Pakistani civil society activists carry candles to pay tribute to 14-year-old… (Arif Ali /AFP /Getty Images )
It's appalling enough that 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who publicly championed the cause of education for girls in Pakistan, was shot in the head and neck and critically injured by gunmen who boarded her school bus in the Swat Valley. Even more horrendous is that a Taliban spokesman declared that she had been singled out for attack because of her support of girls' education in defiance of Taliban edict. "Let this be a lesson," the spokesman told the New York Times.
We hope it will be a lesson — that such violence is barbaric and counterproductive. It has no place in today's world. Not in Pakistan or Afghanistan or anywhere else. As Islamic parties and politicians become increasingly influential across the region, now is the time to make it clear that the Taliban's brutal and backward version of Islam is neither the only one nor even the mainstream one.
Malala, who has said she hopes to become a doctor, is a national figure in Pakistan, admired for her courageous outspokenness against the Taliban's destruction of girls' schools and her insightful blog postings about what it's like to go to school in fear.
Since Tuesday's bus attack, which less seriously injured another girl as well, Malala has undergone surgery to remove a bullet in her neck and, as of Wednesday, was reportedly out of danger. Meanwhile, we're encouraged to see that a sense of outrage has swept across Pakistan. The shooting has been denounced by the country's president, its top military leader, as well as much of the media and the public.
Nevertheless, the Taliban's campaign continues against women and against anything it sees as smacking of Western influence. On Wednesday, the group issued a statement reiterating its ludicrous opposition to the education of girls and its promise to target anyone else "preaching secularism."
This incident was heart-rending, and the organization's on-the-record threat to carry out more such attacks is infuriating. Allowing girls to be schooled is not a Western eccentricity; it is a basic human right that should be protected across the globe.