Malala discusses the trials Ziauddin endured in launching his own school. To begin with, Ziauddin's father had expected him to become a doctor, and he was displeased by Ziauddin's interest in education. Thus, when Ziauddin was offered a place at Jehanzeb College, Rohul Amin refused to help with living expenses. Malala recalls that Ziauddin was saved when Nasir Pacha, a distant relative, offered him room and board. A man named Akbar Khan became Ziauddin's mentor and loaned him money to meet college expenses. After graduating from Jehanzeb College, Ziauddin and his dear friend Mohammad Naeem Khan used their savings to start an English-language school in Mingora. However, this partnership was fraught with personality clashes and eventually dissolved. Hidayatullah, another investor, took Naeem's place, and with Hidayatullah’s help, Ziauddin was able to launch the Khushal School. Unbeknownst to Ziauddin, this was only the beginning of more problems. Public officials expected Ziauddin to pay a large bribe to register his primary school, while parents were wary of trusting their children's education to an independent school. In the midst of this, Ziauddin married Toor Pekai and went into debt to pay for some of the wedding expenses. More financial difficulties and two flash floods soon followed, damaging the school. Despite these setbacks, Ziauddin was able to rise from the ashes to rebuild the Khushal School.
Malala relates how she enjoyed childhood Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Azha celebrations at her family's village in Barkana, Shangla. Shangla is located in the Kana dara (valley), and there are three main villages at the bottom of the valley: Barkana (where Ziauddin grew up), Karshat, and Shahpur. Barkana is remote and poor, yet Malala remembers how her extended family always prepared a lavish spread in celebration of their arrival. The only clinic is located in Shahpur; for serious ailments, villagers had to take a bus to Mingora. Malala fondly remembers her playtime with the other children, but she also laments the lack of women's rights in Barkana. There, the principle of purdah is strictly enforced. Men are allowed to flirt, but women must remain beyond reproach. Malala relates that a fifteen-year-old girl, Seema, was poisoned by her own family for allegedly flirting with a love interest. Malala also speaks out against the practice of swara, where women can be swapped between clans to settle disputes.
In Chapter 3, Malala continues to describe both local culture and events of international relevance. She relates that her paternal uncle, Uncle Khan dada (Saeed Ramzan), taught in the village of Sewoor. Sewoor is made up of Gujars, Mians, and Kohistanis. The Mians are respected as landed nobles, while the Gujars and Kohistanis are considered illiterate peasants. Here, we see an informal class hierarchy that marginalizes the working poor, much as girls are disenfranchised in Pashtun culture. Malala reiterates Ziauddin's belief that ignorance keeps Pakistanis beholden to corrupt politicians and tribal rulers. In that light, Ziauddin's personal crusade to expand education can be seen as an effort to salvage Pakistan's future. Malala's mention of the collegiate wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's main religiopolitical party, is important. During Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's reign as prime minister, the Jamaat-e-Islami coordinated with its Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba (IJT) collegiate organizations to support General Zia's extremist leanings. The IJT participated in aggressive demonstrations and acted to intimidate anti-Zia student groups on campuses. After General Zia's coup, the IJT participated in the general's "Islamization" of Pakistan. The IJT's favorite tactic was violence, and it used it to intimidate anti-Zia groups that voiced support for secularism. During this time, the controversy regarding Salman Rushdie's The Satanic...
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Verses highlighted the divide between secular and conservative Islam in Pakistan. Malala's mention of the September 11 attacks is also significant, as it foreshadows the Taliban invasion of the Swat Valley in future chapters.
In Chapter 4, we are further exposed to how Ziauddin's progressive views about women's rights have influenced Malala's Muslim faith. Although Ziauddin's belief in equal rights often puts him at odds with his fellow Pashtuns, he is unfazed by the controversy it generates. When a male cousin demands to know why Malala isn't wearing the full burqa, Ziauddin resolutely defends his right to raise his daughter according to his own principles. Ziauddin explains that an extreme form of Islam is destructive. The year before Malala was born, the Taliban terrorized innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Men were forced to grow long beards, while women were forbidden from showing their faces. Women were beaten and incarcerated for breaking any number of rules pertaining to Sharia law. This chapter introduces the subject of honor killings in Pakistan. To date, a jirga (tribal council) can order the killing of a young woman for refusing to practice purdah, for imitating the independence of Western women, for having non-Muslim love interests, for divorcing an abusive husband, and for wanting a career outside the domestic sphere. Throughout the book, Malala's discussion of two opposing forms of Islam highlights the contentious debate on women's rights in the Muslim world. While secularist Muslims welcome Western conceptions of freedom, ultra-orthodox Muslims view religious autonomy as a dangerous privilege.