Malala’s Real Message

As a 15-year-old British schoolgirl, what struck me about this teenager’s life was that she isn’t a victim, but a role model whose every day is a protest.

When a young girl is shot, people are shocked. When a young girl is shot because she wants an education, people are outraged. This is what Britain would like to believe about itself anyway. But what truly angered me, as a girl of 15, was why Malala Yousafzai was targeted. When I first read about her story last year, all I could really take from it was how horrible the Taliban was and how helpless this Pakistani girl was. The media didn’t really take on board the fact, which emerges from her book I am Malala, co-written with Christina Lamb (Orion, £18.99), that every single day for her was a protest. She would hide her pens and books under her clothes on the way to school and ignore the Taliban’s threats. She is a role model, not just a victim.

Like other British teenagers, I often forget how lucky I am to have so many opportunities to do well. The Taliban said they shot Malala because they saw her as a symbol of secularism and Westernisation. In fact, for British teenagers, a very “Western” practice is absolutely despising school. The idea that teenagers hate school is constantly being projected onto our minds through films, music and the internet. What the Western media could and should have done was to show us how much this girl craved education and the opportunity to learn. 

Her desire for the right to an education was not only fuelled by wanting to have a successful life. The Taliban became powerful in Swat, the area in which Malala lived, because of people’s ignorance. They used the fact that no one could understand the Koran as a way of exploiting them, telling them lies about what it said or meant. This is why people initially did not find the Taliban a threat, since it is supposedly Islam that they are fighting for. Malala seems to have been used by the Pakistani media as the central person to speak out against discrimination in the name of terror, mostly because journalists were too scared themselves to even attempt to make such determined statements.

Having got the attention of adults in Pakistan, Malala needs to get all young women to make a stand, just as the Taliban got the young men of Pakistan to join their movement. Malala was lucky to have such a supportive father but I wonder why she is the only one to be so proactive, as her father was a relatively respected man in their village. Anyway, this book will inspire you not only to stand up for your beliefs but also to value the essential part of all civilisation (not just Western) that is education.

Although Malala did not win the Nobel peace prize, it doesn’t really matter. What is important, as she seems to be well aware, is that hers is now a globalised cause and the Taliban will have to take on the world if they want to keep women at home all day. 

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