Sunday, March 9, 2014

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Sixteen-year-old Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, became the Western world’s poster girl for the “evils of radical Islamics” when she was shot in the face by a young Taliban zealot because she was an outspoken advocate for educating girls and women. Don’t you just love it when someone else takes the bullet to justify your values?

I am Malala is the fairly well written and stirring back-story of Malala Yousafzai, an extraordinarily mature, intelligent and articulate child whose scholar-father groomed her to be the face of education for girls and women in Pakistan. At the age of 11, Malala penned a blog for BBC about life under the Taliban. Unfortunately that made Malala and her father targets for the Taliban’s ruthless “weeding out” of anyone who spoke against them. Fortunately, Malala survived the attempt on her life, catapulting her into a huge limelight and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination (she didn’t win).

While reading Malala’s book, I floated along in my safe self-righteousness, revering and cheering her on for so bravely standing up to tyranny. But what I found most revealing and provocative, not from the book, but rather in my research for this review, was the reaction of Malala’s country-people and peers to her fame and notoriety. Apparently many of her Pakistani fellow advocates of equal education were incensed that Malala gained such notoriety, implying that Western media handpicked her story, out of many stories of Pakistanis’ sacrifice and heroism, to attract audiences and to reinforce the Western world’s political and religious agendas.

I also saw claims that the whole “Taliban terrorism of Pakistan” was sensationalized. Numerous commentators pointed out that a vast majority of Pakistanis live peaceful lives, and girls and women are routinely educated and assume many leadership rolls as adults. I’m not sure how to feel about that.

I also found of interest that since recovering from her gunshot wounds, writing this book (with the support of British journalist, Christina Lamp), and an extensive speaking tour, Malala has steadfastly claimed, and even told President Obama to his face, that she thinks the deployment of American drone attacks in Pakistan are as big a threat to the Pakistani people as armed Taliban raids.

I am Malala is an interesting story about a very interesting child in a interesting setting, and I encourage you to read it, keeping in mind that it is one perspective.

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