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Why Jon Stewart Wants to Adopt Malala Yousafzai

“If you hit a Talib with your shoe, there is no difference between you and the Talib”—and other impressive things the teenage Nobel Peace Prize contender said to leave “The Daily Show” stunned.

On Tuesday The Daily Show welcomed Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani crusader for women's rights who was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school last year. Host Jon Stewart told her he was "humbled" to have her on the show.

Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban because of her push for better education for girls in Pakistan. Her story, which she shares in her new memoir, I Am Malala, sparked outrage both in Pakistan and around the world and a much-needed conversation about the role of education for girls today. (Fun fact: Yousafzai tells Stewart that she first learned that she was on the Taliban's hit list in her remote Swat Valley home when a friend told her to Google herself).

The Taliban, Yousafzai told Stewart, oppose education for girls because girls grow up to be women—and educating girls means more powerful women.  The Taliban, she said, have "blasted" more than 400 schools in the Swat Valley since 2007.  She describes waiting for the government to intervene and help until one day she thought, "Why don't I raise my voice? Why don't we speak up for our rights? … I raised my voice on every platform that I could."

Perhaps more remarkable than her tenacity in refusing—still—to back down, is her straightforward pacifism.  She told Stewart that when she thought about what she would do if the Taliban came for her, first it was: "Malala, just take a shoe and hit him."  But then she said something that left Stewart speechless:

"If you hit a Talib with your shoe, there is no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others that much with cruelty and that much harshly." (And this, remember, coming from a teenager who was shot in the face). "You must fight … but through peace, and through dialogue, and through education. Then, I said, I’ll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well. And I would tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'"

To which Stewart responded, " I know your father is backstage and he's really proud of you. But would he be mad if I adopted you?"

Yousafzai is one of 259 nominees for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. If she wins, she will be the youngest winner ever. Earlier this week, she told a Pakistani radio station, "I think that I still need to work a lot. In my opinion I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize."

The prize will be announced Friday.


Christa Hillstrom MugChrista Hillstrom wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Christa is web managing editor of YES!

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