To learn more about I Am Malala, please read the introductory post. Be sure to peruse The Nightstand in that post, which has resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic and themes of this month’s selection.
O Malalai of Maiwand,
Rise once more to make Pashtuns understand the song of honor,
Your poetic words turn worlds around,
I beg you, rise again (p.15)
At age 11, I was laughing at silly jokes with my friends and saving them seats at lunch. I was not writing a blog about how the Taliban had banned girls in my country from going to school. At age 13, I was reading magazines and going to the movies. I was not publicly advocating for all girls’ rights to an education. At age 15, I was trying to find an identity, confidence, a voice. I was not fighting for my rights or the rights of girls around the world. I was not fighting for my life.
As an American teenager, my life was largely very different than that of Malala Yousafzai. I took my education for granted—often complaining about going to school at all. I lived in relative safety in a country very far from Pakistan. Honestly, I barely saw beyond my own front door. But as I read I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban, I was surprised to realize that my life was also very similar to Malala’s. As a teenager, like Malala, I loved being with my friends and I fought with my siblings. I had parents who loved me and encouraged me. I loved listening to music and watching movies.
Through the voice of this young Pakistani girl, I Am Malala relates the story of a beautiful home, its invasion by the Taliban, her courageous fight for education, and the attempted assassination she lived through. In the midst of political upheaval and religious extremism, Malala says, “If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?” (p. 142). For those of us who have felt useless in the face of war and tragedy, her courage and belief in her own ability to change the world is astounding.
And what is it that keeps Malala fighting? The belief in the right to an education for all girls and boys, and an unshakeable faith that would put many of us to shame. A faith that calls her to action in making the world a more perfect place.
“‘Dear God,’ I wrote, ‘I know you see everything, but there are so many things that maybe, sometimes, things get missed, particularly now with the bombing in Afghanistan. But I don’t think you would be happy if you saw the children on my road living on a rubbish dump. God, give me strength and courage and make me perfect because I want to make the world perfect. Malala.'” (p. 89)
I remember the first time I heard the name Malala several years ago. I heard about her pacifism in the face of great violence and how it contrasted with what many know of Islam. I loved her then, and I love her now for showing the world what a girl can do when she steps in to lead and what faith can do in the face of the enemy.
In so many ways, reading about Malala’s Islam helped me reflect on my own Christianity. So often, we draw lines in the Christian faith between believer and stranger, us and them, in and out. In the United States, especially as of late, people have expressed many opinions of what it means to have extreme faith and who should be in and out, quite literally. But just like in Christianity, the shades of Islam vacillate greatly between peace and hate, between those working for reconciliation and those working for destruction, all in the name of a God who may or may not be on our side.
I believe in a God who is Love, and I struggle with those who call on Him to push agendas of hate. I think Malala would understand this. I think her Islam is not so far from my Christianity.
“I love my God. I thank my Allah. I talk to him all day. He is the greatest. By giving me this height to reach people, he has also given me great responsibilities. Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country—this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish. I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.” (p. 313).
Questions for Discussion:
- How were you challenged by this book? How were you encouraged?
- At a young age, Malala made a significant impact on the world. What is it about her story that has touched so many people?
- In what ways is your faith similar to Malala’s? In what ways is it different?
- Does Malala’s story inspire you to take action? How does her life show the power of words, the power of one person?
Our September book is Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women And The Burden Of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes. Come back Wednesday, Sept. 7 for the introductory post. The discussion post will be up Wednesday, Sept. 28. In the meantime, be sure to follow along in the Red Couch Facebook group.