THE Taliban extremists who shot a 15-year-old schoolgirl for opposing their attempts to ban education for girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan were scared cowards who feared that educated women could take power, one of their victims, Malala Yousafzai, told the Archbishop of Canterbury last week.
Miss Yousafzai was being interviewed by Archbishop Welby in front of an audience of about 600 young students in Dudley College on Saturday night, as part of the Archbishop’s three-day pastoral visit to the diocese of Worcester.
“I never realised that the people were just so scared that they would come and target me at the age of 15,” she said. “But it did happen, because they could see the threat. There was a threat to their ideology. There was a threat to their mindset. There was a threat of women taking power, and they could not accept that.”
She said that they demonstrated their cowardice by arming themselves with guns to try to kill a schoolgirl.
In the interview, Miss Yousafzai explained that she started fighting for the right to education in 2009, at the age of 11, after hearing a radio broadcast by the Taliban in which they said that schooling was banned. “I woke up and realised that I wasn’t able to follow my dreams.”
Despite her young age, she wrote an anonymous blog about education and life under the Taliban on the BBC World Service Urdu website. She rose to prominence, giving interviews and appearing in media reports; but it was not until she was shot on the school bus in October 2012 that she gained international fame.
She was flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, for specialist treatment, and, after an extensive period of recovery, she eventually continued her schooling at the city’s all-girl Edgbaston High School — all the time continuing to fight for the right to education.
For the past three years she has been included in Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People. In 2013, she was the recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, and the next year she became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (News, 17 October 2014). But, despite the international acclaim, she still has both feet firmly on the ground.
“I might have got the Nobel Peace Prize, but that doesn’t help with university education,” she said, as she explained that she had just written her personal statement for her UCAS application. “It has been challenging, because you just don’t know what to write.”
Welby in the hotseat THE Archbishop of Canterbury underwent two separate grillings last Friday, on the first of a three-day visit to the diocese of Worcester.
Popcorn and hot dogs were the accompaniment to an interview with Jeremy Vine in front of an audience of about 1600 people at the University of Worcester Arena, on Friday night. During the interview, Jeremy Vine said: “You attacked the Government’s benefit cap without a word about how this country pays back a national debt” of £1.56 trillion.“We are borrowing £191 million a day, and I keep thinking: ‘When is the Archbishop going to tell us we can’t live like this?’”
The Archbishop replied that he was not an economist, but said: “We are also earning a lot. I don’t want to get into the economics of it, but I am not going to say that we shouldn’t be borrowing it. . . If we are borrowing it to splurge it, that is wrong; but if we’re borrowing it for investment, to create jobs, to sustain the economy, to help people, to make the country better in the future — then praise God for that.”
Earlier, in Worcester Cathedral, it was the turn of some of the county’s secondary-school pupils to ask the questions. Asked whether it was ever justified to have a crusade or holy war, Archbishop Welby was unequivocal: “My answer is ‘No. I don’t think it is’,” he said.
He told the young questioner from Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College that he was not a pacifist, and that there were times when war was justified. But, after outlining the just-war theory, he said: “We still live with the consequences of the Crusades, which were started by Christians. They have been a blot on Christian history.
“The thing about war . . . is that it is easy to start; and it takes centuries to stop the consequences.”