Who is Malala?
I have never been so moved by a piece of non-fiction. The elements of Pakistani suburban life were a foreign mystery before the pages of Malala's autobiography unfolded before me. I opted for the book-on-tape experience which brought an added color with audio enhacement in Malala's native accent. The prologue is read by Malala herself and the book is voiced over by actress Archie Panjabi.
Although just a teenager, Malala was already a public speaker, writer, humanitarian, activist and vocal academic when she was targeted by terrorists for her fight alongside her father to gain women's rights to education and basic freedoms. She earned awards across Pakistan for campaigning to start an education foundation in her home land. The Prime Minister presented Malala with the national peace prize in 2011, a prize that is now awarded yearly in Malala's honor and named for her. She was vehemently supported by her parents, each of them portrayed throughout the book in a decorative light of peaceful prospect and progressive thinking. The Yousafzai family was under constant threat for what could easily be viewed as a plight for a better life due to political unrest and the ever-present Taliban. By the time Malala is attacked near the end of the recounting of her teenage years, your heart will burst for her with pride and love.
"Who is Malala?" the terrorist asked through the back of the bus before firing three bullets in her direction. "I AM MALALA," she thought. She was rushed to the neighborhood hospital and it was determined that her wounds were not lethal. The local army commander arrived to arrange transfer of Malala - then just 15 - by helicopter to the intensive care unit at CMH military hospital in Peshawar. Particles of bone had damaged her brain membrane. It was determined that operation of any kind would have to be postponed and brain damage was threatening. Her blood pressure went low, she swelled and threat of infection was strong. "It seemed that everything that could go wrong, had."
Meanwhile the Taliban was fighting right outside of the hospital doorstep.
Swat Valley, Malala's home region in Pakistan
As Malala lay waiting—her family praying incessantly for recovery—on the hospital bed, the people lined up outside the hospital as though waiting for the news. Some even believed that that this high profile young woman who was outspoken and brave had unconscionably "got what was coming to her." The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying that Malala's pioneer role in promoting Western Culture and pro-West ideals were blasphemous. They referenced a TV interview Malala has done where she named her favorite politicians whereby she included our own American President: Barack Obama. Local press continued to attack Malala and her many accomplishments complimentary to the work at her father's school for girls. It was not attractive to see women standing up for their right to anything in Pakistan. Malala could not quiet her pioneer spirit that desperately wanted to learn and share the joy of education with chidlren across the world.
International reaction to Malala's shooting was outrage. The United Nations Secretary General called the incident "a heinous and cowardly act." President Obama deemed it reprehensible. To some, Malala was a peace icon. To others (particularly those who were afraid in their own lands thanks to the Taliban) she was a source of great discomfort. World attention poured in. The United State's own Johns Hopkins offered to treat Malala for free. Malala made a full recovery and went on to tell her story louder and prouder than ever before.
As the book comes to a close for me the tough landscape is now pulsing through my own American fingers and I write to you to tell of the travesty that surrounds innocent people in the middle-east as the war wages on. Malala alludes to and unveils the political discontent in Pakistan giving a full history of the country. She sheds light on the persuasive nature of the terrorist regime and how some people could have unwittingly joined the forces under the false pretense of upholding the religious sanctity of the Quran - the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God. It is a fresh look with what is truly a world view.
Malala's struggle is detestable, but her courage is commanding.
Her struggle is exhausting, but her determination is exalting.
Her story is ennoble.
Since then, Malala has received: a Rome Prize for Peace and Humanitarian Action, December 2012; nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize; TIMES 2013 Influential People award; among others. (FULL LIST) She is a light to the nations and has earned attention on an international level for her groundbreaking work. After her last surgery to repair her ear drum and replace the bone in her head Malala had this to say.
"We human beings don't realize how great god is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has belssed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings; two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty; two feet which walk on the road of life; two hands to work for us and nose which smells the beauty of fragrance and two ears to hear the words of love."
Get to know Malala! Her book on tape is available through the local library.