So, today is my father’s birthday. I won’t actually see him until my birthday almost a month from now, but I plan to call and tell him about my fencing and how work is going and tell him we have to watch this or that show when I go to visit next. I’d ask for you, complete strangers to him, to send birthday wishes from the smartest, most attractive readership on the internet, but he doesn’t know I’m an atheist and therefore doesn’t know about this blog, so spare a thought for one of the people who encouraged me to critical thinking as a boy and got me into politics.
But speaking of great fathers, there are two in this story. One, unfortunately, gave his life for his principles. One almost lost his brave daughter because she stood up for hers.
The first is Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab until he was shot in the head by his own bodyguard for supporting a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. The article in the Daily Beast is written by his daughter, Shehrbano Taseer who has this to say about her father’s murder
Since my father’s murder, I have often wondered if Qadri [KN: the man who shot him] would have killed him had he known my father’s actual views and not what they had been twisted into by media anchors and clerics on a hysterical witch hunt. Maybe if he had listened to what my father really said, Pakistan would not have lost its bravest man and I my center of gravity.
But the article is not really about her father. It’s about extremism in Pakistan and, most especially, about Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting secularism in her country and for wanting to go to school.
The good news is that since that incident, she is doing well, improving every day, and has been moved to a hospital in Britain that specializes in both head wounds and battle wounds, which this is both. Updates are maddeningly consistent in that every day they say she’s improving but provide no detail, but I suppose even the bravest require privacy and we have no claim on her life, just hope for her recovery.
The father part of her story comes from later in the article, and this jumped out at me because I have a weakness for awesome dads, when Taseer describes that Malala’s father encourages her to learn and to go to school. Obviously, he never would have expected the Taliban to shoot a 14 year old, even one who writes a blog for the BBC, but he still is very proud of his daughter and what she has accomplished.
“I hope you won’t laugh at me,” Ziauddin wrote in an email to Adam Ellick, an American filmmaker, after Ellick had stayed with the family in Swat for several months. “Can I dream for her to be the youngest to clench a Nobel award for education?”
He’s a schoolmaster, a poet, a social activist, and the head of the National Peace Council in Swat who refused to cancel classes the Taliban demanded of him. He also believes it’s an aspect of his faith that all people, men and women, get an education. “Education is a light and ignorance is a darkness, and we must go from darkness into light.”
Those are two good men with remarkable daughters who speak loudly and fearlessly in the place where they should most fear breaking the silence. Both Malala and Shehrbano do amazing work, and while it is their skill and passion that has brought them to where they are and inspired so many, I like to think they were influenced at least in part by their brave fathers.
And though he won’t read this, I can say I have been influenced by my father greatly. In as much as I try to be honest, forthright, and respectful, I got that from him. And in the ways I attempt to be thoughtful and mindful of how important it is to be aware of the world around me, that was also his doing.
So happy birthday, Dad. Thank you.
(h/t Ophelia Benson)