I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, a social activist in Swat Valley, 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; the whole world has fallen in love with her.
Since the young age of 11 years old, Malala has been an education activist by writing blogs under a pseudonym [in fear of being harmed] for BBC about life under Taliban rule, her attempts to take control of Swat Valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. On October 9th 2012, at the age of 15, her activism faced a halt. She was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban as she returned home on the school bus. However, her message and undying passion continue to blossom not only in Pakistan, but for all of humanity.
The Taliban declares that it is their religious duty to prevent women from receiving a western education. This isn’t Islam. Ziauddin explained his determination: “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 beliefs that Malala holds and fights for is something that we all share. A life of unrestricted freedoms, consistent peace, and the right to an opportunity of 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’s right to freedom is an attack on my right to freedom.
As talks of the TIME’s Person of the Year Award, Nobel Peace Prize Award, and Influential Global Thinkers rise to the occasion, it saddens me that Malala’s presence and message is overpowered by those who don’t benefit the good of their people. 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 in result of my criticisms. For those like Malala, publicly fighting for liberty is sacrificial, martyrdom to the dream that all humankind should behold.
I am a strong believer in self-determination and self-governance of other countries. In that belief, do I wish that the Malalas of Pakistan determine its path. If the Taliban claims victory, there could not be another Fareeda Afridi, another Benazir Bhutto, and another Malala Yousafzai. As I am very critical of the United States use of drone strikes on Pakistani civilians, I believe that we owe it to ourselves to stand up for Malala. I believe that we owe it to ourselves to carry on her message of liberty in Pakistan. We owe it to ourselves to let Pakistan know that the United States believe that Malala’s message and her supporters can change the future of Pakistan.
Although she may be silenced now, Malala has ignited the world with a cause too powerful to be ignored. She hasignited a children’s movement, with children wearing “I am Malala” t-shirts. Her vision is bold and mature beyond her years, a vision that even adults may not think of.
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 and hopeful recovery. Malala 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 Islam, peace, and liberty. I will stand up, because I believe that the Taliban does not represent them. 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 Pakistan can determine its own future and sustain their cause with their own voices. I will stand up, because I believe that Malala’s voice must rise in strength and courage with million others in unison — so that their 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.