Updated on May 24, 2015
7. ‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai
I can read this book. I can read this book for two reasons. One, it is not banned here. Two, I was not denied the education that taught me to read. That should be something that everybody in the world is able to say but, unfortunately, it is not.
One: Malala’s autobiography has been banned in 40,000 private schools in Pakistan (her home country). The president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, Adeeb Javedani, said it has been banned because Malala is “representing the West, not us.” He also explained the ban by saying that, in the book, Malala speaks favourably of Salman Rushdie, and she does not show respect for Prophet Muhammad by including the abbreviation PBUH, ‘peace be upon him’, after his name. She does use the abbreviation throughout, so I can only imagine Mr. Javedani has not read the book. It gets worse, this organisation is even holding anti-Malala days because of her supposed ‘blasphemy’. The mind boggles.
Two: I am a woman and I was allowed to go to school and learn to read. This is not a luxury afforded women everywhere. In her book, Malala talks about how the Taliban took over her home town, Mingora, in the beautiful Swat valley, where they are still lingering today. They ban movies, CDs and dancing, and they stop girls from going to school. Women have to cover their heads and are not allowed to step outside with a man unless he is their husband or a relative. The punishment if you break that rule? A vicious beating.
I Am Malala tells this amazing girl’s story, from her birth, through her childhood, to her tumultuous teenage years when war and the Taliban came to her valley. As the insanity increased around her, she – supported by her brilliantly forward-thinking father – spoke out against the restrictions that were being put on their lives, and particularly campaigned for every child’s right to education.
On 9th October 2012, Malala got on a bus to go home from school (where she was not allowed to be). A gunman got on board, asked, “Who is Malala?” and then shot her in the head. She survived. She was taken to a hospital and eventually flown to Birmingham, UK (alone) for further treatment. When she woke up she was far from home without her family, but they eventually abandoned everything in Pakistan (their home, their relatives, the schools they owned) and flew to England as well. They’re still here today. Malala has won countless awards and prizes, including becoming the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize, but she cannot go back to Pakistan in case she is attacked again. For a supposedly powerless 17 year old girl, the Taliban sure do seem scared of her.
I Am Malala is eye-opening, and an absolute must-read for anybody who considers themselves a feminist, an activist, or just a moral human being. Malala Yousafzai is incredibly inspiring and I look forward to seeing her and her message grow: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
I will leave you with Malala’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. If you have a spare half an hour, I urge you to watch it. (And if you don’t shed a tear when you see how proud her parents are, you aren’t human.)
Want to read this? You can buy the book here.