has brought more support to the cause of Malala and education for girls, worldwide.
The would-be assassin stopped the bus on the way back from the school. Because it takes a lot of cojones to stop and start shooting at a bus full of young, unarmed schoolgirls. *rolling eyes*
Malala was critically wounded, while two other girls were also wounded. Luckily, between Pakistan treatment and an airlift to the UK, with intensive surgeries and therapy, she has (almost?) fully recovered.
To the Taliban, Malala is an outspoken slut, who should be silenced.
To the rest of the world, she’s a heroine.
And This Is Why Malala Deserved the Nobel Peace Prize
After she recovered, despite continuing death threats, she has continued advocating for the education of girls (and boys), worldwide.
The problem for the Taliban, like the Christian far-right in the US, the Jewish far-right in the US and Israel, and the other Islamic extremists in many middle eastern counties, remains. When girls and boys receive a thorough education, they are much less likely to adopt extreme positions.
The best antidote for hate and ignorance is education. And NOT letting extremists stand in the way, or to change the curriculum to nonsense, whether that means equating (Christian) creationism is a “thing” to be taught alongside evolution, or calling 8 year old girls whores and spitting on them as they are walking to school.
Malala shares the Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi, longtime activist against child labor. And she has won dozens of other Awards, from the International Children’s Peace Prize (2011), to Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year (2013).
About the Great Sluts in History series:
What makes a woman a “slut,” anyway? From Lillith to Jezebel to Sandra Fluke, it seems that whenever women are in positions of power, open about their sexuality, “too outspoken,” or heaven forbid, all three, they are labeled sluts by some men (and sometimes other women), in an attempt to shame them into “knowing their place.” And into meekly accepting “their place.”
This series will look at flawed and wonderful heroines throughout history who insisted on “Following their own weird,” no matter how much it cost them to do so. And how, by doing so, they made the world better for all humans, of all genders, who followed them.
“…it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights… If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” ~Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1995
Would you take a stand you thought was right, even against death threats?
Has shooting anyone ever changed hearts and minds?