Exchange Students React to New Documentary, “He Named me Malala”


Krona Emmanuel and Shamsa Sajid

Ashley Rodriguez, Senior Reporter

In this country, children are allowed to attend school from an early age. As we near adulthood, most of us can choose to continue being educated, or we can give it up. Because of our long tradition of free public education, we often don’t see it as a privilege and a gift. But in some parts of the world, political regimes, such as the Taliban, do not allow girls to be educated.

Many human rights, along with the right to attend school, ended for Malala Yousafzai when she was 10 years old, because of the Taliban. This came to be a turning point in her life where eventually she had to decide whether to use her voice and be killed, or remain silent and still be killed.

Malala is a girl who used her voice to speak up specifically for women’s rights, but also against the violence and oppression of the Taliban that was misrepresenting the views of her religion.

In 2012, at the age of 15, a contract was put out to end her life. Malala was shot in the head while on her school bus for her beliefs. Since that time, Malala has been determined not to be known as the girl who was shot by the Taliban, but rather as the girl who speaks for many girls throughout the world who, because of war, political forces, poverty, and injustice are denied an education.

Malala was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at age 17, making her the only Pashtun, Pakistani, and the youngest winner of the esteemed Nobel Prize. She has applied the million dollar award to The Malala Fund, her own organization dedicated to providing quality education to girls “Everywhere, anywhere in the world and to rais(ing) their voices.”

Malala stated in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “The first place this funding will go to is where my heart is, to build schools in Pakistan—especially in my home of Swat and Shangla.”.

Malala Yousafzai, who has already written a book about her life and experience, is now the subject of a documentary called, “He named me Malala,” which was released this month in the U.S. On opening weekend in Colorado Springs, two Pakistani exchange students; Shamsa Sajid (9) and Krona Emmanuel (11) went to watch the movie. Their initial impressions, and later their responses to some questions regarding values, education, the influence of the Taliban, and social activism have been recorded.

Both Shamsa and Krona thought that the movie was very moving and that Malala herself is an inspiration. They also thought that it was amazing that one person, especially a teenager, can have such an impact on the world. While they both live in different regions of Pakistan than where Malala is from, they acknowledged some similarities and some differences with her life. In the cities Krona and Shamsa are from, which are both under Federal control and closer to the border with India than the border with Afghanistan, the Taliban has not taken a stronghold and education for girls has not been banned. Krona stated, however, that in his city, schools have been bombed and that he has heard bomb blasts himself on occasion. The Pakistani government has become much more active overall in fighting the Taliban forces in recent years which sometimes causes even more terrorist attacks in attempt to suppress the resistance of the people. Though neither Shamsa or Krona live in war zones, the government has placed soldiers and guards in their local schools and bomb drills are staged, which are similar to the lock-down drills we have in schools here. They both have experienced some level of discomfort and fear around going to school. Both exchange students value education highly and plan to continue their schooling.

Violence and injustice represented in the documentary was committed against the people in Malala’s village who opposed the Mullah Fazlullah’s radicalized views of Islam and terrorist tactics to control the population. Shamsa pointed out that his is a misguided and misrepresentative perspective on the Muslim religion. Approximately 97% of the population of Pakistan identify as Muslims. Shamsa is Muslim and Krona is Christian. As a muslim, Shamsa finds the Taliban’s efforts to silence the majority prevents the western world from fully recognizing an important message that Malala emphasized in her words as well as her life; that the prophet of mercy, Mohammad directs his followers to not harm themselves or others, and that the words of Allah hold that “If you kill one person it is as if you kill the whole of humanity.” and that “The very first word of the Holy Quran is ‘iqra’; which means ‘read’.”

Krona was most touched by the words of Malala’s father in the movie when he stated, “Malala was not shot by a person, she was shot by an ideology.” This reminds us all that we must be careful in our beliefs because they guide our actions.

When Yousafzai found that the Taliban wanted to kill her, her reply was, “I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Finally, the movie reminds us that behind the greatest people, we can find a humble and human heart. Malala is the first to acknowledge that, while winning the Nobel Peace Prize, within her home she still fights with her brothers and knows that they still need to figure out how to live peacefully. She is also a soccer fan, and has a bit of a celebrity crush, along with Shamsa, on a couple of the most attractive Pakistani National Team players. She is just a normal girl that has a normal life and a normal family, but she has also given most of her life to make sure that anyone and everyone can have an education.

In the words of Malala, “One Child, One Teacher, One Book, and One Pen Can Change The World.”