After Taliban gunmen attacked Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai last October simply for asking for an education, supporters gathered outside her London hospital, some bearing signs that read “I Am Malala.”
But nobody carried a poster or raised a placard saying “I Am Taliban,” Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai said at an award ceremony Monday at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Ziauddin Yousafzai was in Oklahoma City this week to accept the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum's 2013 Reflections of Hope Award.
The memorial gave the award to Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai in recognition of their work to promote education among Pakistani girls.
When gunmen appeared on Malala's school bus last fall and shot her in the head and neck, Pakistani Muslims, who already had suffered for years at the hands of the Taliban, disowned the group, Yousafzai said.
He pleaded with the crowd Monday not to associate the terrorist organization with the Pakistani people or the Islamic faith.
“Let them not be associated with Islam,” Yousafzai said. “They have nothing to do with Islam. If we disown them, kindly don't associate them with Islam.”
Yousafzai is the director of a school for girls he founded in Pakistan's Swat region with the hopes of fostering a generation of female leadership. Before the attempt on her life, Malala was a student at the school.
Memorial Director Kari Watkins said the Yousafzais represented the same ideals that the memorial works to promote.
They are examples of the damage that political violence causes, and how education is a key to overcoming violence and promoting understanding among different religious and political groups and other organizations.
The Yousafzais' message is particularly strong because it carries hope in the midst of instability and political violence, Watkins said. That message fits well with the memorial's mission, she said, and it also reminds westerners of the value of education.