SPECIAL FROM LATIFAH RAHMDEL AT UNITED ARAB EMIRATES UNIVERSITY IN AL AIN, ABU DHABI — Not only in Pakistan, but from all over the world people have been following the case and sending prayers for Malala Yousafzai, the brave 14-year-old girl targeted and shot in the head last week by Taliban men.
Malala had shown amazing, early signs of intelligence and maturity. At the age of 11, she started writing blogs for BBC Urdu on the plight of female students under the Taliban’s increasing power in her home province of Swat. Because of her courage, Malala was nominated to receive a United Nations Peace Award.
But on October 9, she was stopped on her way home from school, was asked her name and then shot in the head. The shooting put a bullet through her skull and shoulder but fortunately – through some miracle – not through her brain. Several other girls were injured in the event as well.
This is today’s Taliban. With their forces crawling all over Swat, the group has openly declared its opposition to female literacy. Solely because of that, not long ago, Swat schools encouraged girls for their safety to abandon their normal school uniforms and to come to class “disguised” in regular outfits.
Malala wrote in one of her blogs about female students having to hide books under the chador – the long veil worn when commuting to school. With Taliban men threatening fathers all the time, Malala writes that the number of students in her classroom went from 27 to 10. Frightened fathers would rather keep their daughters home than risk losing them altogether.
The Taliban shamelessly claimed responsibility for the attack on Malala because “she has been promoting secularism” and “was encouraging women to leave their houses and husbands.”
A close Afghani friend of mine who’s currently studying in the United States, Sayed Saber Ibrahimi, said of the shooting: “Malala’s bravery also shows the failure of the regional and international governments in fighting terrorism and radicalism in the region. The attack on Malala shows that the Taliban has no respect for women’s rights. If they return to power, either in Afghanistan or Pakistan, they will further oppress women. Therefore, it is essential that in any peace negotiations with the Taliban, women’s rights and other human liberties should be put on the table.”
And so the Taliban, claiming to be an Islamic-based entity yet failing to keep up with the basic teachings of Islam, have once again outraged all decent people around the world. The Islam I know calls for providing education for both male and female equally, and encouraging Muslims from both genders to pursue knowledge – even learning new languages. Countless verses in Quran encourage Muslims to read, work their minds and get education in different languages. To quote Prophet Mohammed: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God.”
Targeting women and women’s literacy are not new games for the Taliban and others like them. Who can forget what happened to Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto? How can Pakistan pose as a country that is pushing forward the wheel of women’s rights and producing women icons, when it shows itself so helpless when it comes to protecting them from the Taliban’s dark mentalities?
Malala Yousafzai is a proof that at any price, the Taliban should be denied power. From a Muslim viewpoint, protests ought to be universal and concerned Muslims should disown the Taliban and not let them get away claiming to act according to Islam, because it is clear to the naked eye that Islam is being used as a scapegoat for an inhumane lust for power and control.
In situations similar to this, action must be taken – not over unresolved issues thousands of years old, nor over insignificant cartoons and films. Terrorism ought to be fought from the inside out.