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October 15, 2012

Pakistanis Stand with Malala


Arooj is a junior reporter for Youth Journalism International, an organization that works with more than 200 students around the globe.

The Taliban, a militant group with roots in Pakistan and Afghanistan that seeks to implement its own strict interpretation of Islam, recently shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck, promting outrage around the world.

Malala was targeted specifically for publicly advocating a girl’s right to education in Pakistan and speaking out about Taliban atrocities in her home, Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The Taliban do not believe girls should go to school.

Arooj recently wrote about the Pakistani public’s reaction to Malala’s shooting, and the widespread backlash against the Taliban and their interpretation of Islamic law.

LAHORE, Pakistan – Across the length and breadth of Pakistan at noon today, people prayed, whether they were at home, school, an office, a mosque or wherever they happened to be.

All of them prayed for the same thing: the recovery of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who is lying unconscious in a military hospital after a Taliban gunman shot her three days ago on the way home from school.

Thinking of Gul Makai, the pen name that Malala used, gives me goose bumps. My heart mourns. What else can I do? I feel depressed and frustrated that women who stand up for change, who decide to face whatever may come, can suffer such a cruel assault.

What was Malala’s crime? That she wanted to study? That she spoke the truth? I don’t understand.

Pakistan vs. the Taliban

On one side are the vicious Taliban, loaded with heavy weapons, and on the other, there is the innocent Malala, who only has a pen and some pieces of paper.

The Pakistani nation has always stood against the Taliban in one way or another, but I have never seen such general outrage against its activities. I hope that it will lead to a good ending.

In the long run, Malala and her passion for education will win, not the fanatics and their disgusting agenda.

When I was very young, I visited the Swat Valley, where Malala lives. I have faint memories of a peaceful, beautiful valley.

Then the Taliban came, setting up military operations there, bringing hard times for many, including Malala, who couldn’t go to school freely.

When I read parts from Malala’s diary, I am filled with shame because I don’t think that any of us would have been so brave if we were in her place. I can’t imagine how she found the courage to sneak to school in her pink dress, slipping past the Taliban soldiers so she could pursue her studies. Because of her commitment to education, her passions, ideas and words matter.

And yet she is only one girl.

What about those numerous innocent Pakistanis who die every day in bomb blasts, targeted strikes and drone attacks?

Taliban Accuses Malala of Westernism

The Taliban’s reasoning for shooting Malala is totally baseless. Westernism? Admiration for U.S. President Barack Obama? The desire to learn?

The gunman who shot her supposedly said Malala was “propagating against the soldiers of Allah. She must be punished.”

But Malala was merely promoting education, which is an important part of Islam. A well-known hadith says that getting an education is mandatory for every Muslim man and woman.” So how can they think that they are soldiers of Allah?

The Taliban does nothing to promote the rules of Islam. They have, in fact, always been against its tenets.

Malala did exactly what Islam calls on her to do by stressing the importance of education. How can the Taliban argue that education is a Western influence? It is not.

Moreover, even if she was promoting Westernism, so what? It’s not a crime and deserves no punishment.

Pakistan itself was only formed because its founders valued education. They were purely Eastern and fully educated, too. Without their formal schooling, Pakistan would never have gained its independence.

Besides, I don’t think there is anything to be scared of if the West mixes with East and vice versa. The world is now a “global village” and people, cultures and customs are coming closer to each other.

I cannot understand why Malala and so many others should be treated so badly. The whole world is with Malala now and I don’t think the cruel men who shot her will escape the consequences of their actions.

In the meantime, we must pray for Malala. We must stand united. And we must make her dreams come true.

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