Why Malala Yousafzai is taking on Donald Trump

A travel ban for Muslims proposed by Donald Trump drew stark criticism from the young Nobel laureate, who called the plan 'tragic.'

Phil Noble/Reuters
Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai listens to a speech at a Poppies for Peace in Peshawar event, in Birmingham Britain, December 15.

Malala Yousafzai knows a thing or two about overcoming extremism and hate. The Pakistani Nobel Prize winner and education advocate was shot by a member of the Taliban in 2012 when she was just 16, but survived. Ever since, she's campaigned for girls' education and against hate-driven ideologies.

Which is why Ms. Yousafzai condemned GOP candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States as "tragic" and "full of hatred."

“Well, that’s really tragic that you hear these comments which are full of hatred, full of this ideology of being discriminative towards others,” Yousafzai said at a memorial ceremony Tuesday for the 134 children killed in a Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan a year ago, according to Agence France-Presse.

She also pointed out the danger of targeting Muslims, an approach Islamic State (IS) is said to have taken to breed hate between Muslims and Western societies.

“I can just highlight one thing. The more you speak about Islam and against all Muslims, the more terrorists we create," Yousafzai said in a separate interview with UK's Channel 4 News.

“So it’s important that whatever politicians say, whatever the media say, they should be really, really careful about it. If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims for it because it cannot stop terrorism. It will radicalize more terrorists.”

Mr. Trump recently called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in which a Muslim couple, possibly inspired by IS, shot and killed 14 people.

Trump's stance was swiftly condemned by Republican rivals, Democrats, world leaders, and others.

"This is not conservatism," Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters following Trump's calls. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly it's not what this country stands for."

And a majority of Americans appear to agree. In a recent CBS news poll, 58 percent of Americans said that they would oppose such a measure, while only 36 percent thought that it would be a good idea.

But Trump, who appears to revel in the attention, has led a campaign marked by inflammatory statements, and has repeatedly defended his calls to ban Muslims from entering the US. Despite his controversial remarks and the condemnation, Trump has maintained his lead in the race, with a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing him with 38 percent support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters.

Indeed, his ideas appear to resonate among the Republican base. The CBS poll also found that 54 percent of Republicans were in favor of a Muslim travel ban, with 45 percent feeling that such a ban would make the country safer from terrorism.

In her comments Tuesday, Yousafzai offered a different approach. "If we want to end terrorism we need to bring quality education so we defeat the mindset of terrorism mentality and of hatred," she said.

Trump is not the only American political figure the 18-year-old Nobel Prize laureate has confronted.

In an October 2013 meeting at the White House, Yousafzai challenged President Obama's use of drone strikes.

"I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism," she said in a statement after the meeting. "Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."

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