Earlier this week a 14 year old girl in Pakistan was shot in the head and neck by taliban members because she wanted to get an education. Her name is Malala Yousafzai and she is still fighting for her life in a Pakistani hospital.* The taliban is a religious extremist group that wants to put all aspects of life under strict, hateful and antiquated religious laws. In this aspect it mirrors all religious extremist groups all over the world, no matter what religion is used as the basis. The taliban is also a force to be reckoned with in Pakistan. Opposing and defying them is extremely dangerous. And yet, Malala had the idea that she deserved to learn and know things just as her male counterparts did.
There have always been people who in oppressive environments had those dangerous ideas. From Galileo Galilei who observed the stars and had the idea that the earth rotated around the sun instead of it being the center of the universe to the first group of workers who unionized to stand up to their bosses. From Martin Luther, who thought the church needed to be more accessible and defiantly hammered his theses onto a door to the Suffragettes who said that women were just as capable to vote as men.
Each and everyone of those trend setters and idealists was facing prosecution, disdain and ridicule from places of power as well as their immediate environment. For all of them it would have been easier to shut up and leave it be. Only, they didn’t. Humanity has always brought on individuals who could not let go of an idea, once hatched and deemed right. Those ideas usually included freedom and self sufficient decision making in one form or another. And people have died for them. They have also faced maiming, incarceration and exile for them. Malala is in very prestigious company of defiant persons through the ages.
No matter how much oppressive systems, religious, or otherwise try to silence those pesky ideas of freedom, individuality, and equality, there will always be new people to pick up the torch and move onward.
I wish Malala the best recovery possible and I know that she won’t back down. She has been infected by an idea and that idea has power beyond compare.
* Update: She is in a hospital in the UK now.