Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True 'obscenity'

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The shots intended to silence schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai have been heard around the world. Let them also be a rallying cry against barbarism and extremism.

Some critics of the conflicts of the last decade frequently invoke the moral equivalence argument -- the Americans are evil, too, they say -- so everyone should be left alone to solve their own problems. In this world view, there is no moral high ground.

Tell that to Malala, a girl whose crime was wanting an education.

The Taliban of Pakistan's Swat Valley called her ambition an "obscenity" and it sent armed men to kill her while she rode the bus to school. The extremist sect, which ruled Afghanistan before it was ousted by the Americans following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, has vowed to finish the job if she survives her wounds -- truly an obscenity.

The Pakistan military has tried to stamp out the Taliban in the Swat Valley, but the campaign wasn't universally popular because some Pakistanis were sympathetic to the Taliban's anti-Americanism.

Pakistan and its people have expressed outrage at the attack on Malala, but it remains to be seen if a tipping point has been reached.

The Pakistan military has a long-standing relationship with the Afghan Taliban, which has also made a religion out of attacking girls and women. The army has tolerated the abuse because it believed support for the Taliban served a higher national purpose, but the price has been too high.

In her short life, Malala has become a powerful advocate for change and in doing so she has mapped out the moral high ground for all to see.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2012 A10

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