Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Am Malala, The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I saw this book when I went to buy a Christmas gift for my sister. I knew I had to read it. But as finances are tight, it had to come from the library! Luckily they anticipated a high demand and bought 17 copies and then another shipment and I got a copy fairly quickly. Knowing I'd only have 3 weeks to read it (as books on hold by other patrons cannot be renewed) I dove into it.

WOW. I learned SO much history of Pakistan! There were names that I grew up learning about, since I was born in 81, and starting in the 7th grade in 1994 I had classes in which I needed to be aware of world events. Benazir Bhutto was a common name. Pakistan a nation constantly at war, the Sunni's and Shiaas a guaranteed answer in a quiz at least every other day in my Social Studies class. Although I can tell you, that at 13 I didn't understand nearly as well as I can now the complexities of the issues. I think I can barely wrap my head around them now!

This book is very well written and while it contains harsh facts, nothing is over dramatized or sensationalized. It is very mater of fact. And things that are not meant to be offensive are treated as such-an attitude of "this is not seen as offensive, this is just the way things are where we live", so as not to cause any outrage at local customs which do not demean in anyway, but Western Culture may perceive them as such. I would let my 8 year old read this book.

Malala is such a fortunate girl to be born to a father who loves and respects his daughter as much as his sons. In a culture where only sons are celebrated, her father insisted that his daughter be treated with as much celebration as any other. This is a very rare thing and I believe it put her in a position to stand up for what she knew was right. She knew so much inner workings of the politics at such a young age-because she was never shooed away from the conversations even if she didn't take part. I don't think we give young people enough credit. They see the world in a much more black and white sense and I believe this allows them the ability to truly see right and wrong as if it's plain as day, whereas adults will tend to bend the light to make things right in their eyes and justify actions as a means to an end. Which is technically NOT right. Malala started speaking out with a pen name when she was 11. She knew how important education was. How spoiled we are in America where a vast majority complain about going to school. Who just don't care at all. Where we live in a country which tells the kids "You don't have an option to fail, you WILL go to school and you WILL pass." Instead of healthy competition and pride in getting high marks as Malala did, always determined to get 1st place. Now, I've seen that backfire too, kids putting too much stress on themselves to come in first in a class of over 500 students. But that is not the point, the point is that Malala wanted to learn. She LOVED to learn. She KNEW the power in knowledge. She still does! She tries her best every single day because it is the right thing to do. She knows that education is not only a basic right, but a PRIVILEGE. Gosh I'd like to hit every kid over the head with this book and ask them, "Do you have ANY idea what you have? Did you know that in a tiny village in Pakistan called Swat, girls SNUCK to school, knowing any minute they could be killed just for going to school and they went ANWAY? EVERY day?" That Pakistan is a place where schools are bombed regularly and have shootings and the government does very little or nothing to apprehend the perpetrators. And what about women's rights? The US has come such a long way in women's rights, and all some can do is complain about what we don't yet have. Sure, maybe some things need improving, but couldn't EVERYTHING be improved? At least we can wear what we want, study what we want, apply for any job we want, come and go as we please with whomever we please without fear of being brutally physically punished or even killed-sometimes even by family for honor, and have people not bat an eye once.

We who live in free countries are blessed. And I think we would do well to acknowledge how blessed we are. In our abundance. And even though funds are tight enough I can't justify buying a book for $26 plus tax, I can feed my family a wide variety of healthy foods every day and keep us warm and clean and entertained. Gosh. I feel so spoiled. And there's nothing inherently wrong with having all these things, as long as we're grateful for them. Be grateful to whomever or whatever you want. For me, I'm grateful to God as I see Him as the granter of all things. But if that's not for you, you can be grateful to all your teachers and and people who helped you in the job you have, your hard work that provides these things, or whatever!

I also learned more about Islam from a non-Taliban perspective. I know that's all we see from Islam these days. We don't see the peaceful aspect of it, the side that teaches to be tolerant. But there are extremists in every religion. You know the one sect of Christianity, (Baptists?) who have been known to protest soldier's funerals? We don't judge all of Christianity based on that one extremist group, we call them crazies and write them off as NOT being Christian. And another Christian sect, the Fundamentalist Mormons. As a Mormon, I don't want everyone judging my religion based on the break off group Fundamentalist group who treats its women almost as bad as the Taliban as far as rights and privileges, because MY religion values women so much they put women in leadership roles around the world! So it was really nice to have Malala tell what the Quaran says. She says no where does it tell them to kill. No where does it tell that girls cannot go to school, that the opposite is stated that God wants them to have knowledge. Now I'm curious about the Quaran and feel that I need to read it for myself in order to truly understand Islam. And while I am firmly Christian in that I believe Jesus Christ is my Savior, I think there are many, many similarities and that Islam has a lot of the same stories-Jonah and the Whale (in the Quran his name is Yunus, but he is in the belly of whale just like Jonah) and Maryam is the mother of Jesus in the Quaran, but they believe that Jesus was not the Son of God, as he was the son of Maryam (Mary). So there are enough similarities that pique my curiosity. And then I can say "I've read the Quaran, I know it doesn't teach what those crazy Taliban guys say it does!"

I'll leave with sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book:

In giving advice to a friend, Malala's father states: "Don't accept good things from bad people." (This is one reason why I don't want my government giving people EVERYTHING that's good (education, food, health care, etc) because while there are good, honest people in government, there are many who are corrupt and dishonest and I don't trust them as a whole.)

"Education is educations. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human." Malala said this in response to the Taliban saying that education for girls was Western and against Islam and they were being taught corrupt things.

"Sometimes I think it's easier to be a Twilight vampire than a girl in Swat."-Moniba, Malala's best friend. This comment really shows the difficulties of a young girl growing up in Swat overtaken by the Taliban. Before the Taliban, the difficulty was in getting people to understand the importance of their girls' learning, even beyond their marrying age. And good headway was being made. But then you go throw in this religious movement of extremists who brainwash the people into thinking they cannot be saved if they allow this thing, it was like a few steps forward and a thousand steps back.

“There seemed to be so many things about which people were fighting. If Christians, Hindus or Jews are really our enemies, as so many say, why are we Muslims fighting with each other? Our people have become misguided. They think their greatest concern is defending Islam and are being led astray by those like the Taliban who deliberately misinterpret the Quran. We should focus on practical issues. We have so many people in our country who are illiterate. And many women have no education at all. We live in a place where schools are blown up. We have no reliable electricity supply. Not a single day passes without the killing of at least one Pakistani.” 223

“It was hard to visit that place [the tomb of the first leader of Pakistan, Jinnah] 

“Then they told me about the call [threats] from home and that they were taking the threats seriously. I don’t know why, but hearing I was being targeted did not worry me. It seemed to me that everyone knows they will die one day. My feeling was nobody can stop death; it doesn’t matter if it comes from a Talib or cancer. So I should do whatever I want to do. Maybe we should stop our campaigning, Jani, and go into hibernation for a time. Said my father. How can we do that? I replied. You were the one who said if we believe in something greater than our lives, then our voices will only multiply even if we are dead. We can’t disown our campaign!” 224-225
and read those speeches without thinking that Jinnah would be very disappointed in Pakistan. He would probably say that this was not the country he had wanted. He wished us to be independent, to be tolerant, to be kind to each other. He wanted everyone to be free whatever their beliefs.” 222 Malala was 15 I think when she had that thought. 

I've said before, we underestimate our youth. When we expect them to be incapable of greatness and that being a teen is a time to goof off, be rebellious, sleep around and party, that's what they are going to do. But if we expect them to be loving, compassionate, mindful of others, NOT being selfish and NOT being self indulgent, I believe they will rise to the occasion. There are many examples of kids who are not partying or sleeping around or doing other rebellious teen labeled activities. We just have to expect great things from them. And if we do, I think we will find a million more Malala's who are bigger than themselves. And want to make this world a better place. Malala's father could have been cynical and say you're just one person, and a girl at that. No one in our country will listen to a girl. You are only one, you can do nothing. But he didn't. I think that too many of us tell ourselves that we're just one, we can't do anything about it. And we pass that down to our kids. But one person CAN make a difference for good. You just have to be brave enough to do it.

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