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The Taliban attack on Malala Yousafzai, rather than instilling fear, has infused the nation with the courage to choose a path of tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law, civil society contends.
By Zahir Shah
PESHAWAR – With multitudes of Pakistanis still praying for the speedy recovery of young activist Malala Yousafzai, Pakistanis broadly agree that the Taliban's "barbaric attack" on her has infused society with the conviction to stand up to extremist and militant ideologies.
"Malala's sacrifice for rectitude has clearly drawn the line between the two opposing ideologies," the regional head of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation, Arshad Haroon, told Central Asia Online. "One is the path of truth, tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law, while the second is the path of anarchy, terrorism and militancy."
"It’s time now that we as a nation decide once for all that on which side we have to be," he said.
Nearly a month after the Taliban shot Malala in the head in Mingora, doctors say the girl is walking, talking, and reading again. As she regains her physical strength, the country builds ideological strength and resolve in its condemnation of Taliban injustices.
Pakistanis still advocate for peace
Although attacks against peace advocates have been going on for a long time, the attempt to kill Malala was especially shocking, said UN adviser and women’s-rights activist Rashinda Naz, but she said the nation is resolved not to let it derail efforts toward progress.
"Our struggle and efforts for justice and women’s empowerment will continue," she told Central Asia Online.
Others echoed a continuing commitment to work to resist the militancy.
"The tyranny and bloodshed in the last 10 years in the name of Islam are enough and had been justified by different excuses, but we have to decide which side we have to support now," Arshad said. "Enough is enough."
Pakistanis stand united against terrorism
While the attack on Malala aimed to frighten women and schoolgirls, it only caused Pakistanis to speak with a collective voice against terrorism, Tasneem Ahmed, social scientist and director of the Islamabad-based Uks Research Centre, told Central Asia Online.
"It will encourage the womenfolk to rise up to the occasion and speak loudly for the right and oppose the wrong," she said. "All feel that the community – and the entire world – will be at their back and that they should resist such acts of barbarism."
In the schools, that resistance is evident in special prayers at morning assemblies and when students perform Khatm-i-Koran (a complete Koran recitation) for Malala’s recovery.
"Our kids are all united and praying for Malala’s early recovery, which is enough to give a clear message that the voices of truth and uprightness could not be silenced," said Khalida, principal of the University Model School in Peshawar.
Malala was attacked primarily because she wrote a blog advocating education for girls and condemning the militant reign of terror between 2007 and 2009 in Swat.
"Leave aside (the question of whether) Malala has revolted against the Taliban or any other extremist force," said Shazia, a teacher in a government school. "Her gesture is an ... inspiration to other girls, and they would follow her as a role model for the spread of education and enlightenment in society."
That the Taliban were so brazen as to try to kill a 15-year-old has rankled people from all walks of life.
"I wonder why these people are afraid of a girl and why they wanted to deprive us of education," said Shehzad Rashid, a student at a government school who was praying for Malala during a school assembly.
"One thing we have come to know is that these people had nothing to do with religion or with Muslims but have their own vested interests," he added.
Attack goes against teachings of Islam
Indeed, religious authorities have asserted that the Taliban attack contradicts Sharia Law and has no place in Islam.
"We condemn this brutal attack …which cannot be justified according to Sharia," said religious scholar Maulana Tayyub Qureshi, adding that it has "no justification in Islam."
Muslims must stay away from any act of violence that contravenes Sharia or Islamic teachings, Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, chief imam-hatib of the Masjid Mohabat Khan mosque, said. "I don’t believe any peace-loving true Muslim could resort to such a brutal act of violence, which has no justification in Sharia."
The attempt to kill Malala shows the true face of militants who care nothing for social and religious norms, Shaguta Malik, a member of the KP parliament from the Awami National Party, told Central Asia Online.
"They are the enemies of Pakistan," she said. "They wanted to destroy Pakistan by depriving the younger generation, especially girls, of education."
"But they will not succeed because the nation is united against them," she said.