by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick, Young Readers Edition, 2014
We thought about getting this book for Isabel, but after reading it, decided against it. Malala is brave and her story is amazing, but the book makes one despise Muslims because of the ignorance and evil of the Taliban. There is no doubt that God’s hand is on Malala. She miraculously survived being shot in the head point-blank. Her dramatic story demonstrates unequivocally the evil of the Taliban. She prayed to God that she would be able to help her country and through this miraculous story, she certainly has. She now has a foundation, malalafund.org, that supports education efforts around the world.
The first thing I learned is that she is not from Afghanistan; she is from Pakistan. The Taliban infiltrated into the Swat region of Pakistan, mostly through one evil man on the radio starting in 2005 – Maulana Fazlullah – and using fear that the massive earthquake is evidence of God’s judgment against the people. They gradually take over after about 4 years of lies, violence, killing and beating people, bombing schools and stores and roads and bridges, using fear tactics and propaganda. In October of 2012, gunmen shoot Malala in the head point-blank, as she is riding home from school on the bus. She miraculously survives! She is taken to a hospital in Birmingham, England, and her family eventually joins her there. The Pakistani government pays for everything and arranges for her father to have a paid position in England so they do not have to return to Pakistan. Malala has changed the world.
When she is in the hospital in Birmingham, England:
“I am telling myself, You are dead. But then I realize that the angel has not yet come to ask the questions a Muslim hears after death: Who is your God? Who is your prophet? I realize then I can’t be dead, and I fight and struggle and kick and try to wake from this terrible nightmare.”
In the hospital, she watches the news:
“When I finally watched the news, I learned that a spokesman for Fazlullah said the Taliban had been “forced” to shoot me because I would not stop speaking out against them.
‘They had warned me, they told the press, but I wouldn’t stop.
‘My other crimes? I spoke for education and peace. In their terms, I was speaking for Western education, which was against Islam, in their opinion.
‘The Taliban would try again to kill me, Fazlullah said “Let this be a lesson.”
‘It was a lesson, indeed. My mother was right when she quoted from the Holy Quran. “Falsehood has to die,” she had told me all those years ago, when I was considering doing the blog for the BBC. “And truth has to come forward.”
‘Truth will always triumph over falsehood. This is the true Islamic belief that has guided us on our journey.
‘The Taliban shot me to try to silence me. Instead, the whole world was listening to my message now.”
When her hearing returns:
“How great God is! He has given us eyes to see the beauty of the world, hands to touch it, a nose to experience all its fragrance, and a heart to appreciate it all. But we don’t realize how miraculous our senses are until we lose one.
‘The return of my hearing was just one miracle.
‘A Talib had fired three shots at point-blank range at three girls in a school bus–and none of us were killed.
‘One person had tried to silence me. And millions spoke out.
‘Those were miracles, too.”
She describes the loneliness of living in Birmingham, England, for her whole family (Mom, Dad, two brothers):
“We have settled now into our Birmingham life. We live in a tidy brick house on one of those tidy, tree-lined streets I saw from my window in the hospital. It is lovely. Orderly. Calm. And quiet. Too quiet. There are no children playing cricket in the alleys. No men in the guest room arguing politics. No women on the back porch having a good gossip. My father, who was always, “the friend of all friends” to the men in Swat, has many visitors but few real friends here. My mother, who cannot speak English like the rest of us, wanders perplexed through the shops, inspecting the strange foods for sale. Khushal spends a lot of time alone in his room, wishing, I think, for his old life. And the other day I heard Atal, who has the sunniest nature of us all, crying because he had no one to play with. We are just a few feet away from the next house, but for all we know of our neighbors, it might as well be a mile. As my father says, we living in a neighborhood, but we rarely see the neighbors….
‘…It’s odd to be so well known but to be lonely at the same time.”
“Going home is the one thing we don’t talk about, especially now that Fazlullah has risen from the head of the Taliban in Swat to the head of the Taliban in all of Pakistan.”
“Sometimes I feel sad that my old friends don’t have all the wonderful things students have here. And sometimes I feel sad that they have what I don’t: one another.”
The last part of the book includes a timeline of events in Pakistan, starting when Pakistan is formed by the British in 1947 as the world’s first homeland for Muslims. It is a rocky history since then. Of note, in 1979, when the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan to help them move away from Muslim tradition and modernize, the USA and Pakistan ally to help the mujahideen fight against that because the Soviet Union is communist and we don’t want that to spread! The Soviet Union fought for 10 years in Afghanistan unsuccessfully because Pakistan and the USA are supporting the mujahideen. “The different factions of the mujahideen turn on one another, further destabilizing the country.” So, we are to blame, essentially, for the Taliban and everything that has gone on in Afghanistan and Pakistan since then!