“Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. (quoting William Cullen Bryant)
Sometimes, oceans are not enough.
Usually, the fact that we are barricaded on both sides by great bodies of water gives us in this country a certain sense of remove from the awful things people with funny names do to one another in strange places on the far side of the globe. But once in a while, the thing is awful enough that you can’t ignore it, or pretend that it is less real.
Such is the case with Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl whose shooting last week on a school bus in the Swat Valley sparked headlines and outrage here and around the world. Yousafzai, who at this writing is in critical condition after emergency surgery, has been an Internet activist, agitating for women’s access to education.
The Taliban considers that a capital crime. It claimed responsibility for the men who stopped the bus and boarded it, who asked for Malala by name and, when she was identified, shot her and fled. The group has said that if Malala survives, it will come for her again. It says her death is required under Islamic law.
But make no mistake: Islam is not their religion. It is their excuse.
There are two reasons this story crossed the ocean. The first is that it is appalling. Human garbage does not get much ranker than a man who boards a school bus to kill a child. The second is that it is recognizable, that we see in their mad religious and ideological fundamentalism ghostly shadows of our own.
Granted, the outspoken child in this country is not in particular danger of physical violence from religious or ideological zealots. But the abortion doctor is. The gay couple is. The Muslim-American is.
Fundamentalism is fundamentalism wherever it breeds, always the same dark stain of unbending literalism, always the same shrill claim that it guards the one true path to enlightenment, always the same crazed insistence that the one unforgivable crime against faith, the one inexcusable heresy of ideology, is to ask questions.