11/08/2012 09:41 EST | Updated 01/08/2013 05:12 EST

With Only a Pen in Her Hand

There are times in human history when a single person becomes a metaphor for philosophy, morality, humanity, poetry, literature, and human stature, all rolled into one. Such persons lead by example, at times sacrificing their own lives for their convictions. We live in the times of Malala Yousafzai.


There are times in human history when a single person becomes a metaphor for philosophy, morality, humanity, poetry, literature, and stature, all rolled into one. Such persons lead by example, at times sacrificing their own lives for their convictions.

Socrates is a name that rings true to this definition. In the history of Islam, the names of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and mystic agnostic Mansoor Hallaj, have similarly guided the Muslims. Fortunate are those who could spend even a moment in the shadows of such individuals or lived in their times.

We too are fortunate. We live in the times of Malala Yousafzai. She is the Pakistani Muslim teen who was brazenly shot in the head and injured by the Taliban -- agents of darkness and oppression who profess the distorted ideology of Islamic Sharia.

Her crime? She was shot because she had struggled for the right of girls to education in Pakistan.

After shooting her and also injuring two of her friends, they boldly accepted responsibility and warned that they will return to kill her if she survived. It was not just her campaign for education that upset the Taliban, they also accused her of promoting secularism.

This brutal action has unified the people of Pakistan, and even some Taliban supporters, in denouncing the Taliban and their vicious ideology of Islamic extremism; including a group of Muslims scholars who have demanded the elimination of Taliban.

Hailing from one of the most underdeveloped and conservative areas of Pakistan, yet known for its picturesque beauty, Malala began her struggle when the Taliban captured the region of Swat and the city of Mingora, which she calls home. After encroaching into this area and thwarting the writ of Pakistani government, they banned education for girls, began thrashing girls in public for violating the Islamic rules imposed by them, and began attacks on girls' schools, reportedly destroying almost 400 of them.

During this reign of terror, Malala, whose father is also an educationist and promoter of accessible education for girls, pleaded before the army generals and the governor of her province to help open schools so that the children, and specifically the girls, of her terrified region could complete their education.

Around the same time, she began writing am anonymous diary under the pseudonym Gul Makai for the BBC, documenting her experience, and the torment of the people terrorized by the Taliban.

The Pakistani army, which is often perceived to be the creator of the Taliban during the Afghan war with the Soviet Union, finally cracked down on the its Frankenstein monster, and pushed them out of the Swat valley. The defeated Taliban dispersed into the tribal regions, bordering Afghanistan.

Malala was honored by Pakistanis for her efforts and became an ambassador of girls' education, visiting various regions and schools in Pakistan.

She was also nominated for the International Peace Prize for Children at the age of thirteen. This is when the Taliban became her sworn enemies and called for her execution.

She was aware of the danger she faced as result of her struggle. Foreseeing the risks, she once said, "I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right".

In an interview she also suggested that she will challenge the Taliban on their concepts of Islamic injunction, and would ask them as to where in the Qur'an is there a prohibition on education for women. While criticizing the Taliban she also questioned the procrastination of Pakistan's army in fighting against the Taliban's oppressive regime.

"It seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen," she wrote.

Throughout her struggle, Malala was aware of the power of the pen. While speaking to a group of school children she said, "I know the power of the pen...when things were bad...I used the pen [to fight]for my rights, I did not use a gun, ... I only had my pen as my weapon."

On another occasion, she quoted these proverbial lines of one of Pakistan's greatest poets of resistance, Habib Jalib, "I have a pen in my hand and an enlightened mind; I cannot be scared by any agent of darkness. I have world peace in my imagination, and you have your own self to worry about; I am the rising sun and you are bound to vanish like a setting star."

Malala has now been transferred to a hospital in the UK where she is receiving the specialized care that she deserves. The hospital has also set up links to its website where people can leave messages and provide donations for her care.

It is important to note that while Malala is struggling to recover, supporters of the Taliban have unleashed a malicious character assassination against her, declaring her an agent of the U.S. and the CIA.

With public opinion against the Taliban at its peak, it is time that the government and the army of Pakistan move decisively and finally eradicate the Taliban and their evil ideology. Otherwise Pakistan will remain in the clutches of tyranny.

That seems to be a tall order, since many in the Pakistani national media and political spectrums still do not have the courage to accuse the Taliban by name for its atrocity. There are many in Pakistan who still offer various excuses to protect the Taliban. A resolution by the Pakistan Peoples Party to begin an action against the Taliban has been stalled by the right wing opposition led by Pakistan Muslim League. Only one major Pakistani political party, the MQM, has openly denounced the Taliban and supported action against them.

It seems that Pakistan is at another crossroads in its turbulent history, and how the country carries itself after allowing such an atrocity to occur will be tantamount in determining its future, and the future of its inhabitants. Malala is the ambassador of peace that has set an example for Pakistani youth, about whom the icon of progressive Pakistani poetry, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, prophetically wrote, "To ambassadors of the future, who like the fragrance of a rose, sacrifice themselves for their message." All of us should stand with her in her struggle.