I would like to dedicate this post to the wonderful, brave Malala Yousafazai. I pray for your speedy recovery.
For those of you who do not habitually peruse world news websites (though if you don’t, I highly recommend you do since it keeps you in touch with the world around you), the saga of Malala may be unbeknownst to you. Many people around the world have been following Malala’s journey from the Swat Valley in Pakistan to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the United Kingdom.
At the age of 11, when I grumbled about doing homework, Malala voiced her views on women’s education, blogging anonymously to the BBC about life under the Taliban. She experienced the horrors of having the very thing that guaranteed her freedom of mind, slowly leeched away by extremists. At the age of 14 – when I was more concerned with romance novels and the on-coming of high school- the Taliban attempted to take something even more valuable from Malala than her education, her life.
Roughly two weeks ago while aboard a school bus, Malala was shot in the head by two unidentified gunmen. A little girl shot merely for the ideas in her head- ideas that had yet to alight into a tangible reality. I have but two points: one, that we should not repercuss the Muslim world for the actions of the Taliban, since they are two separate entities; and two, that this is a clear sign of the mistreatment of women throughout the world socially & politically that happen in any religious or non-religious communities.
I believe the spread of interfaith education can solve this issue in two ways. First off, the knowledge of other religions. In this particular instance, it must be clear that the Taliban are an extremist fringe group operating on fear, that regardless of claiming a faith would still be a violent group. Violence has no place in Islam, a religion known historically for its tolerance. Sajid Ishaq, chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League, clarifies that the attack on Malala “is an attack on the divine teachings and guidance of the peaceful religion of Islam which strongly condemns violence and use of force on people to change their beliefs.” Religious texts are a body of knowledge, which everyone can learn from. In my perspective, the human mind and faith are one great pool from which small streams of religion stem, each with its own direction, current, and ecology, but nonetheless from the same fluid source. No religion is all-encompassing so in comparing notes and learning about the religious teachings of others, we, as people, will better understand one another and skip much of the bloodshed and havoc that results from misunderstanding.
For those of us who are religious, religion defines a part of who we are, yet it is us who defines our own personal religion, not our religion who carves out who we are as individuals.We are each our own color and we collide on the world canvas, bleeding into each other, swirls or blotches, mixes or matches, beautiful or murky. We absorb each other into our own personal color, our own way of seeing the world. Perhaps we have that same light blue tinge that marks Judaism, or the purple that marks Christianity but the rest of our color is different, we eons away from each other on the world canvas. Due to my Jewish background, I’ve had people ask me based on a “Jewish connection” if I agree with Joe Liberman’s policies or if I like Mel Brooks’ films. Sometimes I am judged without question and people just assume. Interfaith dialogue is key, without it people might lead their lives believing that every Catholic priest is a child molester, every Muslim a terrorist. We need to see people in their own light with reflections of every experience they’ve had, every person they’ve met, yet at their core they are still their own person. But back to my point. I am not going to set fire to the Qu’ran in protest to the Taliban’s actions, because given my reasoning above such an action is uncalled for and rather illogical.
When I first heard about Malala, a deep, reverberating chord struck within me, but had Malala been Malalo (or the actual male variant of the name) I do not believe the chord would have been as deep. I felt anger, or rather bitter resentment at the thought of a fellow female suffering such a horrible fate. The chord continued to bounce around my mind, collide with my slowly percolating thoughts. Thoughts about the debates, the rhetoric of my AP Language class, the world of struggling women that surrounds us. Sexism is very much alive in today’s “modern” America and in countries around the world. It fluctuates, diminishing and reappearing, constantly there slyly glancing around. It will never completely disappear, but it can be controlled.
In my perspective, the main reason the Taliban shot Malala was not because she spoke out against them, but because she advocated for girls’ education. She’s a girl who has the utmost right to an education. She’s a girl with a voice who when people heard, listened. Since the start of civilization, women have constantly been looked down upon for various reasons. Yes, we have made progress, but definitely not as much as we should. Here, in America, girls have the right to an education, but we are constantly degraded in other ways via label, advertising, and legislation. One too many women has asked for it to stop but, the changes are small. I think that where we really must turn to is not the government or society, but to religion.
Religion, for centuries, has had a great role in the distribution of power. For example, the Catholic church has a hierarchy solely based on males. Only men can be rabbis in Orthodox Judaism. In Hinduism, women are restricted from performing the sacred funeral rituals for their parents. Although I don’t want to generalize (correct me if I am wrong), religion has usually bowed in favor of men as have individual cultures, but religion is even more inherent because it encompasses even more than one culture or ethnicity. Therefore, its values are more pervasive.
This is not to say if the pope gave a speech saying women and men are equal, the world would rumble and shake and sexism would be forever gone. But, if the religious leaders of the world, as well as the political leaders, came together to discuss an interfaith solution to chauvinism and succeeded in reaching one, I believe that the message of gender equality would surely propagate more greatly than it does even now after the rise of feminism.
Malala serves as a reminder to us privileged, educated women of the injustices done against those of our gender in other parts of the world as well as a reality-check for the sexism situation in our own lives. Education is definitely a factor in empowering women and I urge you to sign this petition, which will hopefully make Malala’s dreams come true.
I do not believe that interfaith dialogue is the solution to everything, but religion still has a strong hold on the world populace and its influence can be put to use. We must strive to understand one another and through that understanding help improve the world.
We all have a voice. We all have a color. We are all Malala. I am Malala.
like a faint glimmer of dust
on a child’s eyelids
blinked away in an instant
before I could taste
the blueness of the sky
chase the sun
but my footsteps fall too short
and my voice is too soft to reach the universe
Slowly but surely
my life is fading away
How do you perceive others? How do you perceive yourself? What role does religion have in your perceptions?
How do you believe sexism can be cured?