Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Uppity Woman (Child) #21: A Profile in Courage

From the Muslim Times, Veronique De Viguerie / Getty Images, file


Uppity: rebelliously self-assertive; not inclined to be tractable or deferential.

I know of no person who better embodies the spirit of the amazing women on my list of "Uppity Women" than Malala Yousafzai. Yet Malala is a child of only 14. She is "uppity" because she dared to blog, under a pseudonym, about the atrocities committed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Swat Valley for the BBC, that bastion of apostasy, in 2009, at the amazing age of 11. Her blog espoused both her desire and firm belief in her right to an education, and her outrage at the destruction of schools and the violence visited on peaceful Pakistanis who wanted their daughters to be educated or those who wanted to educate all children. The Taliban in the Swat Valley are clearly very threatened by the idea of educated females, and by Malala in particular, because yesterday two of their thugs proudly got on her school bus in Mingora, Swat and after asking which girl was Malala, shot her in the head and neck, then shot two other education righteous-thinking girls for good measure. Malala has survived the shooting, although just barely. Reports still insist the bullet did not penetrate her brain.

Malala, who was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2011,  won the Pakistani National Peace Prize in December, 2011. The Government School for Girls was renamed the Malala Yousafzai School earlier this year. Her attempted assassination, for certainly she was a well-known and charismatic figure, has brought immense sorrow, anger and embarrassment in various circles in Pakistan. But among the Tehrik-i-Taliban there is only the consternation that she is the girl who lived, albeit precariously so at this point. Their leader, Ihsanullah Ihsan has said tersely, "Let this be a lesson," and promised they will try to kill her again for the obscenity of her desire for her rights and Western-tainted values. 

The Pakistani National Airline has said they are ready to fly her to any facility in the world for further medical care but she is evidently not stable enough to be moved. Meanwhile, demonstrators flooded the streets, as evidenced by the many photos on Al Jazeera and other Islamic news outlets. This morning the government of Pakistan offered a 10 Million Rupee bounty for the men that shot Malala and her friends, an extraordinary sum. Roads are barricaded, streets bear signs decrying the shooting and Pakistani PM Pervez Ashraf said of the attack, "She is our daughter." Journalist Nadeem F. Paracha said in a positively brutal tweet on Twitter, "Come on brothers, be REAL MEN. Kill a schoolgirl." Yet, the Karachi-based Paracha's column in today's Dawn lays the blame for Malala's suffering not just on the Taliban but on Pakistanis themselves, who he paints in stark contrast, due to their apathy, to brave souls like Malala.

A friend asked me this morning about whether Malala couldn't get asylum in the West. I guess the US or the UK would be able to grant her asylum. Surely there is ample cause. But imagine uprooting your entire family and struggling to rebuild their lives so far from home. Why should she, or they, have to seek asylum, is my thought. Why can't a 14 year old girl be safe on a school bus or in her government school? Why should she or her friends live in fear? Why should any of the lessons she's learning have to do with grown men shooting children? Why can't she study as long as she wants to, and whatever she wishes to? 

Malala, who was named after a Pashtun poet and warrior woman, clearly saw the risks of opposing the Taliban, based on her direct experience and as detailed in her blogging. And yet, she was a child and children never internalize risks as adults do. Perhaps her courage will galvanize her elder compatriots and make them see, yet again, that the very future of their country is being brutalized and terrorized. Demonstrators in Benghazi, Libya took matters into their own hands, striking against, and routing, the Ansar-al-Sharia who killed Ambassador Chris Stevens. Maybe the people of Swat Valley need to make their voices, and their will, clearer to the Tehrik-i-Taliban? Maybe the bravery of "their daughter" will be the catalyst for the change that Malala believes in

The world, excepting a pack of barbarians, wishes this child a full recovery.

Demonstrators protesting Malala's shooting in Peshawar.

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