An Open Letter to Malala Yousafzai

Dear Malala:

First, I want to apologize.  Before I read your book, I only knew you by what happened to you.  You should never be reduced to the violence perpetrated against you, so I’m sorry.  Most of your books is from before, and those parts moved and inspired me at least as much as the climax.

Your descriptions of Swat and your day-to-day life there are reminiscent of a love letter to your homeland.  You described the scenery in such beautiful detail that I was instantly drawn in.  When you explained certain aspects of your culture, including its atmosphere of community, I felt your comfort and was at peace.  You more than explained it: you showed it through every interaction you described, with your fellow students, who came across more as sisters than friends, and the inclusion of your extended family, who were so prevalent that the “extended” seemed superfluous.  You did not hide the violence that infiltrated your home, but you managed to shine a light into those dark spots until we could see the beauty all around them.  Every time you mentioned that you still haven’t been able to return, I felt your heartbreak.  Your simple and pure language let the beauty of Swat shine through.

But what really shined through all of it was your heart, Malala.

I was under the misconception that you were attacked simply for trying to go to school and you became an activist in response.  That would have been extraordinary enough, but that was not the case.  When you were shot at 15, you had already been advocating for education for years.  Your passion for it colored your life: you spoke of it to every politician you encountered, risked heavily to use your voice in an anonymous blog, and worked hard in your personal studies to learn as much as you could.  You went to school even when you feared for your life.  Your passion and dedication are admirable.

Those traits impressed me, but I was equally inspired by your compassion and your faith.

When you saw children sifting through rubbish, your heart bled and you compelled your father to take them into his school.  You refused to fight only for yourself and instead fought for girls everywhere.  You never responded with cruelty or vengeance, despite what people have said and done to you.  Even the dedication speaks to your heart for your fellow women.

Equally amazingly, you kept your faith throughout and took control of it.  When you were told girls should not get an education because it went against Islam, you said, “No.  That is not what the Quran says.”  Instead of blaming Allah for the acts of men, you chose to thank Him for what happened next.

You, Malala Yousafzai, are an incredible young woman, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to read your story.

Respectfully yours,
Kari M. Johnson

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Categories: Book Club Thursday | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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