Summary of I am Malala
Malala’s story is unique. In case you haven’t heard about her, here is a small summary:
Malala was born in Pakistan in 1997. Her father, a teacher, has been fighting for years to provide a better education to children, and especially to girls. In the late 00’s, the Taliban slowly took control of the country, using violence to dictate their rules to the population. One of these rules was: girls should not go to school. Malala’s father, who had his own school, fought against that. He and Malala started doing public speeches to raise the awareness about this issue in the country. One day, after school, Malala took the bus as always. But this time she didn’t get home… she got shot in the head by a member of the Taliban…
In her autobiography, Malala takes us from when she was born in Pakistan to England where she lives since her attack. She is very descriptive about the place she is from, the SWAT valley which is “the most beautiful place on earth” to her. There are 3 main pillars throughout the book, that had a big influence on Malala’s life: education, religion, and politics.
Appreciate what you’ve got
The first thing that struck me is the quality and way of life in Pakistan. As a westerner, if you just pick up the book and start reading it without knowing what it’s about, it can feel like the book is 50 years old sometimes… if not more. Even though I have traveled, I still find it hard to realize that some countries still live with so little. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean they are unhappy, not at all! But for a westerner, it’s really “back to basics”. Reading this book makes you realize how lucky we are to have everything we need and want! Also, you realize that we have many “needs” that are totally unnecessary and not so needed after all…
Here is a little example she gives to compare England and Pakistan:
“I describe life in England to Moniba. I tell her of the streets with rows of identical houses, unlike home, where everything is different and higgledy-piggledy and a shack of mud and stones can stand next to a house as big as a castle. I tell her how they are lovely solid houses which could withstand floods and earthquakes but have no flat roofs to play on. I tell her I like England because people follow rules, they respect policemen and everything happens on time. The government is in charge and no one needs to know the name of the army chief. I see women having jobs we couldn’t imagine in Swat. They are police and security guards; they run big companies and dress exactly as they like.”
At the end of the book, when Malala and her family are in England she describes how they had to learn so many things we consider totally normal and take for granted. Here she talks about her mother:
“Our house has all these facilities, but when she arrived they were all mysteries to her and someone had to show us how to use the oven, washing machine and the TV.”
And once again, it shows that some concepts such as dangerousness are a matter of perspective:
“We were warned not to be out late on Broad Street on weekend nights as it could be dangerous. This made us laugh. How could it be unsafe compared to where we had come from? Were there Taliban beheading people?”
So yeah, next time I’ll think twice before complaining about my life!
Politics, Religion & Education
Malala takes time to explain the political situation in Pakistan.. or should I say the political mess! It seems that most of the administration (the government, the army, the police, etc) is deeply infected by corruption which creates big trust issues and a constant instability. For years, the country has been lead by dictators or by the army. Sadly, none of them really invested any money and effort into important subjects such as education. As you will see soon, the Taliban exploited this instability to slowly turn the population against the government and the army.
I am not a religious person at all. To be honest I don’t understand religions (none of them). It’s something that could make sense years ago when we didn’t understand how the world works. But nowadays, after science explained everything going on on our planet… I don’t get it. But whatever, that’s not the subject here.
Just as she did with politics, Malala describes the importance of Islam in Pakistanese lives. She quotes the Quran numerous times and chooses carefully her words to explain the meanings of the text. For all the
racists ones who believe all Muslims are extremists and terrorists, I strongly invite them to read this book (and my previous blog post about racism). Islam is as peaceful as any other religion. But sadly, a bunch of idiots purposely spread false interpretation of the texts and turned peaceful, wise words into hate speeches. And as too often, this minority – this visible tip of the iceberg – gets all the media attention which has terrible consequences on the rest of the community all over the world.
What shocked me in Malala’s story is how much space religion takes up in their lives. I understand that Islam is not a violent religion like the extremists want us to believe but I still don’t understand lots of its principles. I find the place of women revolting, as they are considered like slaves.. If people want to believe in God and in some principles, in order to live a guided life, why not. I think as long as this kind of personal belief doesn’t interfere with other people lives, there is nothing wrong with that. Problem is, in Pakistan (and in other countries around the world I’m sure), some people are taking religion way too far!
Here is the worst example:
“There was a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl called Seema. Everyone knew she was in love with a boy, and sometimes he would pass by and she would look at him from under her long dark lashes, which all the girls envied. In our society for a girl to flirt with any man brings shame on the family, though it’s all right for the man. We were told she had committed suicide, but we later discovered her own family had poisoned her.”
Seriously, WTF! How can you kill your own daughter or sister because she was looking at the boy through the window!!! That is absolutely revolting to me!! Believe in what you want, but how on earth can anyone do something that horrible and fucked up in the name of religion!!! If anyone wants to discuss the subject to explain that to me, I’ll be happy to talk about it.
If Malala got involved in the fight for education and woman rights, it’s mainly because of/thanks to her father.
“He believed that lack of education was the root of all Pakistan’s problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected. He believed schooling should be available for all, rich and poor, boys and girls.”
Unlike many fathers in Pakistan, he was proud to have a daughter and he wanted the best for her… not just the best husband she could take care of. He wanted her to have the best life she could possibly have. And that obviously requires getting a good education. Malala grew up listening to her father’s speeches and it forged her mind. She learned English at a young age and was a naturally good speaker. As soon as she was old enough (but still, just a teenager), she decided to get involved in the fight for education for girls.
The Taliban destroyed schools, but also many sources of entertainment and knowledge: books, tv, DVDs, etc. Why? Because in order to spread their bullshit, their propaganda, they needed the population to be as ignorant as possible.
“Mullahs often misinterpret the Quran and Hadith when they teach them in our country as few people understand the original Arabic. Fazlullah exploited this ignorance.”
They use several levers such as religion, or political corruption as ways to get into people’s minds and gain their trust… Then, after a while, they start asking for money, used obviously to buy weapons. Once they got everything they need, they take full control of the place and the people using fear and violence.
An example to follow
After her tragic attack, Malala was moved to England where she now lives with her family. She is lucky to be alive considering her injuries. But thankfully, she is safe and healthy now! In 2014 she received the Nobel Peace Prize as a reward for her fight for education. Malala is the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. After such an awful experience, many people would have given up, scared for their life. But Malala does not fear the Taliban and she is now more motivated than ever to fight for the cause.
I’ll finish with a beautiful quote. I think it represents the kind of person Malala is very well. In a way, she reminds me of Nelson Mandela. Even after going through so much horror, she still sees the good in this world, seeking peace rather than revenge.
“We human beings don’t realise how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colours and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.”
If you want to get the book, here is a link: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.
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