Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for women’s rights and access to education, appeared on the Daily Show on Wednesday night. She had been nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize – an incredible achievement for a young woman who lives in an isolated village in Pakistan: and Stewart embraced the opportunity to speak with her about her work. She didn’t win, the Peace Prize was awarded to the very deserving Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who have been monitoring the volatile situation in Syria, but that’s not important.
What we wanted to share was an answer Malala gave to one of Jon Stewart‘s questions. She left him, and us speechless.
When Yousafzai was just 14 years old, a Talib fighter boarded a bus she was taking to school, pointed a pistol at her head, and pulled the trigger. The attempted assassination attempt was in response to Malala’s outspoken criticism of the Taliban’s tactics in her native Swat Valley: they didn’t appreciate that she was unafraid to speak out.
She survived the gunshot, made a full recovery in England, and has gone one to become a transformative figure in human rights.
During her interview with Stewart he asked her how she reacted when she learned that the Taliban wanted her dead. She said: I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’
Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’
A remarkable response, for which she received a standing ovation. Time for us all to put down the shoes and start to talk.