If you have picked up a newspaper or turned on the TV news in the past 11 months, then you probably know of Malala Yousafzai, a courageous Pakistani girl who stared down the Taliban and took 2 bullets to the head. Today, as Malala’s influence spreads across the Muslim world, the Taliban is realizing that attacking a 14 year old girl was a terrible move. Even among religious zealots, their cause was dealt a blow.
Malala was targeted by Taliban militants who sought to suppress her appeal for an education. They stormed her minivan school bus and shot her twice in the face. But she survived. After surgery to replace parts of her cranium, implant a cochlea into her inner ear and reattach nerves to facial muscles, she is making an astounding recovery thanks to triage surgeons in Pakistan and a team of specialists at Queen’s Hospital in Birmingham England.
Mala didn’t want a free education, or one that was mandatory for girls who accept the radical Islam enforced by Taliban militants. She simply advocated for halting their intimidating ban on the education of all girls, including the destruction of 250 schools, and the murder of families who object to their twisted religious doctrine.
But many Wild Ducks have yet to learn of Malala’s back story. For many in the West, it began when the New York Times created a 32 minute video about the life and efforts of Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. In the picturesque Swat Valley, just north of the Islamabad, he operated a private high school and college for girls. Ziauddin recruited and paid a professional staff and maintained surprisingly high academic standards.
The New York Times profiled Malala’s life 2 years before she was shot
Although the Times video ends with Malala meeting President Obama’s attaché, she was not yet the object of international attention. Filmed just before and after her twelfth birthday, it captures the profound regional change. It begins with interior scenes of Malala’s home and her father’s school. The family lives with unbearable stress, because of a Taliban decree that schools admitting girls must close within the week. Their radio broadcasts warn that school staffs and parents will be held accountable for any girl who receives an education. The meaning of ‘accountable’ isn’t lost on parents or schools. Gunman shoot, burn, amputate or bomb anyone violating the Fatwa. Half of the pupils stop coming (and stop paying tuition). Across the region, the few schools that weren’t already destroyed are shut off to girls.
Then, The New York Times video covers siege and exile. It follows the father’s flight from Swat, including his 4 month separation from family. Eventually, he returns to a home and school that was occupied by the local army in an apparently successful effort to expel the Taliban. But the narrator explains that Taliban militants are hiding among the refugees, taking food from western charities and slipping back into the region along with returning citizens.
But what about Malala? In addition to exhibiting extreme chutzpah, she is a living testament to her father’s educational methods. Even at 11, she is poised, articulate, multilingual and startlingly proficient in math and science.
Malala talks about her remarkable recovery after being shot in the face by Taliban militants
What does AWildDuck think about Malala and the events that forged courage amongst depravity? There is an astounding array of ignorance, hate and extremism in this world. Extremism inevitably leads to trauma, like that which this girl has endured. Yet, here, we are witness to the emergence of an intelligent and astonishing young adult! Her strength has risen with each ignorant and evil act of tormentors. In short order, she has become a beacon of truth and human dignity. What an amazing triumph of compassion, medical skill and sheer will power over the forces of intolerance.
Malala Yousafzai will go on to do great things. She has demonstrated that she cannot be silenced—certainly not by a bullet. She is an incredible force for good and an inspiration for us all.