I am malalaWhen the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

Malala Yousafzai’s story gave our group much to ponder. The unthinkable situation in which young women are not permitted an education is not unknown to us, but the courage of Malala and her family in standing up to the Taliban is an inspiring one. Through reading this book, we all learned just a little more about Pakistan, its people and its culture and reconfirmed the historical fact that a supressed people are not a happy or productive people.

The violence and hate that the Yousafzais experienced is hard for us to comprehend, yet they refused to give into to fear, and we were impressed by Malala’s father’s courage and determination. He was a very progressive man, believing strongly in education and knowledge alongside religion and faith. This must have resonated deeply in Malala and although she is still young, her future looks to be headed towards the political stage.

The book itself was slow to get into, but the author’s voice became more mature and distinct as it developed, and her insight into Pakistani culture and Islam was straightforward and clearly spoken. There are many things about her culture that she disagrees with, but she does understand their origins and what they mean to Pakistani people.

We all feel that if someone like Malala was to instruct the West on cultural differences and tolerance, then maybe the world would be in much better state than it is today.

A very worthwhile read if cultural understanding is of interest to you.