The 15 year old Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban for being outspoken about pursuing her dream of an education, is now in England for life saving treatment. Messages of support from around the world arrive for her daily. Suggestions have already been made that she should receive the Nobel Prize for peace.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda are reported to be outraged by the international press coverage Malala has attracted, turning her into a cause célèbre. The phrases “western contamination and “western interference” have unsurprisingly been much bandied about. A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, justified the attempted murder of the child, telling Pakistani journalists: “She was young but she was promoting western culture in Pashtun areas. This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter”.
I rarely defend western interference in the Middle East but in this case I applaud anyone and everyone prepared to defend the rights of a child against the brutality of spineless cowards hiding behind a hideous cloak of false piety and self righteousness.
What happened to Malala was a disgrace. She, like everyone else on the planet, should be entitled to an education and, rather than attracting punishment of the most barbarous kind, her determination to acquire knowledge should be commended in Pakistan, as it would be anywhere else in the world. The fact that she is female has no bearing on the argument. The desire to read, write and gain knowledge of the world in which we live is not, and must never be, gender specific.
Our disgust and revulsion at those who plotted to kill Malala is compounded by the fact that, they appear to believe, the act had something to do with maintaining the purity of Islamic beliefs. But there is nothing remotely religious in the actions of these men, who have been denounced by Muslims from around the globe. The Islamic World has revered the pursuit of knowledge for thousands of years, over generations it has introduced civilisation to much of value in science, physics and the arts. Men who wish harm to defenceless little girls have no part of it. I am not even sure we should consider them part of the human race.