ASU community reacts to attack on 14-year-old Pakistani activist

Malala Yousafzai rose to fame in 2009 through a blog where she wrote about her battle to get an education as a girl in Pakistan. Now, she is fighting for her life.

The 14-year-old activist was on her way home from school Tuesday when a man got on her bus and started screaming for her. When he saw her, he shot her twice and left her for dead.

Yousafzai, who received the Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize, lives in the Swat district where the army and the Taliban have fought for dominance.

Fatima Talib moved to Arizona this fall from her home country of Pakistan to participate as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Talib said Yousafzai has done a lot for Pakistani women.

“It’s very difficult to be a woman in Pakistan,” Talib said. “We need to fight for our rights. I salute Malala and her work.”

Talib met with students from the Swat valley in 2009 after the army evacuated them for fear of the Taliban.

The children she met were afraid to attend school but wanted to continue their education, Talib said.

The population in Pakistan has condemned the attack, she said.

“The people support her and want her to get better,” she said. “The Taliban do not represent us.”

Islam is a flexible and peaceful religion that has been tarnished by extremists, Talib said.

Pakistanis are against the Taliban and want peace, Talib said.

“They are misinterpreting the book and the religion,” she said. “How can we be violent to humans on the basis of Islam? It’s absurd.”

Talib said attacks like the one on Yousafzai are to blame for misinformed ideas about Muslims.

“These things make me feel heartbroken,” she said. “There’s always a fear in the back of my mind that people think this sort of thing represents all of us.”

Theater professor Bill Partlan directed a play in 2009 about the misconceptions of Islam in the U.S.

“I am very aware of our perceptions of Islam as opposed to the teachings of the religion,” he said.

Partlan said the attack on Yousafzai was terrifying and represents the Taliban, not Islam as a whole.

“I hope most people recognize that there are practitioners who close their minds to the validity of other views in every religion,” he said.

Biomedical engineering senior Neekta Hamidi said this tragedy misrepresents Islam.

“It is so unfortunate to see any tragedy to happen,” she said. “It is also unfortunate to see that it takes something like this to attract the attention of the media.”

Hamidi, founder and president of Oxfam at ASU, said Pakistani people condemn the incident.

“It is the Muslims who are fighting for her,” she said. “This is the opportunity to react against the Taliban.”

Exploratory freshman Nahil Ismail, who was born in Pakistan, said the country and the religion are peaceful.

“At its root, Pakistan is such a good place,” she said.

The Taliban misunderstand Islam, Ismail said.

“Just like there’s a small group who are extremists over there, there is also a small population who has misconceptions about Islam,” she said. “At the end of the day, we are all just people.”

 

Reach the reporter at dpbaltaz@asu.edu