Sunday Snippet: Malala Yousafzai

“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’

“Then I said, I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Prior to her interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Malala Yousafzai. Now that I have, though, I can’t help but to be in constant awe of her. She may be “only” a 16-year-old Pakistani girl, but she just be the brightest and bravest 16-year-old girl that you’ll ever meet.

Who Is Malala?

Let’s provide a little bit of context. Malala Yousafzai started fighting for every girl’s right to education a few years ago. She loves school. She loves learning. Then, the Taliban came storming through Pakistan, closing down the schools and threatening students and teachers alike with the possibility of death if they disobeyed their orders. Despite all this, Malala persevered and she continued to fight for the right to learn. She wanted to give a voice to those who were too afraid to speak up.

This advocacy caught the attention of the Taliban and they came to her house to silence her. It was on that day that she was shot in the head. Malala survived the attack and while the Taliban wanted to silence her with their bullets, all they did was draw more attention to her cause. She wrote a book, I Am Malala, documenting her journey and her struggles. Today, there are many Malalas, so to speak, fighting for girl’s rights to education.

The Power to Know

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them.”

In peaceful protest, Malala Yousafzai is fighting for education as it is the most empowering weapon you can give to young people. As Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, the best education trains a “person who can figure stuff out that they’ve never seen before.” And that is something that strikes fear in the extremists. Malala is fighting for open discourse and freedom of exploration.

Some people are referring to Malala as this generation’s Benazir Bhutto or Mahatma Gandhi, but a major difference is that she is still a teenager. In fact, she is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She didn’t win last weekend, but that is still a major achievement. In her interview with the CBC, she humbly said that the Nobel Prize should be awarded to someone who has accomplished great things and she felt that she still had very much work to do.

A Real World View

We take many things for granted. We assume that the water from our taps is clean. We assume that government officials won’t come storming into our homes at night to shoot us dead. And we expect our children to have free and open access to a quality education. These assumptions don’t hold up in many parts of the world, particularly those riddled with poverty, war and terrorism.

Check out The Malala Fund for more information and to support her cause.