Malala Yousafzai on Parade cover!


Secrets of moral transmission: We were intrigued by Marie Arana’s book review in yesterday’s Washington Post.

The review appeared on the front page of the Outlook section. Arana was reviewing Malala Yousafzai’s new book, I Am Malala.

Who is Malala Yousafzai? She has always struck as an other-worldly figure, of a type one rarely encounters. Is this how Jesus seemed to the elders when he spoke in the temple?

It may be that Malala Yousafzai will simply turn out to have a 300 IQ. But whoever or whatever she is, we’re fairly sure she isn’t what Arana seemed to dub her at the end of her book review, which took a somewhat pedestrian approach to a very unusual figure:
ARANA (10/13/13): We know how this story ends, with a 15-year-old child taking a bullet for a whole generation. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one. Disfigured beyond recognition by her assailant’s gun, Malala was rushed to Peshawar, then Rawalpindi and finally to Birmingham, England, where doctors reconstructed her damaged skull and knit back the shattered face. But her smile would never be quite the same.

Resolute, Malala has never hidden that face—not when the Taliban insisted on it, and not when she emerged from her battle for survival to stand before the members of the United Nations in July and deliver her message yet again, a little louder.

“There is good news coming from the U.K.,” the head of military operations in Swat had told Malala’s desperate parents as they awaited word of their child’s condition. “We are very happy our daughter has survived.”

“Our,” Malala points out, because she had become the daughter of a nation.

But she is ours, too, because she stands for the universal possibility of a little girl.
Good grief! Whoever or whatever Malala Yousafzai is, we’re fairly sure that she isn’t a “little girl,” if that’s what Arana meant. For ourselves, we’d also be inclined to stay away from “child.”

Malala Yousafzai has always struck as a very rare, other-worldly being. That said, she traveled under the radar of upper-end journalism when she appeared on the cover of Parade magazine last weekend.

Reportedly, Parade goes into 32 million American homes, reaching 60 million readers. Last Sunday, it published a short excerpt from I Am Malala under this brief synopsis:
PARADE (10/6/13): In a country that’s seen more than its share of violence, the fate of one teenager might not seem to count for much. But somehow Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan has managed to become an international inspiration. She was only 11 when she took on the Taliban, demanding that girls be given full access to school. Her campaign received global attention, a prelude to even more extraordinary events. Last October, Taliban assassins attacked Malala, then 15, on her way home from school, shooting her in the head. In Parade’s excerpt Malala describes that day and offers her hopes for the future.
The whole thing almost sounds silly, unless you’ve seen this person speak, on which occasions she always strikes us as a prophet.

In the brief excerpt in Parade, we were struck by some of Malala’s moral judgments. Below, she describes her thinking in the months before she was shot, when she knew she was under threat. Does this remind you of anyone?
Our street could not be reached by car. I would get off the school bus on the road below, go through an iron gate and up a flight of stairs. Sometimes I’d imagine that a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on the steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him. But then I’d think that if I did that, there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, “Okay, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally. I just want every girl to go to school.”
Do you believe she really thought something like that? Do you recall what Dr. King said in real time, that very night, about the people who had just firebombed his home?

We’re just saying. For Parade’s on-line presentation, click here.

Who is Malala Yousafzai? Last Sunday, her story entered tens of millions of American homes. Again today, the joy of hate is being taught and transmitted at Salon. Elsewhere, people get exposed to other approaches.

No one can be right every time: We cringed for Malala when we read the highlighted passage. Then, we sucked it up and decided to soldier on:
ARANA: Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.”

Nowhere is that lesson more evident than in the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school, read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” by age 11 and has a gift for stirring oratory.
In our view, Hawking’s book is basically unreadable. Did Malala, already 11, manage to pick that up?


  1. Her story strikes me as similar to that of the teen boy who was leading a campaign to end abuse of child workers in India. He made the circuit of talk shows and had a book written about him and was similarly touted as an activist and leader, although we hear nothing more about him or his cause these days. I find myself wondering whether these young people are prominent because teens are able to assume responsibility at younger ages in their societies (including marriage in teens) or whether they are pushed forward as figureheads by adults who assume they will be able to achieve greater change if a less-threatening young person is the visible leader of a movement that is dangerous to participate in. Might such adults have assumed that her youth would protect her from the reprisals (wrongly)? Might these young people be recruited as leaders because they exemplify the cause they are promoting and thus are visible martyrs who have lived the oppression they are fighting? I find myself wondering what encouragement she received from her school teacher father -- I do not trust a book like this to give an honest account of such things, since the book is an extension of the activism. I wonder if she truly understood the danger she was placing herself in at age 11 and I wonder why her family did not protect her. That makes me as angry as the people who would shoot a teen like her (for an opposing ideological/religious cause).

    1. Thank you Lindy for sharing a thought crossing my mind.

      I too am as angry with the family of this prophet but not as angry as the people who would shoot this youngish otherwordly person. But remember, we should love the people who shot her too. For without them she might have married in her teens.

      You are right. Never trust a book like this.

    2. One gets a 'perspective' by reading a biography. It isn't about trusting each and everything the author says. All men have flaws, and to call Malala a prophet is to make her a religious figure!!

      She isn't propounding any religion. All she is saying is what she craves for - dignity, equal opportunity & unfettered access to knowledge. In other words - Basic human rights.

      And it is clear you didn't follow Malala story properly. If she wasn't shot she wouldn't have been married in her teens.

      Her father is a educated and more enlightened man. He wouldn't have forced his daughter to do anything against her wishes - which is what made Malala what she is in the first place. If she wasn't shot west may not have discovered her, but she was well known in Pakistan, and perhaps would've led a more 'normal' life of migrating to a bigger city and pursuing what ever she felt like. She perhaps would've started and NGO, and may have followed that up by still pursuing politics.

      Now her path may change a bit.

  2. Why cares, Bob? Isn't this the kind of thing you snark about when Nick Kristof covers it?

  3. I wish her all the best but I want Obama to stop drone bombing Pakistan and Afghanistan. And we should get the hell out of both those countries. We should have never gone in, certainly not as a war with all those troops. Whatever the US government wanted to do in Afghanistan should have been done with special forces.

  4. Not too cynical this timeOctober 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    I found Hawking's book quite readable. It's possible that Malala did, too.

  5. Malala Yousafzai has always struck as a very rare, other-worldly being. That said, she traveled under the radar of upper-end journalism when she appeared on the cover of Parade magazine last weekend.

    Well, at least Parade beat Salon.

  6. I find total cynicism in your sentences about a pre-teen person's ability to read and understand brief history of time, and scepticism about she having a depth needed to have profound thoughts.

    World history is full of child prodigies. People don't mature the same way, some mature very early. Some are forced to by their circumstances.

    In India, I have personally seen children of 11-12 year age who are capable of holding their own in debates on subjects which are way beyond most adults.

    The growth of a mind is due to the amount of reading & exposure. It is not due to age. A person who starts reading early can be as mature by 11, as a person who starts reading late.

    Malala is an exceptional girl. She isn't being pushed by an adult 'agenda' as some in the comments above argue. To think so is to insult Mr. Yousafzai, who swam against the stream in his town, and is a hero in his own right.

    Would I have done with my daughter what Mr. Yousafzai did? No. But, then I wouldn't want my son/daughter to enrol in army and fight wars either when she grows up. Yet, Many parents are perfectly happy for their children to fight for their country's cause.

    So, why do we assume every parent should be like us? Why can't a parent think if his daughter wants to speak her mind, he isn't going to stop her?!

    Check videos where Yousafzai father & daughter appear together, you'll realize Malala is her own person and can't be pushed around. What she shares with her father is friendship - not deference. In fact in a video in 2009, she even makes fun of her father!

    Is that something that is done by a person with a pushy father??