POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 18 October 2012, Thursday
And A Little Child Shall Lead Them
Something that our children take for granted and even complain about – an education – is to another child who does not have it a precious thing to fight for and die for.
Malala Yousafzai was shot last week by Taliban assassins because she defied a Taliban ban against female education in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.
Also injured were her schoolmates Kainat Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan.
“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one,” Malala has said before.
The young activist first came to public attention in 2009, in a documentary about the shutdown by the Taliban of the girls’ school she attended.
Her father operated one of the last girls’ schools in the area, and since then she and her family have been the target of Taliban ire.
The world erupted in indignation and anger after her shooting. Among the comments on Facebook were those of Curt Olsen – “Only a coward would shoot an unarmed child” – and Edward Clements – “She should be awarded the Nobel Prize for such bravery.”
Others pointed to the need to bring the Taliban to account for the human rights abuses they continue to perpetrate in the name of religion.
“A very brave girl,” Facebook commenter Andy Poljevka called her. “The world needs to rise up against this craziness.”
Sudhansu Jena lauded Malala’s courage: “No words to appreciate the ‘fight for right.’ The cowards who shot at her are highly condemnable.”
Roger Greatorex opined, “She could be the turning point in the struggle against the so-called ‘Taliban.’ How ironic that ‘Taliban’ means ‘students’ in Arabic.”
Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoon here.
The Pakistani government will pay for Malala’s treatment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in the United Kingdom, where she arrived last Monday for the removal of a bullet lodged in her brain.
Meanwhile, as Malala was being airlifted to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space to freefall down to earth, breaking his 24-mile fall with a parachute and, in a show of incredible skill, landing on his feet.
This, said some netizens, comparing the record-breaking skydive to the shooting of Malala, shows the difference between science and religion.
That is too simplistic a comparison. Islam condemns the murder of innocents. The Taliban are extremists and in no way represent the whole of the Islamic world. But what the two events do show are the triumph of science over religious fundamentalism, of curiosity and the quest for knowledge over intolerance and fanaticism, and of the human desire to explore new frontiers against the human need to cling to old traditions even when they are cruel and destructive.
Malala is the same age as my younger daughter, who is a high school sophomore, now taking her quarterly exams and preparing for the annual school play and cheerdance competition.
Halfway around the world, a girl who could have been her classmate and friend is on the Taliban hitlist for wanting and striving for what my daughter has, an education and a normal life, the chance to be what she can be, perhaps even a spacejumper like Baumgartner.
What is clear is that the abuse of women and children around the world must stop. Malala na ito. (This is at its worst.) This is a battle that must be waged, with constancy and vigilance, on the platform of public opinion so that people may be made aware and changes come about.
Activists denounce the attack on Malala. Image here.
This is a fight, and those who care about the rights of women and children are all its defenders.
There are many cultural and political attitudes that were once thought to be ineradicable, such as apartheid and its policy of white supremacy in South Africa and totalitarian communism in Soviet Russia and East Germany. But both were slowly eliminated over time and through fervent struggle.
Religious intolerance will be harder to conquer. Hatred, one of its manifestations, will always lurk in a corner of the human heart.
The way to evolving into a better society that treats all its members with equality and respect is to prevent hatred and injustice from winning.
We need to be brave enough to keep on fighting for the rights of women and children, because if a child like Malala has the courage, then so must we. ***