(Pictured: Malala Yousafzai)
Even with the extreme provocation of terrorist violence we are not compelled to absorb and respond back with violence ourselves. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States led the country directly into two new wars abroad, while xenophobia and islamo-phobia grew alarmingly. In that instance, those who provoked the violence won–they got what they wanted– while the American people lost. This is not the only response possible.
Gandhi maintains that there are instances where terrorism has failed to have the effect of provoking further violence. Take the example of Malala Yousafzai. When the Taliban shot her in the head in an effort to silence her voice, she did the opposite. The world gathered around her, and as she recovered physically, inside, she became more determined than ever to overcome extremist violence through the power of nonviolence. In her own words, from her 2013 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, she puts it this way:
They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. (…) This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone. (Italics own)
If we are to learn to overcome terrorism and fill history with such courage, we would do well to learn from this teenage girl.
Read Malala Yousafzai’s full UN speech here.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org