Fourteen year old Malala Yousafzai was coming back home from school on Tuesday when a man came and shot her in the head. It wasn’t long before a spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban publicly claimed responsibility for the attack. What was Malala’s crime? She was an advocate for girl’s education in the Swat Valley. She even had the gall to express admiration for President Obama. The spokesman went further and said she would be targeted again if she continued to promote western values. According to the Taliban, female education is a Western value. I wonder where we would be if it were not for the female scholars who have contributed to Islam. It’s hard to imagine whether Aisha (RA) would still be one of the greatest contributors of hadith and one of the greatest scholars of all time if she had never been educated.
As I write this Malala is lying in a military hospital, fighting for her life. The bullet missed her brain but still has left her unable to breathe unassisted. But her experience has galvanized the people of a country mired in endless problems. Pakistanis have poured into the streets in support of young Malala. Even the Pakistani military, which is responsible for funding and abetting the Haqqani Network, a faction of the Taliban, spoke out against the attack.
Malala’s story is emblematic of the lives of many ordinary Pakistanis who are the victims of a violent, militant movement, a country in tatters, and a military-dominated government incapable of providing basic functions to its citizens. Malala was not a politician or a famous public figure. But she has achieved what Pakistani politicians and generals have been grappling with for almost a decade now. The tide is turning against the Pakistan’s Taliban. Malala’s struggle might be the beginning of the end.