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Malala Yousafzai: an unsung hero

by Anne Kingma-Lord October 30, 2012
Malala Yousafzai: an unsung hero

“In the world, girls are going to school freely. And there is no fear. But in Swat, when we go to our school, we are very afraid of Taliban. He will kill us. He will throw acid on our face. He can do anything.”

Malala Yousafzai pronounced these words when she was only 11 years old, when she was still able to attend her private school in Swat Valley, Pakistan. Now, at 15, Malala is an icon and encourages people to fight for girl’s education all around the world.

Last Tuesday, Malala was attacked on her way back from school. Why? Because she showed up for class. Because the Taliban wants girls in schools to wear the burka, a veil that covers the whole body and only leaves a grating for eyesight. Because she defied the Taliban by saying things like: “they cannot stop me,” and “I will get my education if it’s at home, school or anywhere else.”

People in Pakistan need to be inspired by this young girl. In a country where women are seriously oppressed, she stepped up and defied the Taliban. This 15-year-old girl has brought a country to its knees.

“This is a turning point. In Pakistan, for the first time, all political parties, Urdus, Christians, Sikhs, all religions prayed for my daughter,” said Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father.

“She is not just my daughter, she is everybody’s daughter.”

Countries like Pakistan, that are terrorized day after day by groups such as the Taliban, need to find their voice, just like Malala did. More importantly, it is imperative that the rest of the world take action as well.

I am deeply moved by this young girl, and feel ashamed for sometimes taking my education for granted. As educated and free university students, it is our duty to take a stand against this injustice.

“Why should we let a bunch of uneducated cowards and thugs be the press secretaries of Islam when the faith, much like Western secular values, is an illustrious enabler of women education? Please. Understand that we have a shared enemy here,” said Dr. Faheem Younus, clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland and the founder of the website www.muslimerican.com. He said he was shocked by the Taliban’s actions and argued that Islamic belief and values have nothing to do with these fearful men.

Fortunately, Yousafzai did not die, she is still being treated in the UK.

The state of things in Pakistan are seriously deteriorating. Children are woken up by the sound of gunfire at night. People receive daily Taliban threats via FM radio and the list of refugees in camps is growing. Worst of all, teachers and children (especially girls) don’t go to school because they are afraid of being beheaded, whipped, or publicly humiliated.

Populations living in fear is what drives organizations like the Taliban. People need to start defying fear mongerers; Yousafzai has done it, and despite threats from the Taliban that she will be killed if she returns, she’s insisting they return home and she’s already started preparing for her exams. Talk about inspiring.

I can only hope that Malala’s shooting will wake people up and expose the horror of what is happening, not only in Pakistan, but in other countries experiencing violent unrest as well.

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