This week the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl is in a British hospital, recovering from gunshot wounds to her head she suffered earlier this month. The promising news from doctors Wednesday was that Malala was beginning to move her limbs.
Malala Yousafzai’s story is at various times brave, tragic and uplifting. It is a hopeful sign, perhaps one more indicator that the struggle between violent Muslim extremists and the rest of the world has reached a turning point, one that exposes jihadists’ lack of respect for human life.
Malala lives in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, a province of the nation’s North-West Frontier Province. It’s a region where elements of the Taliban found shelter following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. It’s also a haven for other jihadists wishing to plot their acts of terrorism in relative security.
The Muslim extremists in Malala’s part of Pakistan had a problem with the young girl. She was a forceful advocate for the education of girls. Starting in 2009 as a blogger for the BBC’s Urdu edition, she began describing life in her hometown. In simple but eloquent language, she told of how the Taliban forced the closing of schools for girls, of how the jihadists fostered a climate of violence, of how, in her words, “education is our basic right.”
For her brave stance and subsequent international attention, Malala Yousafzai drew threats from the Taliban. Keep quiet or you will die, said the extremists.
Those threats turned to violent reality on Oct. 9, as Malala was shot in the head by extremists as she was getting off a school bus.
If the Taliban’s intent was to silence Malala and any of her supporters, both in Pakistan and abroad, its plans failed miserably.
If anything, this senseless act of violence against a teen has galvanized resistance against the Taliban in Pakistan, leading residents there to demand the government do more to drive out the radicals. Across the globe, Malala Yousafzai’s plight has stirred millions.
Countries lined up to offer their medical services to the injured young girl. Celebrities, including Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who suffered a gunshot wound to the head in 2011, offered to provide the best care available. Heads of state condemned this violence.
These examples of human compassion drive a stake in the heart of terrorists selling a conspiratorial tale of an evil West. The world’s reaction to Malala Yousafzai’s suffering is a way to root out violent ideology rooted in ignorance. A stark dividing line is drawn, not between East and West, or the Muslim world and the others, but between those who attempt to assassinate a 14-year-old girl for wanting to go to school and the radicals who wish to kill her for expressing that desire.