BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- While American cable TV news engaged in saturation coverage of the closing arguments and verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial, the BBC and Sky News carried an inspiring speech by Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head last October by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls.
On her birthday, Malala addressed in barely accented English a special youth gathering at the United Nations in New York. She wore a shawl that had belonged to the late Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated by Islamic extremists in 2007.
Only occasionally referring to notes, Malala, who now lives in Birmingham, England, where she received medical treatment following the attack, delivered a speech more compelling than those given by most diplomats and presidents who have spoken at the UN. "Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured," she noted, "I am just one of them." She said her injury and the killing and wounding of her friends had launched "thousands of voices."
Sounding more mature than her years, Malala said, "The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."
Invoking the nonviolent teachings of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, Malala said she is not against anyone, rather she is for education for girls and boys, especially the children of the Taliban. She said, "I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him."
In a powerful indictment of extremism, Malala said, "The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them."
She accused terrorists of "misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits." While her claim "Islam is a religion of peace" is debatable, given how it is often practiced by many radicals who assert they are the true disciples of Mohammed, Malala's voice needs to be multiplied by thousands, even millions if the Taliban and their terrorist brothers are to be isolated and defeated. The voices (and most importantly behavior) must come from within Islam, not outside of it.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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