AMID all the unpleasantness that makes daily world news, there was one happy report that Malala Yousafzai has gained a place at Oxford University to study philosophy, politics and economics. For those with short memories, Malala is the daughter of a Pakistani school principal who, like most normal children, wanted to do like her father, and encouraged her friends to learn to read and write, for which the Taliban attempted to murder her in 2012. She was only 15. As the father of two teenage children, one of whom is roughly the same age as Malala, I speak with authority when I say that there is nothing a 15-year-old child is capable of doing that merits two bullets in the head. But putting aside humanitarian considerations, ponder if you will, on the warped logic of the gunmen. They claimed to have committed their crime in the name of Islam. So, they sought to protect the faith whose first commandment is “read!” by attempting to murder a child who wanted to do just that. Reflect further that some imams forbid women from showing their bodies to men, even for a medical examination. Logically, this would suggest that women should consult women doctors only, unless we want to send them back to their maker on their first illness. But how can women become doctors if they are prevented from learning to read and write in the first place? Malala deserved to become a world symbol for her courage in advocating education for women. This child warrior deserves all the honours that she received, which include being the youngest person ever to address Canada’s House of Commons and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. However, I find painfully cynical the conspiracy theory that Western countries only adopted Malala’s cause as a propaganda exercise. Even if this were true, it is better to do a good deed, irrespective of the reasons, than to do nothing at all. The fatwas by Muslim imams that those gunmen do not represent Islam, which came only three days after the shooting, were necessary, but eminently insufficient. On their own, they can only lead to a contrarian game of words where the Taliban would respond: “Oh, yes, we do!” and the imams would insist: “Oh, no, you don’t!” and a good time would be had by all. In the meantime, Muslims need people like Malala. Her courage will inspire thousands, if not millions, of girls and boys to follow her example and bring about the change that is sorely needed for Muslims to cope with the challenges of progress. The fight is between those who want to forge their way into the future and those who wish to keep society fettered in the past by the manacles of tradition; but as Malala said to the Girl Summit in London: “Traditions are not … sent from God. It is we who make culture and we have the right to change it and we should change it.” Published in Daily Times, August 22nd 2017.