Could the Malala Yousufzai Shooting Be a Turning Point for the Taliban? - updated 10/15

Malala taliban

Could the Malala Yousufzai Shooting Be a Turning Point for the Taliban?

by Sheila Musaji


A few days ago we published an article We are all Malalai! by Omid Safi about the shooting of a 14-year-old girl by the Taliban.  The representatives of the Taliban, Ehsanullah Ehsan, claimed responsibility on behalf of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). the Pakistani offshoot of the Taliban movement. 

The offense for which these criminals carried out this act of terrorism against a child was that she wanted to go to school and get an education.

Muslims everywhere have condemned this most recent act of brutality.  There is a FaceBook page I stand with Malala.  The World Shia Forum condemned this crime.  The Prime Minister of Pakistan condemned the attack on Malala. American Muslim organizations like MPAC have condemned the attack.  The Fiqh Council of North America FCNA condemned the attack.  ISNA condemned the attack.

The FCNA statement said:

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) strongly condemns the reported attempted murder of a 14 year old Pakistani school girl, Malala Yousafzai, who is known as an advocate for female education. The FCNA is especially distressed to hear that such a brutal crime was committed, falsely, in the name of Islam. The text of the Qur’an is clear on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, young or old, male or female, irrespective of religious or non-religious affiliation. God states in the Qur’an:

“… Whosoever killed a person –unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land- it is as if he killed all humankind; and whoso saves a life, it is as if he saved all humankind…” (Al-Ma’idah, 5:32)

“And do not take life which God has forbidden save by right…”  (Al-Isra’, 17:33)


Likewise, seeking knowledge is a mandatory duty of every Muslim, male or female, as is clearly stated by Prophet Muhammad –peace be upon him:

“Seeking knowledge is a mandatory duty of every Muslim.” (Narrated by Ibn Majah, Hadith #224)

We call on the Pakistani authorities to earnestly pursue the perpetrator and anyone who participated in this crime in any way, and to bring him/them to justice. All extra judicial killings are wrong and must not be done by anyone, whether individuals, groups or governments under any name or pretext, whether religious or secular.

The FCNA joins millions of Muslims, people of other faith communities and all decent human beings in praying for the recovery of the young victim.

The MPAC condemnation included this:

How women fare correlates directly with how society fares overall. In far too many places around the world, Muslim women are being disproportionately abused using outdated rulings and ages-old customs. In an effort to address this injustice, three years ago MPAC released “Abusing Women, Abusing Islam,” a paper that exposes how patriarchal and distorted interpretations of sharia have been used to subjugate women and rob them of their fundamental rights.

In Pakistan, more than 50 Islamic Scholars from the ‘Sunni Ittehad Council’ issued a fatwa, condemning the incident as unacceptable.  The Sunni Ittehad Council is an alliance of leading religious figures, who oppose what they perceive to be the growing Talibanisation of Pakistan. 

The fact that such a group has been formed is an encouraging sign.  The Taliban and al Qaeda, and other extremist groups have been so corrupted in their belief system that they carry out actions like abusing women, terrorizing ordinary villagers who don’t believe as they do, destroying the religious sites of others, destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas, destroying Sufi Shrines, terrorizing Shia’s, Sufi’s, Christians, and other minorities, murdering government officials, and religious scholars who speak against them.  The list of the crimes of the Taliban goes on and on.  The root of their problem is that they have been exposed to a distorted view of Islam, and brainwashed into believing that it is the “correct view”.  They are wrong, and the best antidote is that they hear from religious scholars from their own community just how wrong they are. 

Our traditional religious scholars need to do more to get at the root of this problem, and to actively counter the extremist interpretations of Islam being promoted by some to advance their own agenda.  Religious extremism is being spread and it must be countered. 

Recently I wrote an article Muslim Scholars and Community Leaders Need to Counter Ignorance With New Approach calling on our Muslim scholars and leaders to take the condemnations and fatwas against extremism to the next level, and find a way to get the message to the maximum number of individuals possible.  Perhaps using the tools of social media.  To provide a counter-narrative, not only to the Islamophobes, but to the Muslim extremists, and to provide that narrative in many languages and easily available formats that can be understood by ordinary people.

The only thing good that might come out of this most recent tragedy, is that somehow, this purposeful shooting of a young girl on her way home from school might just be the last straw, and give local people the courage to stand up and fight to take back their countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) from the Taliban and other such extremist groups, and also defend Islam from the Taliban distortions.

Perhaps, this might be the turning point.  It might be, but only if the people of Pakistan demand change.  We never know what particular incident will be the spark that kindles a fire.  Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia was a simple vendor, and yet his suicide sparked a revolution.

Mahawish Rezvi wrote

Editorials like the one published in The Express Tribune are questioning, “Will Malala unite us against terror?” The battle lines are being drawn, asking the nation to choose which version of Pakistan they would like to be a part of: one that Malala represents, or the one that the Taliban represents. Achieving Malala’s version of Pakistan means yet another military operation. But this time, let’s hope the results are not the same as always, pushing the Taliban far enough away but not fully out.  Both Pakistan’s future and Malala’s life seem to hang in the balance.

That really is the question.  What kind of a future does Pakistan and Afghanistan want for their children.

The reality is that nothing will change, unless the ordinary people of Afghanistan and Pakistan demand that the government and the religious scholars do more than condemn such actions.  The government of Pakistan has made promises before and not followed through.  The Pakistani government needs to grow a spine and do more than issue meaningless statements.

At this point, they need to declare war on the Taliban.  They need to prosecute and punish all of those responsible for criminal actions, and perhaps set up a jail where captured Taliban members can be kept, and where they would be required to study the Qur’an and Sharia under real, traditional scholars until they understand just how far from the teachings of Islam they have strayed. 


UPDATE 10/15/2012  Malala has been flown to Britain for intensive medical treatment. 


NOTE:  The cartoon at the top of the page was posted to FaceBook.  The artist who signed it is Satish Acharya.  I will attempt to find the original for proper attribution.  The artist has done an excellent job.

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