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Associated Press photos
Malala Yousefzai reads get well cards on Jan. 22. The Pakistani girl is recovering after being shot by the Taliban on Oct. 9, 2012 in reaction to her outspoken encouragement of education for Pakistani girls, in defiance of Taliban beliefs.

A living rebuke to the Taliban

Malala is taken to a Pakistani hospital after her shooting.

Somewhere in Pakistan there is a member of the Taliban who fancies himself a holy warrior for shooting an unarmed teen in the head while she was on her way home from school last Oct. 9.

Whatever the gunman’s self-image, the rest of the world thinks of him as neither holy nor a warrior but an ignorant, misogynistic thug. As a public relations gesture – and spreading fear is the Taliban’s idea of public relations – the shooting backfired spectacularly.

Malala Yousefzai, 15, became an international heroine and a symbol of the lengths to which the Taliban would go to prevent girls from getting an education. Malala had urged other Pakistani girls to get an education, a fatal sign of “Western thinking” in the Taliban’s estimation.

She was flown to England, both for medical care – part of her skull had been blown off, she faced unknown brain damage and impaired hearing – and for protection against the Taliban, who now realized that rather than eliminating a nuisance they had badly damaged their cause. Last week, Malala appeared in a video urging “every girl, every child” to be educated, and making a pitch for the Malala Fund girls’ education charity.

Doctors at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital successfully rebuilt her skull, restored hearing in her left ear, reported that she would have no lasting cognitive damage and cleared her to return to school.

She will probably stay in England for the time being, both to go to school and for her own safety, but her courage, resilience and adherence to her cause of female education will be a standing rebuke to the Taliban’s version of Islam.

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