Pakistani Taliban gunmen attacked and seriously wounded a 14-year-old activist for girls’ education this week, unleashing a wave of international outrage and calls for renewed offensives against the country’s militant strongholds. Malala Yousafzai, who became known around the world in 2009 when she wrote a diary for the BBC about life under Taliban occupation, was riding home from school when militants stopped the bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head and neck. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, calling Yousafzai’s crusade for education an “obscenity.” She “has become a symbol of Western culture,” a Taliban spokesman said, adding that if she survived, militants would try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson.”
“Malala Yousafzai is in critical condition today, and so is Pakistan,” said The News (Pakistan) in an editorial. “We are infected with the cancer of extremism, and unless it is cut out we will slide ever further into the bestiality that this latest atrocity exemplifies.” For the sake of this brave girl, we must all stand up to the “ruthless murderers who would see every girls’ school blown up.”
It’s no wonder that Yousafzai topped the Taliban’s target list, said Will Dobson in Slate.com. For them, a freethinking schoolgirl is far more terrifying than “some Western NGO activist who just parachuted into Pashtun country.” She’s a homegrown symbol of “progress, education, and enlightenment,” courageously challenging militants’ backward beliefs even in the face of intimidation. “If people like Yousafzai were to multiply, the Taliban would have no future.”
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This attack shows how desperate the Islamist militants truly are, said Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Social change and modernity will come one day to these territories, but it will take decades rather than months or years. The West must be patient as it continues to promote women’s rights and other human values. But knowing that courageous souls like Yousafzai remain vulnerable in the meantime “does not make the wait any easier.”
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