Malala and the Mullah

October 18, 2012 • Editorial

Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl, is being treated in the United Kingdom for a gunshot wound to the head. She was targeted a week ago by the Taliban for bravely promoting girls’ education and calling for peace in her home region, the Swat Valley. For days after the shooting, [auth] she was threatened with follow-up attacks because of what the Taliban said was her promotion of “Western thinking.”

She arrived in the United Kingdom on Monday, where doctors say she faces a long rehabilitation process. “It was agreed by the panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts that Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received,” said a statement from the Pakistani military. “It is expected that in due course of time she will need repair/replacement of damaged bones of the skull and long-term rehabilitation including intensive neuro rehabilitation.”

The shooting of Ms. Yousufzai was hardly spontaneous. For the past few years, the smiling Malala had been a thorn in the side of Maulana Fazlullah, a Taliban leader known as the “Radio Mullah” for his vitriolic, vicious broadcasts. Ms. Yousufzai had authored a blog under a pen name, “Gul Makai.” Eventually her real identity came out. She launched a campaign for girls’ education, one that brought forth both praise and threats.

Yousufzai knew the risks. “I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk,” she wrote in one entry, referring to a major crossing in the area.

A military offensive eventually pushed Fazlullah out of Swat in 2009. His men found refuge across the border in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, they beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in one of several border raids. Malala wouldn’t be silenced.

The words of a teenage girl resonated so strongly with others that Fazlullah wanted to silence her. The Taliban published death threats against her in newspapers. They pushed them under her door. She would not be deterred, however. “We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop,” said Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman for the regional Swat Taliban.

In Pakistan, more than 32 million girls of primary-school age and 34 million girls of lower secondary-school age don’t go to school.

Yousufzai’s ordeal supports the notion that negotiating with radical Islamists is futile. This is not an enemy that shares any of our goals or values — or can be reasoned with.

In addition to her prospects for eventual recovery, there is another glimmer of hope in this tragic story. The cowardly shooting of Yousufzai has prompted condemnation and outrage among many Pakistanis and, perhaps, some soul searching as well.

Guest Editorial

The Orange County Register

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