Malala Yousafzai started her journey toward national prominence in Pakistan when she was asked to write Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl — a blog featured on BBC’s Urdu-language website. The eloquent eleven-year-old chronicled the hardships of life under the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. When the Taliban took control of the area, one of the first things they did was to close all schools for girls. This action forced Malala and other girls to go underground in their quest for an education, clearly a risky venture. Malala, however, continued to use her voice to highlight Taliban atrocities and to champion education for girls. She gained so much popularity that the Taliban actually feared the growing influence of this young girl who refused to allow fear to silence her voice! So, in typical Taliban fashion, these stupid-in-every-sense-of-the-word-thugs went after this now fourteen-year-old girl on the grounds that she was “promoting secularism” —a crime deserving of death.
Earlier this month, Malala and her friends were on their way home from school in northwestern Swat when a gunman approached their vehicle. Once he had identified Malala, he shot her in the head and injured two of her friends. Fortunately, Malala received timely medical attention in Peshawar where military neurosurgeons removed the bullet from her head. She was later flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, a hospital that specializes in this kind of trauma. Latest reports are that Malala will recover from her wounds but will require additional surgeries to replace damaged bones in her head as well as undergo neurological treatment.
In the meantime, this failed attempt to silence Malala has helped others throughout Pakistan and the world to find their own voices. Thousands of outraged Pakistanis have rallied in support of Malala while demanding that those who attempted to kill her be brought to justice. President Zardari said that the attack on Malala “is an attack on all girls in Pakistan, an attack on education, and on all civilized people,” He’s right! Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s Foreign Office minister for Pakistan, wrote in The Sun newspaper: “The Taliban have failed. Malala’s message of freedom and equality has now gone global. Our duty isn’t just to help this little girl. It is to carry on spreading her message.” I agree! By trying to silence one voice the Taliban unwittingly helped thousands of others to find theirs. May God help young Malala to recover fully, and may He give each of us the courage to add our voice to hers. She is a courageous champion, an inspiration, and a reminder of what one person who refuses to be silenced by fear can do to help make our world a better place.