SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 14, 2012

Slate: Why the Taliban fears teen-age girls

Pakistan is a beautiful country that often bleeds with the most horrible news. This week was no exception, as word spread that Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old girl and well-known advocate for female education, had been shot in the head and neck on her way home from school. No one was surprised who was behind the vicious attack on the ninth-grader. The Pakistani Taliban quickly took responsibility, claiming she was guilty of "promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas." According to another girl injured in the attack, Taliban gunmen stopped their school bus. A militant asked which girl was Malala, and then opened fire.

Even in a place that has experienced no shortage of violence, like the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan where Yousafzai lives, Tuesday's attack was met with disbelief. The young Pakistani activist made a name for herself when she began blogging about life under the Taliban for BBC Urdu at age 11. The Pakistan government awarded her its first National Youth Peace Prize last year. After the attack, Yousafzai was airlifted to a hospital in Peshawar. As of Wednesday morning, surgeons had removed the bullet from her head and she was listed in stable condition. If she does indeed recover, Taliban militants promise they will try to kill her again.

Of course they do. A teen-age girl speaking out for girls' education is just about the most terrifying thing in the world for the Taliban. She is not some Western NGO activist who just parachuted into Pashtun country to hand out ESL textbooks. She is far more dangerous than that: a local, living advocate of progress, education and enlightenment. If people like Yousafzai were to multiply, the Taliban would have no future.

It's not just the symbolism of a young girl challenging their retrograde Islamist vision that should frighten them. The substance of her ideas is lethal, too. Studies suggest that educating girls is about the closest thing we have to a silver-bullet solution for countries suffering from poverty, instability and general inequity — or, in other words, the very conditions that allow a group like the Taliban to thrive. The social returns from girls' education in these places are astounding and consistently include higher household income, improved child nutrition, smaller family size, a more active civil society and better local services.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 U.N. School in Gaza Hit by Israeli Strike Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Officials Warn of Avoidable Death in Hot Cars Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium