illustrated portrait of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai

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Chapters 11–12 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 11

Malala remembers enjoying school despite Fazlullah's threats. Eventually, the threats of violence became a reality, and Fazlullah's Taliban group began bombing schools. His people were also responsible for killing a local police officer, Javid Iqbal, who died at the hands of a suicide bomber while trying to escape from Taliban hitmen. On February 29, 2008, another suicide bomber killed mourners who attended Javid’s funeral. The elders of the Swat Valley immediately created a crisis assembly called the Qaumi Jirga to challenge Fazlullah's actions. Ziauddin himself gave interviews on local and Western stations to alert the world to the Taliban's atrocities. He asserted that the Taliban enjoyed support from some quarters of the Pakistani army and ISI, an affiliation he considered unconscionable. Buoyed by her father's unequivocal support, Malala also gave interviews. Both appeared on the BBC and Voice of America to warn the world that the Taliban was distorting the Islamic faith through its evil actions. Undeterred, the Taliban bombed the Sangota Convent School for girls and the Excelsior College for boys on October 7, 2008. By the end of 2008, the Taliban had destroyed around 400 schools, and it soon announced that it would close all girls' schools.

Chapter 12

Malala documents how the Taliban left bloodied bodies in the town square to generate fear among the populace. One day, the terror group murdered a popular female dancer named Shabana. Because Shabana was considered a woman of ill repute, many people rationalized the killing as an act of moral cleansing. Each day, the Taliban committed more atrocities in the Swat Valley. The group took great care to target people who had supposedly defied some aspect of Sharia law. Although the Taliban portrayed itself as the savior of Pakistani civilization, it was actually responsible for instituting religious totalitarianism in the Swat Valley. To complicate matters, local leaders like Syed Javid (Swat's deputy commissioner) became active supporters of the Taliban, thus normalizing the terror group in the public eye. Malala relates that her people often felt helpless; the Pakistani army appeared to launch many battle campaigns but never seemed any closer to ridding Pakistan of the Taliban.


In Chapter 11, Malala references Martin Niemoller's poem as Ziauddin's inspiration for speaking out against the Taliban. Niemoller was a German Lutheran pastor who endured years of incarceration in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. His poem warns against the dangers of political and social apathy. Throughout the book, Ziauddin is a fearless advocate for justice and truth; despite threats to his life, he perseveres in speaking out against evil. It is noteworthy that the premise of Niemoller's poem supports the Quranic verse Malala quotes in the same chapter: "The falsehood has to go, and the truth will prevail." This shows that the hunger for truth and justice is universal. This chapter also highlights the stark contrast between the progressive and extremist interpretations of the Quran. For centuries, the Muslim world has relied on mullahs and Islamic scholars to interpret the Arabic Quran for the masses. In Pakistan, the official languages are English and Urdu; national fluency in Arabic varies. As Malala documents, the Taliban has leveraged global discrepancies in Arabic fluency to promote its own brand of Islam. In Pakistan, it has also relied on the ignorance and natural superstitions of a trusting populace to support its rise to power. For the Taliban, keeping entire populations uneducated is a key political strategy. In the Taliban's view, uneducated girls who grow up to be wives and mothers are in no danger of passing on any progressive views to the next generation.

Chapter 12 reinforces the importance of independent thought. Shabana's murder raises two important questions: Is it right for Muslim men to enjoy Shabana's performances while simultaneously condemning her for her chosen profession? Should the Taliban's execution of Shabana be classified as righteous judgment or cold-blooded murder? Malala argues that the Taliban's culture of intimidation and brutality is antithetical to her faith. Like her father, Malala refuses to validate the Taliban’s interpretation of the Quran. In this chapter, we learn that Shabana was stalked by members of the Taliban. The Taliban tactic of sending out scouting parties to police the general populace has its roots in Saudi Wahhabism. Saudi Wahhabism is committed to increasing Sunni relevance on the global stage; as we already know, the Taliban is Sunni. Both groups favor only one interpretation of Islam; all other interpretations are considered heretical. In the Taliban's eyes, Ziauddin and Malala are apostate or infidel Muslims because they do not accept the Salafist-jihadi or Wahhabi interpretation of the Quran. It's important to note that the early leaders of the Taliban were taught in Saudi Wahhabi madrasas. Today, both groups suppress dissension by parading brutal executions before the public eye. The chapter ends with Malala turning to Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time for comfort; even though extremist militants may threaten her physical safety, Malala refuses to allow them power over her mind.

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Chapters 9–10 Summary and Analysis


Chapters 13–14 Summary and Analysis