ENID, Okla. —
Malala is hot.
The 16-year-old Pakistani girl who survived being shot in the face a year ago while she rode home on a school bus, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (though she didn’t win), spoke to the United Nations, met President and Mrs. Obama at the White House (and David Beckham) and has published a new memoir, “I Am Malala.”
The Taliban is hot, too, but not in the same sense. The Taliban is hot as in mad, angry.
A Taliban spokesman told NBC News last week that the radical group not only does not regret trying to kill Malala, but vows they will do it again if they get a chance.
Shahidullah Shadid did assure NBC that they, the Taliban, are not against female education. That wasn’t why they shot Malala, he said.
“The reason we decided to kill her was her anti-Islam and anti-mujahideen campaign on media,” he said.
I wonder how you say “that’s a load of horse leavings,” in Urdu?
From 2009 to the present, the Taliban have attacked more than 800 girls’ schools in northwest Pakistan.
They bomb the schools in the middle of the night, destroying not only classrooms, but often the students’ families’ will to see their daughters risk their lives to get an education.
Mujadeen, incidentally, means Muslim guerilla warriors engaged in jihad. But that can’t be right. Warriors, after all, aren’t afraid of a bunch of little girls.
But these warriors must be, afraid of little girls and the changes they may help enact in their country if they are taught to read, to write, and above all, to think, then grow up to become big girls.
In addition, the Taliban see schools for girls as symbols of Western decadence. Here, of course, women are educated, are free to speak their minds and to pursue their dreams. They are not forced to live under the thumbs of their husbands.
Which is, perhaps one reason why, while Malala’s message of empowering girls through education and her courage in the face of brutality are striking a chord in the Western world, she is not nearly as popular back home in Pakistan.
In her home country she has been referred to as a “CIA agent.” They say she is a drama queen. One Facebook post declares, “We hate Malala.”
“Malala is spoiling Pakistan’s name around the world,” a shopkeeper in her hometown told Reuters.
Why, because she tells the truth, that it is high time Pakistan enter the 21st century when it comes to its attitudes about girls and women, that parts of the country live in abject fear of a group of merciless thugs?
Some in Pakistan even doubt the truth of her story, saying no one could survive being shot in the head. Malala and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords would both beg to differ.
They say she is attacking her country’s traditions and dishonoring her family. This is from Taliban mouthpiece Shadid, again, this time speaking to Reuters. “She says she does not want to live like an illiterate person in a walled compound and deliver children,” he said. “Her mother and grandmother used to live in walled compounds and deliver children, so by saying that she didn’t even spare her mother.”
How dare her not wanting to live as an imprisoned, illiterate, subservient baby machine.
Oh, by the way, Malala is not alone in having survived an attack by the Taliban. Atiya Arshad was shot in the stomach in March when Taliban militants attacked her school with guns and hand grenades.
She survived, but her school’s principal and another student were killed. Atiya is in a wheelchair, but doctors think she will walk again. Atiya Arshad is 11 years old, as was the student who died in the attack.
The Taliban spreads its brand of fear and oppression by attacking school children. And many people in Pakistan support them.
Ahmed Shah, a childhood friend of Malala’s father, told Reuters, “Here in Swat, we have seen the hell that is Taliban rule. And yet, some people still say they would much rather side with the Taliban than Malala. Sometimes people never learn.”
And if they never learn, and if they never question the status quo, and if they continue to shuffle through life with their heads down, minds closed and shoulders slumped, then the Taliban wins.
Which is one of the things Malala is fighting. Her courage and clear-eyed determination to drag her country kicking and screaming into the modern age make her someone to be admired by us all.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.