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Mina Habib's op-ed column on the shooting of a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan recently.
KABUL, Afghanistan--"The Taliban are digging their own graves with acts like this," Kabul resident Mohammad Yunus said, shaking with rage at the shooting of 14-year-old blogger Malala Yousufzai in Pakistan. "The attack on Malala showed up the group as weak and impotent against a child. I see it as vindication and victory for Malala and a disgrace for the Taliban," he said.
Malala was shot in the head by gunmen who singled her out on a school bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley on Oct. 9. Pakistani doctors managed to remove a bullet lodged in her neck; she has now been taken to Britain to receive specialized care. The Pakistani Taliban, closely associated with the Afghan Taliban, were quick to claim responsibility and said they would target the girl again if she recovered. The attack appears to have galvanized public opinion against the insurgents, in Afghanistan
"This act, by those who attack children and innocents in cowardly fashion, bears no relation to Islam," Qaramatullah Siddiqi, director of Islamic studies at Afghanistan's religious affairs ministry, said. "They are in fact committing two sins--first as murderers, and second as enemies of Islam who pretend to be adherents of the sacred religion yet abuse its pure name."
Afghanistan's education ministry said nearly 10 million school pupils across the country said prayers for Malala's recovery.
"We raise our voices because this is an attack not only on humanity but on the right to education," Education Minister Faruq Wardak said at Kabul's Rabia Balkhi High School. Wardak said 4,500 teachers and pupils in Afghanistan had been killed or injured in militant attacks over the past decade.
Afghan women and students were especially critical: "It was a barbaric attack, unforgivable in Islam or any other world religion," said Parwanama Yusuf, who heads a group that offers aid to women and children. "Those who carried out this attack are the enemies of our sacred faith."
A teacher at a girls school in Kabul said pupils there were left downcast by the attack: "If the Taliban are so brave and zealous, let them fight a national army, not a 14-year-old girl."
Maryam, a pupil in the 12th grade at Rahman Mina High School, worried that the attack on Malala Yousufzai might be the start of things to come in Afghanistan. "I'm afraid that extremist groups might incorporate attacks on school pupils into their war tactics in pursuit of their political aims," she said.
Mina Habib is a reporter who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting.