This young girl may lose her life - because, like boys in her land, she wanted to be able to learn. We must not ignore what is happening - and rise to the challenge.
On Tuesday afternoon, Malala Yousafzai was a 14-year-old girl riding home on a school bus. Now, after a masked gunman apparently boarded her bus, asked for her by name and shot her in the head and neck, she is fighting for her life. Malala was targeted by the Pakistani Taliban because for the past three years she has spoken out for the rights of all girls to become educated. After this despicable shooting, a Taliban spokesman said that his organization considers Malala’s crusade for education rights an “obscenity” and accused her of “propagating” Western culture. If she survives, the group promises to try again to kill her.
Condemnations of the attempt on Malala’s life have been swift and powerful. The U.S. government called it “barbaric” and “cowardly.” Pakistan’s prime minister said, “Malala is like my daughter, and yours too. If that mind-set prevails, then whose daughter would be safe?” And the Pakistani army’s chief general said that the Taliban has “failed to grasp that she is not only an individual, but an icon of courage.”
Speaking out after an atrocious act, however, isn’t enough. Malala inspires us because she had the courage to defy the totalitarian mind-set others would have imposed on her. Her life represents a brighter future for Pakistan and the region. We must speak up before these acts occur, work to ensure that they do not happen again, and keep our courage to continue to resist the ongoing cruelty and barbarism of the Taliban. Malala Yousafzai refused to look the other way. We owe it to her courage and sacrifice to do the same.
Malala is the same age as another writer, a diarist, who inspired many around the world. From her hiding place in Amsterdam, Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Today, for Malala and the many girls like her, we need not and cannot wait. We must improve their world.