The United Nations marked October 11th the first International Day of the Girl Child and stressed a great deal on education to avoid child marriages.
Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, blogger and activist who was recently attacked by Taliban, has been making headlines all over the world for her courage and bravery in the face of extremism, uncertainty and fear of life. By speaking out, she became a beacon of hope for all the Pakistani girls, especially those who were deprived of their birthright to education when Taliban took over the Swat Valley in the northwestern province of Pakistan and destroyed or closed their schools.
Growing up in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, I have no memories of the terms “Taliban”, “suicide bombings” or “terrorism”. So, it is sad how things have changed within the last few years. The downward spiral seems never ending. Even though, I call the United States home now but I still share the same hopelessness that millions of Pakistani’s feel today, maybe because I still have loved ones there. The loved ones, who never discriminated between my older brother and I when it came to education or for that matter anything else. Although, fortunately Malala too is blessed with a family supportive of her education, but it is a shame that she had to fight for this right due to the unfavorable circumstances created for girls in her hometown by the same people who shot her.
Unlike how some people may perceive Islam, Muslim parents (just like Malala’s or mine), encouraging their daughters to seek education are nothing out of the ordinary. The very first verses of the Holy Quran revealed to the Prophet of Islam were “Read, with name of Allah (God)”. At one time the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said, "Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim man and Muslim woman" and at another time he insisted his followers to seek knowledge even if it meant to go to China (without any mention of a specific gender). So, when the Taliban say that they shot Malala to end “a new chapter of obscenity” by standing up for her right to education, I don’t know which Islam are they taking about. Their version, absolutely outrageous and not acceptable!
Many girls were forced to stop their education when they took over the Swat Valley for a couple of years, but I am glad that Malala’s efforts have been fruitful in exposing these and other atrocities committed by them. Even when she is fighting for her life, her tribulation showed the true fear the “mighty Taliban” feel from just a teenager. It was heartening to see thousands of people on the streets of Pakistan condemning this act of violence and supporting Malala’s cause even when the perpetrators have warned against another attack if she survives. But to make her ordeal worth something, more Pakistanis have to stand up, and do their part to defeat this extremist ideology.
Although the whole world is appreciative of this young warrior, not much credit has been given to the family and especially the father who encouraged her even when faced with regular threats and fear of life. I think that he has a guaranteed spot in heaven since the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) once said, “He who brings up his daughters well, and makes no distinction between them and his sons, will be close to me in Paradise”.
I was sharing my dismay over the condition in Pakistan with a friend recently and we could not find anything indicative of hope. But after learning about Malala and her bravery, it feels like there is always a silver lining around the clouds, we just have to look for it.
Just recently, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (now the UN's Special Envoy for Global Education) announced launching of a petition which “calls on Pakistan to ensure that every girl like Malala has the chance to go to school," He also called on the international community to ensure all children have access to education by the end of 2015.