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Activists Ziauddin and Malala Yousafzai receive Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum award

by Silas Allen Modified: May 13, 2013 at 8:04 pm •  Published: May 13, 2013

“We take a lot of things for granted here — mainly education,” she said.

Malala first came to international attention when, at the age of 11, she wrote a blog for the BBC demanding education rights for Pakistani girls. She received death threats posted to her Facebook page, published in newspapers and slipped under her door.

Although Malala is still a teenager, Yousafzai said she posed enough of a threat to the Taliban and the group's “ideology of darkness” that they decided it would be necessary to kill her. That's because of what she stood for, he said — education for girls and empowerment and self-determination for women.

“Taliban are more afraid of books than bombs, believe me,” Yousafzai said.

But the hard-line form of Islam the Taliban have tried to enforce wasn't always the norm in Pakistan, Yousafzai. Before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, there was interfaith harmony in Pakistan.

Then, the United States, with the cooperation of Pakistan, began fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan, funding opposition forces. That conflict led to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, but Yousafzai said it also taught a generation of young men that it was acceptable to kill others in the name of ethnicity and faith.

But as Pakistanis gain the courage to speak out against the Taliban, Yousafzai said he's hopeful for the future.

The courage to speak against the Taliban, even after being attacked, was what made Malala an international figure, Yousafzai said — at this point, far outpacing himself in terms of name recognition.

“Before that, Malala was my daughter. But after that, I became her father,” Yousafzai said.

“In this male-dominated society, I am very proud that I am one of the few fathers who is known by his daughter.”