On 9th October 2012, terror was prepared to claim it’s next victim- Malala Yousafzai. A young activist fighting for the girl’s right to education in the Swat district of Pakistan, Malala was shot by Taliban on her way home from school. But as fate would have it, the fighter was not going to succumb to a metal cylinder.
The terror attack could not dampen her spirits or her will to live and after a long struggle against death, she is back on her feet, determined to finish what she started. In her first speech at the United Nations on 12th July 2012, Malala spoke about terrorism, education, peace and the empowered woman of today. The address was a celebration of the teenager’s birthday and what the world organisation labelled as the “Malala Day”.
They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. Weakness, Fear and Hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.
As I watch that 16 year old girl speak, I am both dumbstruck and amazed. With her humble attire yet determined beliefs, the only instant emotion is respect. For one, her confidence and strength is far beyond the number of her age. The forgiveness imbibed is an inspiration for any non-believer.
In her near 18-minute speech, Yousafzai talked about how the dreams of young children are being crushed in the wake of terrorism, child labour, poverty and handicapped prejudices. Drawing inspiration from great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi, Malala plans to tread the path of non-violence in her fight against terrorism and discrimination against the girl child. It’s not about anyone’s personal vendetta, it’s about fighting for change and a life of dignity, peace and equal opportunities. Education is the biggest weapon that humanity has against terrorism. Educating children would mean saving them from falling prey to the stunted ideologies of a few who believe in wrecking havoc and claiming lives of innocent people for their personal satisfaction.
A girl who was shot just because she wanted education has much to complain about. But instead of using this as platform to voice her anger against all those who have wronged her, she used this opportunity to lend her voice to those who have been silenced by terrorism, oppression and discrimination. Malala demands education even for the children of the very Talibs that shot her.
The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.
The speech and the journey of Yousafzai raises yet another grave concern. Which way is humanity headed? In a world where the children are killed for demanding their rights and thousands of innocent people are executed just because they happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, how can any of us expect a stable future? Even if after progressing to a stage where a computer means a window to the entire world, if the security and well being of millions is questionable, then all this progress has been for nothing. While one child is blowing up money buying expensive phones and another is off to study in a University half way across the world, others are not only being deprived of bare necessities but his very existence is under the scanner in the face of terrorism. And why just children, men-women, rich-poor, Indian-French- is the certainty of returning back home safely, without being caught in a cross fire of degenerated ideologies too much to ask for?
‘We realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.’
If the voices of freedom are not raised soon enough, they’ll be bound and chained by their own cowardice.
Let there be several voices that are raised. Let there be more Malalas.