Following the shocking terrorist attack on an Army School in Pakistan on December 16, 2014, the world is a different place, much as it was after the shooting of Malala Yousafzai some two years ago.
A new kind of war has been declared in the world’s second-largest Muslim nation – a war against children.
The target of this terrorist attack was not American or Indian embassies, nor was it the property of Israelis or infidels – this attack was aimed at children of Pakistani Muslims. The scope of this terrorist assault would have been unimaginable before it took place.
Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban leader who previously led his men to shoot 14-year-old Malala, has become even more aggressive in his tactics. In the most recent incident, he ordered seven members of the Taliban to enter the Army School at 10:00 a.m. and open fire on schoolchildren, which they did, killing over 130 of them. The tears of victim’s parents now join a wave of anger including not only all schools on the Indian-sub continent, but each and every school worldwide, including New York University (NYU).
On December 16, I had come to NYU an hour earlier than usual, because I was going to meet with Professor Jason Blonstein in Bobst Library. In the basement, there is a small cafeteria behind the student lounges, in which a large LCD TV monitor hangs on the wall. As I passed by the television to buy a coffee from the vending machine around 10:40 a.m., I glanced upward at the TV, then quickly turned away.
Faster than these words can convey, I thought: “I think I just saw terrorists killing schoolchildren!” I could scarcely believe my own eyes. I managed to drag myself to the nearest sofa and faced the screen once more.
Then I saw more blood – the blood of children.
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Seven terrorists, bearing AK-47s and rocket launchers, moved toward the auditorium at the center of the school and opened fire indiscriminately on the children who were gathered there for an examination.
As the terrorists opened fire, the children ran toward the two exits on the other side of the auditorium, but many of them were gunned down in the process, including five-year-old Khola Altaf. It had been Khola’s second day of school.
Tahira Kazi, the principal of the school, made an attempt to save her.
However, the Taliban disapproved.
Khola and other children were forced to watch their teachers, including Kazi, being burned alive. Little Khola could take no more. She ran toward the exit, but was shot in the head.
I left NYU for home at 9:30 p.m., with the idea that in a few days’ time I would think that I had not seen any of this on television. There is no benefit in being able to recall these events, no benefit in being able to remember the face of five-year-old Khola all covered by blood. There is no benefit in being able to remember the tiny coffins on the shoulders of parents. There is no benefit in remembering the blood of young children. So I tried my best to forget everything I had seen, and I thought soon I would soon forget everything – after all, I’m the older brother of a 9/11 survivor.
HOWEVER, I was wrong. I got home around 10 p.m. It all flooded back when my older son opened the door for me, and younger one jumped onto my lap. Immediately it popped into my mind: who will open the door for Altaf Hussain? I skipped dinner and took sleeping pills for the first time in my life, hoping for the sound night’s sleep which would help me to forget the innocent faces of 130 dead children – especially Khola’s. However, it all flooded back again in the morning, as I dropped both my sons off at school: Altaf also wants to drop his beloved daughter off at school. For a moment, I took the place of Altaf Hossain. For a moment, I felt like the father of all 130 children killed by the Taliban.
I decided to go to NYU, not to take a class, but rather to take to the streets.
Over the next few days I stood in front of Bobst Library, holding a banner that read “Taliban unleashed its terror again. This time they decided to kill the angels – our children.
Let’s unleash education to correct the behavior of the Taliban, and let’s start it from NYU.” Many professors at NYU joined me in this protest, including Prof. Blonstein, who wrote: “We share your outrage at the actions of those who slaughtered children in the name of something they believe in.
My friend used the term ‘barbarian,’ so cruel in conception and action. I cannot imagine this behavior.”
I wrote a prompt response to Prof. Blonstein’s letter: More than 100 years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a foolish inevitability is the hobgoblin of little minds.
When one becomes enamored with a principle, as the Taliban have, one also becomes blind to alternatives.
As such, it is as though a hobgoblin has entered their imagination, and blocks both new ideas and the ability to see different perspectives. We certainly witnessed this blindness in the Taliban on December 16. We need to unleash education to correct their behavior, and we need to begin it from NYU.
The author is a CRISP scholar at New York University.
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