Counter-Terrorism: Girls Just Want To Speak Out

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November 25, 2013: In Pakistan the 152,000 private schools, which educate most children in the country, have agreed not to buy or endorse a recently published book by Pakistani teenager Malala Yousufzai. She was shot in late 2012 by Taliban gunmen, survived, and wrote the book “I am Malala.” This made Islamic conservatives in Pakistan angry because most Islamic conservatives are opposed to educating women. Currently less than half the female population is literate (overall literacy is 58 percent). This attitude against schooling for girls is a minority opinion in Pakistan, but the Islamic conservatives have armed allies who will try to enforce these conservative religious beliefs, often with deadly violence. So when some religious conservatives criticized the book (for saying nice things about fellow Moslem author Salman Rushdie and not putting the phrase “Peace Be Upon Him” after every mention of the founder of Islam Mohammed) the private schools of Pakistan (who are suspect for not being religious schools) thought it prudent to denounce the book as well. Meanwhile, the publisher has promised to address the complaints about the book in the next edition. What this all demonstrates is how a minority can intimidate a majority, something that is quite common in Moslem majority countries. Even in some countries where Moslems are a minority, these aggressive attitudes can intimidate a non-Moslem majority into making concessions to the Moslem religious bigots.

This current madness began back on October 9th, 2012, in Pakistan's Swat Valley where a 14 year old girl (Malala Yousufzai) was shot in the head by a Taliban assassin. Malala had become famous in Pakistan during the previous three years for opposing Taliban efforts to prevent girls from going to school. She began by writing an anonymous blog about her experiences trying to get an education despite Taliban opposition. Eventually she went public and the Taliban threatened retaliation, but few thought the terrorists would attack an individual teenage girl. Many teenage girls have been killed by Taliban violence but the Taliban had not been known to target individual girls. Malala survived the shooting and the government arranged for her and her family to move to Britain to receive better care and protection from Taliban threats to hunt her down and finish the job. A month after the attack Pakistani outrage over the attack was ebbing and the military was playing down calls for an offensive on the Taliban sanctuary in North Waziristan.

The Pakistani Taliban insist they had the right to kill Malala Yousufzai for being an articulate opponent against Taliban efforts to prevent girls from receiving an education. The Taliban responded to the media uproar by declaring war on journalists (especially foreign ones) and promising murder attempts against the most troublesome journalists. This tends to limit how long a media uproar over Islamic terrorism can last in Pakistan.

After a few months Malala recovered from her wounds and began speaking out again, including a recent speech at the UN (on her 16th birthday). While the Taliban initially took credit for the shooting, they had to quickly come up with some excuses because the shooting caused an anti-Taliban uproar throughout Pakistan and the world. Since then the Taliban and other Islamic radical groups backed away from approving of the shooting but never denied that they were responsible. The government offered a $100,000 reward for the capture of the shooter and soon announced that they knew who the attackers were. But the public and government reaction did little to hurt the Taliban. Conservative Islamic clerics who usually approve of the Taliban policy on education for women were initially silent about this incident. The Taliban commander who ordered the attack on Malala was recently selected to be head of the Pakistani Taliban. His predecessor had been killed by an American missile.

Note that the reason there are so many private (and religious) primary and high schools in Pakistan is because the government spends little on education and most of what is spent is stolen. Thus the public schools are often useless and the religious schools are not much better. Thus the large number of private schools.

 


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