On October 9, 2012, an assassination attempt was made on Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, who now sits in a stable, yet unconscious state in a military hospital in Peshawar due to her injuries. The plot was carried out by a Taliban gunman who opened fire upon a school bus full of children on the way home from school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai was shot twice – once in the head and once in the neck, while two other girls were wounded as well.
Chief spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, Ihsanullah Ihsan, claimed responsibility for the attack, exclaiming that Yousafzai “is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity,” and that she would be targeted again should she survive. When asked about leaving the country for fear of attacks, Yousafzai’s father, Ziaddun, said simply “We wouldn’t leave our country if my daughter survives or not. We have an ideology that advocates peace. The Taliban cannot stop all independent voices through the force of bullets.”
Malala Yousfzai remains in intensive care, with a Boeing jet from the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, on standby to fly her to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, should her condition worsen. The government of Pakistan, meanwhile, has offered to pay for all medical costs that she incurs.
The provincial information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, announced a government reward of more than $100,000 for information leading to the capture of Malala Yousfzai’s attackers. “Whoever has done it is not a human and does not have a human soul,” he said.
Many across Pakistan are condemning the attack as an act of cowardice and malice. Yousfzai’s campaign for women’s rights and education is a beacon of freedom for many Pakistanis. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said of the young girl, who in 2011 was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize, “Malala is our pride. She became an icon for the country.”
An icon for the country gets a bullet in the head.
The Taliban, since the mid nineties, has made it their mission to enact a governing principle based on strict enforcement of sharia coupled with Pashtun tribal codes. To the detriment of a civilized people in a region desperate for progress, the Taliban have maintained their militant advocacy, committing numerous acts of mass violence, human trafficking, and the oppression of women. With nearly two decades of such a deplorable crusade, the Taliban has never spoken more clearly than they did when they shot a 14-year-old girl in the head for the advocacy of women’s education.
Let’s take the religious element out of the equation for a moment and let’s simply focus on the message. Under sharia, women do not have the same rights as men. Women are not equal; they are seen as property. Education and free speech are frowned upon. Blasphemy is punishable by death, and any amount of forward-thinking is vehemently silenced. Even without the superstition, it’s plain to see just how bonkers these ideas are.
The ability for a civilized people to flourish under these conditions is abysmal, and unfortunately for many in the Middle East, this sort of thing is their reality. The price we pay for the tolerance of people whose religious beliefs enable them to commit acts of violence and hate in the name of peace, love, and god is a great toll. The lines between Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism are blurred in the eyes and the minds of the oppressed who seek not to harm others, but to have the same inalienable rights as everyone else. Take an anti-homosexual slogan like “gays are an abomination”, change it to “blacks are an abomination” and see how well that goes over during a Sunday brunch. On that same topic, take an anti-blasphemy line like “behead those who insult Allah”, change it to “behead those who insult Obama” and watch the uproar commence.
I’m pleased that the majority of Pakistan is coming out in strong opposition to these militant cowards. However, if we are to regain any level of sanity in that region, as well as across the globe, we need to stop confusing tolerance with pacifism and finally say enough is enough.