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Malala Responds To Backlash, Says She's No Western Puppet

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MALALA STATUS PAKISTAN
AP

In response to criticism that she's become a Western mouthpiece, Malala Yousafzai says she is nobody's fool.

In a BBC interview Sunday, the 16-year-old Pakistani teen activist shot by the Taliban last year shared her thoughts on those who view her education advocacy as aligning with Western criticisms of Pakistan.

Asked if she was a "figure of the West" and "a Westerner now," she said: "My father says that education is neither Eastern or Western. Education is education: it's the right of everyone."

In her hometown, where conspiracy theories abound and women are expected to remain quiet, some people have questioned her campaign, saying it's part of her family's attempt to move to Britain or that she is just seeking attention, Reuters reported.

"Malala is spoiling Pakistan's name around the world," said Mohammad Rizwan, a shop owner in her hometown of Mingora. "We didn't need Malala to come and tell us how important education is."

Others point out she is brave amid repeated death threats from the Taliban, and it's a similar story for many other advocates in the area.

Zahid Khan, head of an anti-Taliban group in Malala's hometown, told Reuters that he has survived three attempts to take his life because of his activism.

"I have been attacked. Shot. Almost killed. But no one is honouring me. The state hasn't given me a cent in compensation."

Last week, Malala won the European Sakharov human rights prize, met with President Obama, graciously lost the Nobel Prize and even won over Jon Stewart.

To be sure, the young activist has had a real impact. She has successfully pushed the UN to refocus on its education goals and has helped send 40 girls go to school in Pakistan through the Malala Fund, among other achievements.

Through her fund, she will focus efforts in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, where need is the greatest, according to the AFP. But ultimately, she wants compulsory education for every boy and girl around the world.

"We want to help every child in every country that we can," she said.

Clarification: Zahid Khan's comments have been clarified.

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