Malala's nemesis is dead, and locals hope he's gone to hell
by Robert Fulford

(The National Post, 23 June 2018)

There's something truly evil guiding the minds of those who deny children the education they need and want.

To raise children while depriving them of the ability to become literate is like crippling them before sending them out into the world. Every parent knows, as they watch their children become literate, that they are equipping themselves to play substantial roles in life. Otherwise, they will be like the slaves in 19th-century America, who were forbidden even to possess a book.

But this is the Taliban's policy for females. It deserves to be fought by everyone who cares about the future of humanity.

"Leader who targeted Malala is killed," said a headline in this paper last Saturday. The leader referred to was Mullah Fazlullah, the brutal boss of the Taliban in Pakistan. He was killed last week by a U.S. drone along with two other Taliban captains. Several years ago he ordered the assassination of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who campaigned for female education.

Fazlullah set up harsh Shariah courts in any territory he conquered. He warned against girls attending schools. He had a list of banned "sources of sin" -- music, dancing, TV and computers. He was known to burn down electronic shops and he threatened barbers who shaved off the beards of their customers. He set up pirate FM stations that broadcast sermons describing sins that must be avoided.

A typical Fazlullah atrocity took place in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Six terrorists wearing Pakistani army uniforms attacked a school in December 2014, killing 132 children and the principal. The victims were as young as six.

Fazlullah was a pure totalitarian. He believed that his version of Islam was the only one that counted. He could preach what he called truth but if he was not obeyed he would turn quickly to violence. Malala Yousafzai was a source of frustration to him. She became a celebrity in mid-adolescence, demanding "What right has the Taliban to teach me I can't go to school?" She gave speeches and appeared on television. Fazlullah ordered her death.

Three Taliban gunmen got onto a bus she was using along with two friends. One of them said, "Which of you is Malala? Tell me or I'll kill all of you." When he found out he shot her in the head. Amazingly, she survived. Two long operations, the second one in Britain, helped restore her brain.

News of the shooting was widely publicized and Malala became famous -- "the most prominent citizen" of Pakistan, according to that country's prime minister. In Germany, Deutsche Welle called her "the most famous teenager in the world."

A group of 50 Muslim clergymen in Pakistan issued a fatwa against those who tried to kill Malala. Taliban leaders answered by denouncing her. They talked of a second assassination attempt, which was (they said) a religious obligation.

Malala is a rare case of a prodigy in political journalism. In 2009, when she was 11, she created a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu service. She wrote in longhand and a reporter entered her observations in a computer. One day she wrote this: "I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 out of 27 pupils attended the class because the number decreased because of the Taliban's edict."

Following her recovery, she became a tireless advocate for the right to education. Her memoir, I Am Malala, written with Christina Lamb, has sold (according to Publishers Weekly) two million copies. She founded the Malala Fund to support schools and students. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming at 17 the youngest ever Nobel laureate.

She took her ideals on the road, lecturing at Harvard, accepting honorary Canadian citizenship and meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She addressed the Oxford Union and registered as a student, working toward a bachelor's degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall. Recently she appeared with David Letterman on his Netflix show. Speaking of her attackers, Malala said, "I forgive them because that's the best revenge I can have." Of the gunman who shot her, she said, "He thought he was doing the right thing."

There was little public grief over Mullah Fazlullah's death. In Mingora, a city in Pakistan's beautiful Swat region, and the place where Yousafzai was born, mourners were sparse. A reporter questioned Idrees Khan, a member of a local elders peace committee. His answer was frank: "We witnessed the brutality of the Taliban in Swat when Fazlullah and his men were present here, and we are happy to know that he has gone to hell."

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