Ziauddin Yousafzai, a social activist in Swat Valley, Pakistan, said to American filmmaker Adam Ellick about his daughter, Malala Yousafzai, “When I saw her for the first time […] and I looked into her eyes, I fell in love with her.” Ziauddin isn’t alone; Malala is now beloved worldwide thanks to her fearless activism against Taliban oppression.
Since the young age of 11, Malala has been fighting for the ability to seek an education by writing blogs under a protective pseudonym for the BBC about life under Taliban rule and the terrible consequences it has for education for girls. On October 9th 2012, at the age of 15, her activism, she was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban in reaction to her blogging. Fortunately, she survived, and her message of individual liberty regardless of gender continues to spread not only in Pakistan, but all around the globe.
The Taliban declares that it is their religious duty to prevent women from receiving a western education, but Malala’s father Ziauddin disagrees: “Islam teaches us that getting an education is compulsory for every girl and wife, for every woman and man. This is the teaching of the holy Prophet,” he said. “Education is a light and ignorance is a darkness, and we must go from darkness into light.”
The liberty that Malala and her family hold and fight for is something that we all agree is important — a life of unrestricted freedom, consistent peace, and the right to pursue prosperity. Malala dreams to become a doctor. She cries as she realizes that her denial of an education by the Taliban will make it nearly impossible for her dream to come true. I cry too, realizing that an attack on any individual freedom is an attack on my freedom.
As talks of the TIME’s Person of the Year Award, Nobel Peace Prize Award, and Influential Global Thinkers rise to the occasion to honor this girl, it saddens me that Malala’s message has been so strongly opposed by those in power where she lives. As I have dedicated myself to political activism in the United States, I have truly appreciated the right to my free speech without the fear of any harm. For those like Malala, publicly fighting for liberty is risky and sacrificial.
I am a strong believer in self-determination and self-governance for all countries. Malala and her fellow peaceful Pakistanis should be in charge of their nation’s future — not the Taliban, and not the US government through it’s ongoing, shameful drone warfare.
Although she may be silenced now, Malala has ignited the world with a cause too powerful to be ignored. She has ignited a children’s movement, with children wearing “I am Malala” t-shirts. Her vision is bold and mature beyond her years.
As students around the world skip school or don’t appreciate their freedom to attend or not to attend school, Malala lays in the bed of a hospital in the United Kingdom praying for a fast recovery. She wants to go back to her home, back to her school, and back to Pakistan to continue to fight for her people.
She is not only a symbol of what some may consider as “feminism,” she is a symbol of liberty. She is the symbol of the inner fire of perseverance in all of us. Malala is exactly the woman I inspire to be one day.
I will continue to stand up for Malala. I will stand up because I can only wish that the attack on her will only strengthen those who believe in peace and liberty. I will stand up because I believe that the Taliban does not represent Pakistan. I will stand up because I believe that the shooting of an innocent school girl does not please the God of Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad. I will stand up because I believe that Pakistanis can determine their own future. I will stand up, because I believe that Malala’s voice must rise in strength and courage with million others in unison — so that the eternal flame of liberty will always stand bright.
Below are some ways to spread the message of Malala Yousafzai:
- Vote for Malala as Time’s Person of the Year.
- Sign the petition to the Nobel Prize Committee to grant her the Nobel Peace Prize.
Here are other options that you can take to help girls like Malala around the world: