Let's all pay tribute to Malala Yousafzai.
Given that the Quran starts with the word "read," I am stunned to witness the Taliban in Pakistan, who consider themselves good Muslims, open fire on Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old girl in Mingora, Swat. As she rode her school bus they shot her with bullets, leaving her in critical condition. Malala is not an ordinary Pakistani girl, she is a veritable star. The extraordinary daughter of her father, a school teacher, she dreamed of being educated, becoming a doctor, and was also the 2011 winner of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize.
Malala lives in Swat, a region subjected to vicious subjugation by both the Taliban and the Pakistani army -- and a region where the lack of education for women has enabled extremist preachers to influence the uneducated and particularly the girls. It's also a part of a region where Invest in Muslim Women's Pakistani partners have managed to keep peace in 27 of 30 districts -- but, tragically, not all of them, and not Mingora.
If reading has a priority placement in the Quran, why is it that the Taliban targeted Malala for her crusading passion for education? Could it be because the Taliban reject the core tenets of Islam and consider education to be "obscene" and a "symbol of Western culture?"
In true Islam, women have rights to education, to work, to divorce with a financial settlement, to own property, to marry and remarry. As a young teen, Malala knew her Islamic rights when she said in a CNN interview: "I have the right to education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up."
Malala took inspiration from her father's life; she watched him run a school for girls. She does not mince her words. She urged her cohorts to stand up to the Taliban because she believes that on judgement day we will all be asked why we stood by silently when people were being blown up. Malala is bold and brave -- unequivocally supported by her father -- despite her defying Taliban threats against her.
The Taliban attack on Malala has been so outrageous, so un-Islamic that even Jamaat ud Dawa, the charity arm of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taliban denounced the act in no uncertain terms: "Shameful, Despicable, Barbaric attempt" was posted on the group's official Twitter feed, according to an editorial in the New York Times, and "Curse b upon assassins and perpetrators."
Nicholas Kristoff nails the intrinsic issues at stake in the battle between Islamist extremists and the rest of society when he quotes a 19-year-old female student at Peshawar University who says: "This is not just Malala's war. It is a war between two ideologies, between the light of education and the darkness."
Malala's priorities are clear when she writes to a New York Times reporter: "I want an access to the world of knowledge."
Our prayers are with Malala.
Personally, I see this battle as being about women's minds, women's education, women's progress and women's power. Women are on one side, the Taliban is on the other. I vote with the women -- unequivocally.
Shahnaz Chinoy Taplin's blog is inspired by Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad's first wife. Khadijah is the quintessential role model for Muslim women. She was the first convert to Islam, the first Muslim woman entrepreneur, a globalist and a feminist.