Let us pick up our books and our pens; they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education comes first.”
That was the closing remark of Malala Yousafzai when delivering an inspiring speech at the United Nations Youth Assembly in New York on Friday.
The day was dubbed Malala’s Day, which the UN dedicated to her on her 16th birthday that day. The Pakistani girl was shot in the forehead by one of the Taliban on her way to school in October last year for her public campaign against the Taliban’s violent attempts to stop girls from going to school in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a miracle she survived from such a brutal attack.
Malala, who now lives with her parents in Birmingham, United Kingdom, also said about the Taliban and extremists. “This is why they killed 14 innocent students in recent attacks in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day, because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society.”
From the Indonesian perspective we can get at least two lessons from Malala’s insightful thought.
First, Indonesian children and girls are much luckier than many of their counterparts in Pakistan and Afghanistan because although many girls here could not pursue their education further, the reasons are mostly economic condition rather than terror threats.
At top universities here, the number of female students exceeds that of their male friends. We have hardly heard young Muslims girls barred from universities in this country.
Second, the past Indonesian government adopted the Taliban way regarding books. Many books were burned or banned and many writers jailed because the government loathed differences of opinion or ideas, especially when it came to communism.
Sukarno and Soeharto were among the most active presidents in imprisoning writers or banning their books, but even after we fully adopted democracy in 1998, book censorship has remained in place officially.
Malala’s message will remain relevant through generations to come. The Muslim girl is a source of inspiration for not only Pakistani children and girls but also the world population. It will come as no surprise, therefore, if she wins the Noble Peace Prize this year, the youngest ever in the world.
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