Dear Miss Malala Yousafzai,
My name is Gina Luttrell. I run a small online publication that, among other things, seeks to encourage women to get involved in political discourse. I am one of the millions of women around the world who has been inspired by your courage. When I face swaths of criticism for standing up for what I believe in (as I regularly do), your face is one of the ones I call to my mind to give me perspective. Others include Alice Paul and Miley Cyrus—but that’s another story.
I have been following your worldwide book tour with much interest. I watched in awe as you spoke of peace to Jon Stewart. I rejoiced when you used your celebrity power to try and discourage President Obama’s drone policy. I want you to know that you are not alone in wanting that to change.
I also caught your interview with CNN in which you said you hoped to be a prime minister of Pakistan someday. As someone who values peace, who values women’s betterment, and who knows you want what’s best for your country, I implore you to reconsider.
When I was your age (almost nine years ago, if you can believe it), I too considered entering government. I knew I was on Earth to make a difference in people’s lives, and what better way to do that than through government—it makes the rules, after all? When I discovered that legislatures weren’t for me, I switched my ambitions to practicing law. Perhaps if I could bring down bad laws, or make sure that laws were applied correctly, I could make a difference.
But I was wrong. By acting to make my worldview codified in law, I would be no different than the people who were imposing their beliefs on me.
In your interview with Jon Stewart, you wowed everyone when you said:
…But then I said, ‘If you hit the Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much [harshness]. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’
Ask yourself: If you get to be Prime Minister, and you want to bring education to everyone in your country, what happens then to the Talib? What if he opposes that education plan? If he demonstrates, pickets, or passes laws against you? What if local leaders refuse to let women and girls into school doors, much in the way that local leaders in the Southern United States refused to let black people into schools? Even worse, what happens if so many in your country disagreed with you that they would be willing to go to war to keep their ways. You could, and, in many ways would be obligated to, ultimately, use force to uphold the law.
You see, governments are not about peace, Miss Yousafzai. They are about force and violence. You cannot be a government official and promote peace.
If you want to help your country adopt your ideas peacefully, I would suggest becoming an entrepreneur.
You are brilliant, resourceful, and determined—all good things to make a business work. You can make an impact on the lives of women by hiring those who have perhaps lost their husbands and have no means to support themselves or who wish to break away from traditional families. You could even educate these women if you saw fit. Perhaps these women themselves will go on to start businesses and be successful. If you and women like you can make the lives of your fellows better with products or services, your fellow Pakistanis may become more receptive to offering education to women as a matter of course. And the more receptive they are to that idea, the laws will change to reflect that—all without the threat of violence.
Do not mistake me: My way might be a little slower than becoming Prime Minister. It is always easier and deceptively quicker to force your idea of what is right on people than it is to persuade them—just ask the Taliban. I do not presume to know what is best for you or your country. However, I do believe, as I think you do too, that peaceful, cooperative solutions are both more ethical and more effective than forceful ones, and I hope you will remember that as you age and remain consistent to that principle and stay out of government.
All the best in your endeavors,
Thoughts on Liberty
P.S. You deserved the Peace Prize way more than Obama did.