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Looking Beyond Malalapalooza

Meet Malala Yousafzai. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, this young Pakistani woman was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 at the age of fifteen. Her crime: She fought for the right of Muslim girls to receive an education. Her survival has been described as miraculous and her recovery heroic. Since then, Malala (as she is called) has emerged as an international symbol of peaceful protest. She was given refuge and support in Birmingham, England, where she was nursed back to health and later collaborated with Christina Lamb to write a bestselling memoir of her harrowing experience at the hands of Muslim extremists.

Without a doubt, Malala is a remarkable young woman. Her memoir skyrocketed to the top of the nonfiction bestseller charts and has already found its way onto high-school and college reading lists. To garner that kind of exposure in such a short time isn’t too surprising given the nature of her message. First, her book deals with not one but two current, hot-button controversies: Islam and women’s rights. Second, the manner in which her memoir addresses these two issues nicely colors inside the lines of political correctness and the flowering liberal narrative of Islam as a “religion of peace,” even amid overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Yes, Malala was shot in the head by Muslim men who believe women are second-class citizens whose human rights can reasonably be trampled. Some might say that’s evidence that Islam might not exactly be a “religion of peace” as described by U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But no. Malala and her handlers compartmentalize Islamic violence, jihad, and the trampling of human rights. The Taliban? That’s not the real Islam. Al-Qaeda? No, can’t be the real Islam. ISIS and its talk of caliphate? Nah, not the real Islam. Muslim refugees who sexually assault and rape European women in their host countries? Nope, not the real Islam. Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East and in Africa? No real Islam at work there. Violent Muslim persecution of Hindus in India? You guessed it: Can’t be the real Islam.

How do the Malalaites know this? Their logic runs along these lines: Islam is a religion of peace. The aforementioned Muslim groups and individuals are not peaceful. Therefore, these groups and individuals can’t really be Muslim. At best, they represent distortions of Islam.

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