Malala inspires as she opens Europe’s biggest library

04 Sep 2013


Malala YousafzaiMalala Yousafzai, the teenaged female education activist who became an international celebrity after she was shot and almost killed by Taliban elements in Pakistan 11 months ago, yesterday opened Europe's largest public library in Birmingham, UK, where she declared, "Pens and books are the weapons that will defeat terrorism."

Commentators called her speech inspirational as she officially opened the brand new £188 million library.

The 16-year-old was flown to the UK after a hit-man barged onto her school bus in Pakistan and fired at her at point blank range in October last year for championing girls' right to education.

The schoolgirl survived the assassination attempt and was treated at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she made a remarkable recovery. She has lived in that city ever since, and now attends a local school.

Opening the futuristic-state-of-the art library, she told a crowd of some 300 people that she believed global peace could be achieved by educating ''minds, hearts and souls''.

She told the crowd gathered in Birmingham's Centenary Square, "Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to begin with my personal story.

"In my school in Swat, I was considered to be a good obedient student and I also used to get top marks in my class. Apart from my school text books I read nine books from the library. I thought I did a great job in my whole 15 years of life.

"But last year, seven days after the incident that I faced, I was brought here to Birmingham for further treatment. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was introduced to this new society, which is different from our society in Pakistan, in many ways.

"Here people tell me that they have read hundreds of books. It does not matter how old they are, they take a keen interest in reading, even children of six and seven years have read more books than me.

"Now I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge. Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism … this is the way forward to our destiny of peace and prosperity.''

Since her ordeal, Malala has been awarded the Tipperary International Peace Award and the International Children's Peace Prize.

But she claimed her work was far from over as she vowed to continue to speak up for the educational rights in poverty-stricken countries.

She said, "We must not forget that 57 million children are out of school.

''We must speak up for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia. We must speak up for the children of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, who are suffering from terrorism, poverty, child labour and child trafficking.

"Let us help them through our voice, action and charity. Let us help them to read books and go to school.''

At the opening, she received membership of the Library of Birmingham and unveiled a commemorative plaque.

The plaque read 'The Library of Birmingham was opened by Malala Yousafzai on September 3rd 2013'.

The teenager also placed the very last book on the shelves of the new library - her own copy of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho.

She also paid tribute to the people of the city and the doctors that fitted her with a titanium plate and a cochlear hearing implant.

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