Malala Yousafzai speech to United Nations

''UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Pakistan teenager Malala Yousafzai vowed Friday not to be silenced by terrorists in a powerful speech to the United Nations on her first public appearance since being shot by the Taliban.

"They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed," Malala said on her 16th birthday in a presentation in which she called for books and pens to be used as weapons.

"The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born," she said.

Her 20 minute speech was given several standing ovations and was quickly hailed for her message of peace.

Malala, who wore a pink headscarf and a shawl that belonged to assassinated Pakistan leader Benazir Bhutto, insisted she did not want "personal revenge" against the Taliban gunman who shot her on a bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley on October 12 last year.

"I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me I would not shoot him."

But Malala said "the extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens, the power of education. The power of education silenced them. They are afraid of women."

"Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution," she said.

The passionate advocate for girls education was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she road on a school bus near her home in Pakistan's Swat Valley in October.

She was given life-saving treatment in Britain where she now lives, but the attack has given new life to her campaign for greater educational opportunities for girls.

Malala is now considered a leading contender for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Taliban have made it clear however that she remains a target.

Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister and UN special envoy for education, hailed Malala as "the bravest girl in the world" as he presented her at the UN Youth Assembly.

Brown said it was "a miracle" that Malala had recovered to be present at the meeting.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon and other top officials also hailed her achievements.

The speech in which Malala invoked the legacy of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and other legendary peace advocates brought quick praise.

Malala also thanked British doctors and nurses for the care they had given and the United Arab Emirates government for paying for her treatment.

"I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me," she said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on his twitter account that Malala had delivered a "powerful message".

The United Nations estimates that 57 million children of primary school age do not get an education -- half of them in countries at conflict like Syria.

"Students and teachers across our globe are intimidated and harassed, injured, raped, and even killed. Schools are burned, bombed, and destroyed," said Diya Nijhowne, director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

Nijhowne highlighted a horrific attack in northern Nigeria last week.

Gunmen from the Boko Haram Islamist group -- whose name literally means "Western education is a sin" -- broke into a secondary boarding school and killed 41 students and one teacher before setting fire to the building.

According to Ban's annual report on children and conflict, 115 schools were attacked last year in Mali, 321 in the occupied Palestinian territory, 167 in Afghanistan and 165 in Yemen.
Pakistan has an estimated five million children out of school and Nigeria 10 million, according to UN estimates.''


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Comment by Joan Denoo on July 16, 2013 at 10:03pm

Groping through the fog of religion, whether the fog of Taliban Muslims or Taliban Christians, Malala Yousafzai reaches the heart of the issue: education for each and every child opens doors for opportunity, freedom, and justice. Tearing away the bindings of the mind placed there by attitudes of tradition empowers one to flourish into unimagined dimensions of thought. Repudiating faux knowledge, replacing it with verifiable, testable, replicable information increases the probability of moving toward nature's principles. One cannot put trust in holy scriptures any more than we can put trust into Grimms Fairy Tales for finding how nature works. Surely, they are interesting and entertaining stories, but insufficient to face current challenges. Historically, scriptures may offer the evolution of human thought, but it cannot be accepted or used as the basis for educating the next generation.

I have no confidence in forgiveness either. I have known many domineering men and I have never witnessed a man who has been indoctrinated into a privileged position of independence, control and domination to transform into someone who can relinquish power and assume the role of partner. What good is it to forgive a dominator when their learning goes so deeply into their character they can't find a rationale to forgo their advantages.  The same is true for women who have been indoctrinated to be dependent, passive and subordinate. It takes something awful to give up such submissive traits. Women who are born into privilege also have no motivation to give up notions of their superiority. 

The good news is that both men and women benefit by putting effort into learning how to stand up for oneself and listen to others, individually and cooperatively, and to build community based on mutual respect, while thinking and reasoning in the process of making life work. A crime against humanity occurs when one causes harm to another and limits another's flourishing. 

The notion of a divine being named Yahweh, God or Allah , a personal god who answers prayers, who created Earth for man to dominate, or of prophets, whether named Isaiah, Jesus or Muhammad or any other name, or a heaven with angels or with 72 virgins for each martyr  is outrageous and can be dismissed as silly. 

What people believe in their own homes is none of my business. To impose such drivel on others just won't work. If Malala tries to carry forth her vision with the baggage of religion, she will fail, just as others before her have failed. When human beings can move beyond the fables into the world of reason, then perhaps there is hope. Reason, linked with compassion has the power to transform, not only individuals, but the Earth. 

Her message is an important one. Just as I put filters on to reduce sexism in sermons, I have to put on filters to Malala's message to clear the fog of religiousity. 

Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on July 13, 2013 at 9:58pm

Looking back over the last decade or so I see that a war is going on. A Jihad. So many people have been killed or maimed, so many lives destroyed. The monetary cost to the West is high, contributing to austerity and bankruptcy. Leaders in the fight against Islam come from different walks of life and include Malala, Tommy Robinson, Maine Le Pen and others who are not Atheists. The new Right wing in Europe nominally supports Christianity as being part of European culture.

Leading Atheists have also spoken up about Islam noteably the late Mr. Hitchens. It seems from this perspective that Atheists and intelligent people who purport to be religious are allied in a common cause and objective to expose Islam for what it is and  what it is doing.

Comment by Jim DePaulo on July 13, 2013 at 2:53pm

Loren, I agree that the intrusion of religion into secular affairs has been, and still is, crap and a millstone around around the neck of human progress.  We can't continue to make decisions on real world problems using bronze age mythology.  There are critical decisions that must be made if our species is to survive with any trace of civilization.  Mythical illusions will not get us through this century intact. 

Comment by Loren Miller on July 13, 2013 at 2:09pm

Much as I admire Malala, her outspokenness and her perseverance through the shooting and her considerable recovery process, I can't help but notice her continued reliance on and endorsement of islam and her apparent failure to recognize the religious foundational elements for her attack.  It may be that she has some appreciation for the downside of religion and is moderating her language because of her eventual return to Pakistan, exercising discretion as the better part of valor.

Frankly, I HATE that there remain too many places where religion has to be tiptoed around, for fear of disturbing its overly sensitive nature and risking its near-guaranteed overreaction.  Even as christianity is being confronted in the West, so should islam not be exempt from challenge at some level, even in places like southern Asia.

This crap has gone on long enough.

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