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What Pakistan can do after Taliban shooting of schoolgirl Malala

The Taliban shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a famous 14-year-old girl activist, should spark Pakistanis to not only end the Taliban but to emulate Muslim societies that elevate the status of women in Islam.

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Pakistanis in Karachi hold candles during a protest to condemn the attack on 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, who was shot on Tuesday by the Taliban.

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Pakistan is an easy flight from Malaysia, and yet the two Muslim countries seem so far apart right now in how women are treated within their Islamic societies.

In Pakistan on Tuesday, the Taliban shot a 14-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai, who is well known for her courage in seeking equality for women, especially girls’ education. But the Pakistani military, which has long supported Islamic extremism in its rivalry with India, has been less than enthusiastic in eradicating the terrorist group.

In Malaysia, by contrast, a TV station recently ran a 13-episode prime-time contest for women under 30 to find the best one to become an Islamic preacher. The show was called “Solehah,” an Arabic word meaning “pious female.” The Muslim women were judged on their knowledge of Islam and speaking abilities. The winner received a trip to Mecca, $10,000, and a car.

Islam has many faces but none more telling than in how women are treated in different places. It’s time that Pakistan and other places where Muslim women live in fear or in social chains learn how Islam can be practiced differently.

The Wahhabism brand that comes out of Saudi desert life and imposes a fundamentalist view of women has helped breed violent groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In Iran, with its hard-line Shiite Islam, women were recently banned from taking many courses at dozens of universities, a move seen as pushing women to stay in the home. Even in newly democratic Egypt, a draft constitution calls for equality of women and men only “insofar as this does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic sharia.”

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