She finally reached a life-changing moment when a member of the Taliban shot her point-blank on her way to school on Oct. 9, 2012. From surviving this near death experience and going through multiple surgeries to finally being able to actually walk and speak after a bullet went through her head, which severed a nerve in her face and shattered her left eardrum, Malala’s survival and recovery is nothing short of miraculous.
She is been interviewed by top journalists including Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour as well as comedian and “fake” journalist Jon Stewart, and has even spoken at the U.N., always displaying her desire for peaceful resolutions. As she describes on the Jon Stewart show, she debated what to do if a member of the Taliban came to attack her, even considering hitting the man with her shoe but told herself, “’If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'”
Through every interview, Malala not only expresses the importance of educating the ignorant but also remains humble, even as she is depicted to be Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa,” much like Mahatma Gandhi’s humility as Indians called him “the Father of our nation.” Her take on progressive action through peace and education is an echo of Gandhi’s stance to use nonviolence as a weapon against imperialism. Both desired for their people to gain equal rights and to be treated as human beings. For Gandhi, it was the people of the South Asian subcontinent and for Yousafzai, it is for the girls of not only Pakistan, but of all developing countries where they follow the double standard of leaving girls uneducated and at home. Their common belief in using passive resistance should not go unseen.
Gandhi was able to make millions of people stand up for their rights against the strongest imperialist power in the world’s history. Malala was not only nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but she has also created a fund for educating girls in developing and war stricken countries including Syria, Afghanistan and India with international as well as celebrity support through Angelina Jolie and others.
However, unlike Gandhi’s fight for independence, Malala’s fight is made more difficult in the world of drones and weighted international relations. As she continues to promote that education is the solution to war rather than violence, one must consider how exactly education can be used to stop Taliban fighters. How can we insist on creating a dialogue with religious extremists who seem to be adamant that Western influence can only be negative? These challenges along with others remind us that as we rile behind Malala and her beliefs, only crying out foul will attract attention but we won’t get results unless we implement policies in which education and dialogue is created between the extremists such as the Taliban and advocates for girls’ education.
Although Gandhi was assassinated, Malala has proved that a bullet would not be able to stop her from raising her voice to fight for the education and the empowerment of young girls. She must now remember the famous idiom, “actions speak louder than words.”