There are times when the miraculous occurs for all to see. But when the next grisly or sensationalist event in the news shoves aside the novelty of the miraculous, it’s time to remind people that yes, miracles do still happen. And if we don’t remember them, marvel at them, thank God for them, become inspired and empowered by them, we will have lost something more valuable than the miracle itself: we will have lost our hope.
The miracle in question was the triumph of life over death, good over evil, where the best and the worst representatives of the religion of Islam met face-to-face. Only this time, what did not happen is what most always happens when armed Islamist thugs shoot unarmed moderate Muslims or others who stand up to them to denounce their evil, extremist interpretation of Islam.
Now seemingly eons ago, but only this past Oct. 9th in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, an area infamous for being controlled and terrorized by the Taliban, a teenage Pashtun girl named Malala Yousafzai was shot twice at point-blank range by a Taliban gunman. The miracle, as millions around the world now know, was that Malala did not die. (Another schoolgirl was also shot on the assumption that she was Malala, and that girl also survived -- she is in stable condition and expected to recover.)
The Taliban, upon learning of Malala’s incredible escape from death, openly claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed to finish her off if she recovered. Following the shooting, she was airlifted to a hospital in England where she has been recovering quite well, thank God, with thousands upon thousands of letters of support and encouragement arriving from all over the world.
Malala’s crime is that she champions the education of girls. Now 15, she is already a veteran in the struggle in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley, having started at the tender age of 11 by criticizing, denouncing and reporting (via a BBC worldwide blog) the many evils and atrocities the Taliban has committed since gaining political and religious control of the Valley in early 2009. And despite a Pakistan army campaign in May of that year to route them, the Taliban’s power to intimidate and murder at will in the Swat Valley (and everywhere else in Pakistan) remains unchallenged.
Under Taliban rule, the Swat Valley became a despotic enclave of religious extremism, intimidation, oppression, floggings, stoning, shootings and beheadings. The victims have been political or ideological opponents, those considered infidels or apostates, anyone brave enough to openly defy or criticize them, and women the Taliban have judged immoral, disobedient or “Westernized” and thus worthy of public punishment, often resulting in death.
In the face of all this, and despite her celebrity survivor status and renewed death threats from the rabid Islamist dogs baying for her blood, Malala vows to return to Pakistan and continue her fight for gender education equality and similar rights and protections Islam grants to women. The Taliban, in opposition to all this, has already destroyed more than 200 schools, most of them for girls -- a gender the Taliban believes should remain uneducated, despite the statements by God in the Quran upholding the requirements and equality of men and women to attain civic, moral and spiritual heights, all of which require education.
The Taliban and like-minded Muslims who seek to deny women an education also violate clear injunctions by the Holy Prophet (phuh) that both men and women should be educated equally. Even Hell can be averted if a father provides for his daughters as equally as he does for his sons, including education. This also applies to the raising and education of orphan girls.
There are no shortages of examples of the brutality and senseless murder of innocents at the hands of the Taliban and similar groups. What makes the vicious and cowardly attack against a teenage girl who dared to stand up to the Taliban so different this time is that she was not martyred and then quickly buried to be just as quickly forgotten by the public in their dread and fear of the extremists. No, Malala Yousafzai is a living call for justice and equality for women in Pakistan and around the world, and she is the face of courage that prevails in the face of evil and cries out for an end to that evil.
Her miraculous survival seems to have stirred the collective conscience of the people of Pakistan, jarring some of them out of their trembling silence. We can only hope and pray that they’ve finally realized they must stand up now, at this moment, and reclaim their religion from the ignorance, fanaticism and bestiality of its Taliban abductors. It is time for the trembling silent in Pakistan to stand up and remain standing and scream for justice and demand the end of the Taliban and their brethren in hate and savagery.
Seldom has the difference between good and evil been so clearly defined and presented to the world as it was in the dichotomy of a brave and fragile girl and her soulless attackers on a school bus in the Swat Valley. Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere have no better illustration of the choice before them.
On one hand is the Islam of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) reflected in the dreams and desires of a young girl seeking knowledge, freedom and justice – the foundations of true spiritual growth. On the other hand is the Islam of the fanatical, bloodthirsty and intolerant extremists, whose twisted worldview of hate and misogyny is world’s away from that of Malala and another young girl from the dawn of Islam named Hadhrat Aisha, whom the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared was the depository of fully half the knowledge of the religion; a young woman from whom, after the demise of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), the Khalifas and companions regularly solicited scholarly advice and sage counsel.
Fast-forward to the present, where the last person the Taliban would seek guidance from would be a woman – any woman – and certainly not an outspoken, educated, strong-willed and courageous woman like Malala Yousafzai. Fast-forward to the future: if, God forbid, Malala is murdered at the hands of such Neanderthalic thugs as the Taliban, it will also be at the hands of the silent Muslim majority who did nothing to stop it. In this way, they are also victims of the Taliban – they’re just not dead. . . yet.