Malala: ‘I want every girl to be educated’

“I want every girl, every child, to be educated,” said Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan for her advocacy of girls’ education. Recovering from surgery in Britain, the 15-year-old girl has started a charity to support schooling for girls.

Taliban is too hot to debate

Virginia eighth-graders won’t argue the Taliban’s point of view in a mock UN debate, reports the Washington Post.  Swanson Middle School Principal Chrystal Forrester canceled the debate after some parents objected. (Among other things, parents feared kids searching for information would end up at extremist web sites.)

“Recognizing the pain that has touched many of our families and neighbors due to the terrorist attacks on the United States and acknowledging the sensitive nature of the conflict in Afghanistan involving many of our dedicated members of the U.S. armed forces, we have eliminated this topic as part of the U.N. unit of study effective immediately,” the e-mail said.

In addition to the Afghanistan conflict, students were asked to discuss:  China and Taiwan; India and Pakistan; North Korea vs. Western powers; Russia and Chechnya; and Colombia vs. the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In debate, students often are assigned to argue cases they don’t agree with. They have to work a bit harder.

At Core Knowledge Blog, Robert Pondiscio agrees with Post columnist Robert McCartney: The kids could have handled it.

In other news, a Pakistani comedy troupe has produced its version of a Taliban soap opera to “fight terrorism with humor.”

Afghan girls return to school

Scarred by acid, Afghan girls have returned to school in Kandahar, defying terrorists who attacked students and teachers two months ago, reports the New York Times.

. . .  if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.

“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

I hope teachers in the U.S. show this story to their students.

Update:  To learn to communicate with the rest of the world, Afghan students need help learning English, writes Michael Yon. Pashto and Dari aren’t enough.

The paternalism of rescue

If girls’ schools remain open in northwest Pakistan after Jan. 15, Taliban leaders threaten to attack schoolgirls and teachers and blow up the schools.

In response to a Crooked Timber post suggesting feminists have been reluctant to take up this cause, Keith M. Ellis comments on the inherent paternalism of Westerners trying to rescue Muslim women, which is “especially pernicious in the context where someone has been methodically and institutionally disempowered.”  Rescue “unfortunately continues the pattern of disempowerment.”

I happen to care a great deal about the oppression of women, in Afghanistan and everywhere else in the world.

. . . (But) it is not our job, as westerners — as outsiders — to specifically fight to improve the lot of Afghan women.

David Thompson notes the self-indulgence of this argument:

Well, one might argue against military intervention on an economic or tactical basis, or on grounds of pragmatism and self-interest. One might, for instance, argue that not every injustice can be engaged and it’s best to choose one’s battles. The ability to intervene is finite and conditional, and there are almost always other demands on whatever resources are available. But that isn’t the argument here.

Instead, Ellis argues the oppressed must empower themselves, while the rest of us “fight injustice” and “oppose those barriers which prevent Afghan women from empowering themselves.”  That way, “we can fight sexism in Afghanistan without placing ourselves into a paternalistic position.”

The “barriers” that prevent empowerment would be armed men willing to murder and maim unarmed girls and women.  I think by “fight” Ellis means “not fight.”

In response to Brahmin demands to continue the practice of burning the widow on her husband’s funeral pyre, the British governor of Sind, Gen. Charles Napier, said:

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

Horribly paternalistic. That poor widow survived unburnt — rescued and disempowered.

Pakistani Taliban bans girls’ schools

Pakistan’s Taliban has ordered girls’ schools to close by Jan. 15 in the Swat region. Buildings will be blown up and schoolgirls attack if the ban is defied, the fundamentalists warned in mosque speeches and radio broadcasts.

“Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society,” Shah Dauran, leader of a group that has established control over a large part of Swat district in the North West Frontier Province, declared this week.

Some closed schools have been turned into madrassas, where boys memorize the Koran.

The militants have also prohibited immunisation for children against polio – claiming that the UN-sponsored vaccination drive is aimed at causing sexual impotence – causing a sharp rise in cases of the disease.

Islamic militants have been fighting government forces in the region.  As Pakistan moves more troops to the Indian border, the pressure may ease on the Islamic militants.