Now more than ever “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai should be required reading for everyone. That seems expansive, but I don’t see how further education on Islam, the need for accessible education, and the effects of terrorism on families and children could ever be frowned upon.
Malala’s entire belief system is built on the idea that education can help to eradicate terrorism and fear. The reason people become afraid or resort to lashing out at others different from them is because of a lack of understanding at the most base level. Education can help us move away from fear and the detriment that fear can to do our relationships and society as a whole.
Trump’s executive order banning those from seven predominately Muslim countries (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen) from traveling to the U.S. is entirely about causing fear. There was no need for the ban, the extreme new vetting measures, and the changes made to our immigration policy, except to cause fear. Trump is afraid of losing the control he somehow has managed to get his little hands on. Trump wants us to be afraid of anything he can manage to scare people with (see any and all manipulative rhetoric) so that we think we are in agreement with his policies to “protect America” and “make America great again”. He is trying to scare us in to be as racist, arrogant, abusive, and selfish as he is. The only way to prevent ourselves from being paralyzed by the fear that seems so rampant in this moment is to continuously educate ourselves on what is going on and how we can stand up to it.
In I Am Malala she talks extensively about how her father inspired her passion for education and always encouraged her to stand up for what she believed in. Here is a quote from I Am Malala regarding her father,
Education has been a great gift for him. He believed that lack of education was the root of all Pakistan’s problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected.
Malala’s father was very lucky that his family supported his continued education as during his youth many families need their male children to work and he was fortunately not in that position. Lamented by both Malala and her father is the fact that his sisters and Malala’s mother did not have the opportunity for the same education he had. Now the difference between the quote above and what is happening right now in the U.S. is that you all have the chance to receive an education or to take on the responsibility of educating yourself. If you are reading this, you can educate yourself on the dangers of fear, of discrimination, of turning our backs on the constitution, and of what Trump is doing to this country. Trumps EO on immigration is not what this country stands for, we stand for those who cannot and we welcome immigrants and refugees regardless of their race, religion, gender, or any other factors.
As I mentioned in my earlier post-election post, I truly feel that continuing to educate ourselves is the only option we have left. Educate yourselves so that you can speak out every single day about the wrongs we are seeing in this administration. Educate yourselves so that you can stand up for what is right and protect those who need your help. I chose to read I Am Malala in order to further educate myself on the need for accessible education across the world and to learn more about Islam. In the end, I met a girl who shares the same beliefs I do and who this current administration and their supporters could learn a hell of a lot from. Here is a link to Malala’s statement following the Trump’s EO: Malala Yousafzai – Washington Post where she says,
I am heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war. I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants — the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life.
I am heartbroken that Syrian refugee children, who have suffered through six years of war by no fault of their own, are singled-out for discrimination.
I am heartbroken for girls like my friend Zaynab, who fled wars in three countries — Somalia, Yemen and Egypt — before she was even 17. Two years ago she received a visa to come to the United States. She learned English, graduated high school and is now in college studying to be a human rights lawyer.
Zaynab was separated from her little sister when she fled unrest in Egypt. Today her hope of being reunited with her precious sister dims.
In this time of uncertainty and unrest around the world, I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families.
Malala Yousafzai has been fighting for peace and equality since she was in grade school. She is also a practicing Muslim. Islam is a religion of peace and yes, there are members of the faith that may scare you into assuming otherwise, but this is where education comes in. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend I Am Malala – my Goodreads review can be found here and is included below.
I read I Am Malala back in October and after getting a little overwhelmed with how behind I was on reviews, I keep putting off my post. Well better late than never, and now is an obviously relevant moment to share my thoughts.
In her memoir, Malala shares the story of her childhood growing up in Pakistan before and after the rise of that Taliban. The story of her shooting and escape from the violence in Pakistan is heartbreaking, but the book really is about so much more than that awful moment. She talks about her family life, her father’s dedication to education, and how she grew to be dedicated to the promotion of education as well. She also spends a good deal of time talking about the importance of her faith in Islam and how it has shaped her as a person, as well as how she feels that extreme jihadists are not true Muslims as they are twisting a faith that she loves.
It may seem obvious to point this out, but Malala is still very young; I’ve read many reviews that point out the simple tone of the book or what they perceive as naiveté, but I think the genuine simplicity adds to what I learned from this book. Malala does not condescend, she speaks in a way that allows for every reader to grasp her message, and she provides a helpful, yet insightful, look into a country and a religion that both have an incredibly complicated history. She simply states her goals, to make education available for all across the world as a basic human right, as well as her desire for all people, regardless of race or religion, to come together and understand the importance of education. I think her honesty and simplicity makes her message even easier to stand behind.
I enjoyed her take on Pakistani history, as well as the history of Islam, much of which she learned from stories told by her family members and teachers. Malala is Pashtun, such a unique and interesting group of people, and a culture I knew nothing about prior to reading. Pashtun history is very noble and it is interesting to hear through her own stories how Malala embodies the honor code that Pashtuns live by. She takes the true meaning of honor to heart, and it shows in all of her actions.
Something else that truly stood out to be is how proud Malala is of her faith. I think her take on Islam is a great way to learn more about a religion that many outside of the faith do not understand. She is proud of the goodness that Islam can bring to the lives of practitioners, but she also understands – and openly addresses – that it has its flaws. This type of open-minded approach to the belief in and discussion of religion is so important to understanding those who are different than us. In Chapter 10, Malala explains a conversation she had with her father regarding studying the Quran. She talks about how one of her teachers spoke out against a revered female Pakistani leader (Benazir Bhutto) saying she was not following Islam properly as she was a female public figure and was not deferential to any of the men in her life. Malala was concerned because she did not agree with his interpretation of the Quran, as nowhere in the Quran does it require a woman to be dependent on a man. Her father explained that she should not concern herself with the teacher’s interpretations, but instead to focus on the divine messages from God provided in the Quran and learn to interpret them for herself. Malala was very lucky to be born into a progressive, open-minded, well-educated household, and her father’s approach to the education of his family, as well as his other students, is memorable.
Malala’s approach to promoting her fight for universal education through sharing her story is admirable. Readers can learn a lot from her stories, as well as from her attitude, her perseverance, and her bravery. Education is so vital, and Malala so simply explained this at a United Nation’s speech when she said, “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” We would all do well to support her and follow her path.