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  • What Malala's Story Tells Americans

    Malala Yousafzai was 11 years old when she inadvertently became the voice for millions of Muslim girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan who want to attend school.

    In a moving 2009 New York Times video and her blog on living under Taliban occupation in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala dared to share her deepest aspiration: freedom to learn.

    Now, Malala, age 14, is clinging to life after being shot in the head and neck by Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan. As she and a few other eighth-grade girls rode their school bus home, the men stopped the bus and demanded, “Which girl is Malala?” The gun was raised. They shot her, as well as two other girls.

    Inconceivable. A young girl targeted by grown men whose religious framework somehow translates into gunning down children because they want to be in school. Openly advocating for girls’ education and wanting to help other Pakistani girls fulfill their right to attend school was her only “crime.” Malala and her family are devout in their Muslim faith, with pictures capturing Malala’s face framed by a traditional head scarf and kneeling on her rug offering prayers to Allah. No apostasy here. Just a desire for education.

    As the mother of two daughters, I find the horror of this act piercing. It is also unfathomable. On the same day Malala was shot, my daughters were sluggish about getting to school, wishing their three-day weekend had been longer. Malala’s tragic story was fresh on my mind; I wanted to take them to task for complaining. Yet, inevitably they would hear it the same way we heard our parents tell us to “clean our plate” because children all over the world are starving. It is just too far removed from our children’s experience. Dying for education just doesn’t compute, and for that, I am grateful.

    Which brings me to American exceptionalism. Somehow, many Americans have grown uncomfortable with the belief that American society is better than others. So instead we tout American tolerance. Thinking we are educated, worldly, and open-minded, we hold vague notions that every society has its own values, religion, and culture, and no one way of doing things is superior to any other.

    Enter Malala. She crystallizes the debate, and for a moment, we are silent. The familiar “I’m okay, you’re okay” notion that all moral codes and cultural norms are to be respected and appreciated for their vast variety is found hollow.

    America is many things. It has not always gotten everything right. But, as Heritage scholar Matthew Spalding explains, “America is exceptional because, unlike any other nation, it is dedicated to the principles of human liberty, grounded on the truths that all men are created equal and endowed with equal rights.”

    We hope and pray for Malala. We hope for the ideals her simple voice embodies. We hope America’s leaders abandon the “all nations are equal partners” approach and, as noted at by Heritage analyst Lisa Curtis at today’s Heritage event on Pakistan, “commit to supporting Pakistani civil society members who are risking their lives to stand down extremist ideologies and to stand up for the rights and freedoms of all Pakistanis.”

    Beyond all of that, our part as American citizens is to remember that the freedoms our daughters and all of us enjoy are, indeed, exceptional. It isn’t conflated national egoism to say so. It is fact.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to What Malala's Story Tells Americans

    1. This is such a sad story. How can grown men behave so? To attempt to murder a young girl so that they can keep women suppressed is unconscionable. Where are all of the voices that cry out about civil liberties and human rights issues? Talk about a war on women…

    2. Bobbie says:

      Kind of hard to read with tears in the eyes. I don't understand the hatred grown men take out on girls/women as if they're afraid of the female gender? They truly have no belief in God or they would respect the fact if it wasn't for women they wouldn't exist. These less then men show civility they shouldn't exist! These inhumane acts have no reason and those that pose them are unfit for society! Hold these so called men accountable and shoot them the same since shooting is so righteous in their eyes. Our prayers are always with those who experience the ugliness at the conscientious, conceited choice of inhuman others.

    3. Sweety says:

      whats about the millions of innocent kids and women who are killed in Drone attacks by America ??? who will answer ???? who will work for them no human rights for them ???? Hypocrite World

    4. Susan says:

      Sheer twaddle. There are many countries in the West that treat women better than the USA does including providing paid maternity leave, job protection while pregnant and after maternity leave, equal pay and equal representation in government.

      The American Enterprise Institute is filled with people who blatantly advocate anti-woman policies of the kind listed above. If the best this blogger can come up with is to compare the USA favorably to a medieval culture, she's truly desperate to defend the conservative movement that lauded the virtual stoning of Sandra Fluke because she advocated for fairness in health insurance policies for women.

    5. Nagle says:

      This is a very sad story. It shows us the evil that religious fanaticism can create. But to connect this to American exceptionalism is ridiculous. We are killing innocent civilians using drones and this includies young girls and we think that is ok because it is in our security interests. The right wing in this country would take away a woman's right to choose, force a woman to bear a child then leave the woman and chiild to fend for themselves once the child is born. 50 million people in this country have no health insurance, half of them are women and many are children. So don't talk about our country treating young girls better than anybody else. We could look to other countries and learn, but we are too arrogant to do that.

      • lplkg5 says:

        Yes, my sentiment exactly. With all the problems confronted the girls and minorities in this country, this reporter is looking for ways to proves US culture superiority to Islamic nation. insulting!

    6. Steve says:

      The word shameless comes to mind. Good work using a tragedy to push your political opinions.

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