ISLAMABAD – The men who attempted to kill 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai on October 9 knew what she represented. Her active involvement since the age of eleven in campaigning for the rights of girls in her region to be educated was well known.
Malala’s efforts, while applauded by the West and some segments of Pakistani society, were deeply resented by the obscurantist forces that go by the name of the Taliban, which in Pakistan calls itself Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Their choice of name is an ironic one, for Taliban, an Arabic word, means those seeking to be educated, whereas the Taliban’s principal aim is to keep Muslim societies backward so that they can be persuaded to adopt a seventh-century version of Islam.
Education, particularly of women, stands in the way of achieving this goal. But the attack on Malala will, most likely, have an effect that is opposite to that intended by those who carried it out.
Several religious leaders joined the chorus of condemnation that followed the attack on Malala. In a sign of unity, a council of Sunni Muslim scholars in the eastern city of Lahore issued a fatwa, signed by 50 clerics, saying that the justifications cited by the girl’s attackers were “deviant” and had no basis in Islamic law.