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09/03/2013

Pakistani Teen Malala Yousafzai: "No greater weapon than knowledge"

Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 12.30.05 PM
Asim Hafeez/Toronto Star

Did the Taliban ever pick on the wrong girl.

The world's media was riveted last October by the news that Pakistan schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai had been gunned down on a bus. Yousafzai lived in Pakistan's Swat Valley, an area of orchards and valleys where the government had ceded control to the Taliban.

For several years, Yousafzai was a rare vocal critic of the Taliban, at one point boldly telling The Star in an interview that though the arch-conservative group might stop girls from attending school, it would not stop her from learning.

"How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to an education," she said at one conference in Peshawar.

After she was shot, Yousafzai and her family were flown to England, where the 16-year-old, nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, has made a remarkable recovery, giving an impassioned speech to the United Nations for free education for the world's needy.

She continues her public speaking, and on Tuesday in Birmingham opened a new library, proclaiming books are "the weapons to defeat terrorism," according to an AFP wire service report.

"There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word."

Yousafzai has pledged to "read thousands of books and I will power myself with knowledge. Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism."

She's picked a good library in which to continue her quest. The Library of Birmingham is home to 1 million books, including first editions of William Shakespeare's works.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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Malala is the bravest person I have ever seen. There should be a movement to get her a Nobel peace prize. It would help restore credibility to the award, credibility that was lost after granting those bums Obama and Gore the prize.

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