In Michener’s classic Iberia, he facetiously observes of Spaniards “Anyone who eats chocolate and churros for breakfast need not prove their courage in any other way.”  I love Michener’s writing, but courage is not a joke.  To me, courage is shown by many special people.  These days, it is defined in one word — Malala. 

Malala Yousafzai was born in 1997 in the Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan.  She is 16 years old.  Malala and her family have lived under the Taliban boot for much of her short life.  As a girl, she has been forbidden to attend school.  The Taliban is known for crushing any attempt for girls to learn.  They burn schools and kill teachers suspected of teaching girls.  In 2009, Malala – at the tender age of 11 or 12 began speaking out about the need for girls to learn.  And to attend school.  She pubished a blog under a pseudonym through the BBC detailing life under the Taliban and speaking out against them.  She then began writing under her own name — and giving interviews on television.  All directed toward the need for girls to go to school.  

On October 9, 2012, the school bus in which she was riding was stopped and boarded by Taliban assassins.  They approached Malala and shot her in the head and neck.  Malala clung to life and was sent to the UK for surgeries.  On October 12th, 50 Pakistani clerics – to their credit – issued a fatwa (religious ruling) condemning the attack.  Malala is now up and around.  And she is speaking out.  Against the cowards who are the Taliban.  She is now under consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.   She deserves it.  And the Taliban?  They deserve what they gave Malala.  Let’s deputize Mitch Rapp and Jack Reacher. . . . .     

The Taliban

Just who are the“Taliban”?  The word “Taliban” is the Arabic (and Pashto) plural form of “student.”  The singular form is talib. 

The Taliban is a militant Islamic fundamentalist movement which operates in and is composed primarily of fundamentalist Sunni tribesmen from Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The Taliban favor a strict interpretation of Sharia law (the moral code and religious law of Islam).  “Sharia” means “pathway to be followed” in Arabic.  

The Taliban got its start in Afghanistan in the early 1990’s with the power vacuum left by the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989.  Through 2001, the Taliban were actually supported by the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and some speculate that this support may actually be ongoing.  The Taliban is a political and military force to be reckoned with in these desperately poor areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The Taliban are violent — accounting for three quarters of all casualties in Afghanistan since the U.S. became involved in that country.  They are especially known for cruelty and brutality toward women.  Religious police beat women on the streets if an ankle shows beneath their full burqa.  Women receive limited medical attention, and schools and work for women are forbidden.  And on and on. . . .  The Taliban has banned music and theaters and has destroyed priceless cultural artifacts which “offend.” 

Al-Qaeda, which also pushes violent jihad, fundamentalism and Sharia law, is distinct – and should not be confused with the Taliban (except perhaps in deserving universal condemnation).  Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan’s armed forces teamed up in the mid-90’s against the Northern Alliance (mainly Tajiks) who waged a sectarian war over the new political establishment in Afghanistan.       

As I write about these characters, I (and I’m sure many) get angry . . . .  What do you/we do about these characters?  Should we do anything?  Hmmm?  What would you do — if anything?   It occurred to me that Mitch Rapp may be the ideal solution to the Taliban problem (see post of August 25, 2011).