Einstein said: “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.” How true is this in the case of Malala!

Just imagine what this nation would be like if all parents raised their daughters like Malala? What if they infused the love of learning in them; gave them courage to stand up to evil; not to give in to threats, no matter how grave; stood by them when the going got tough, instead of retreating back; taught them their rights and how to demand them, how not to bow down to injustice or to yield to exploitation; assured them that being a girl does not make them any less of a human being, that girls have as much right to education and knowledge and access to opportunities as boys?

Then we will have mothers, who will infuse the love of learning in their children; they will give courage to their children to stand up to evil; they will stand by them, rather than retreating in the face of danger; teach them how not to bow down to injustice and atrocities. They will raise daughters, who will be equal participants in the life of a nation, and sons, who will be strong enough to accept women as equal partners; who will not be threatened by educated, self-confident and independent women because they will see their mothers and sisters as role models.

Then we will not have men with fragile egos and low self-esteem, who take pride in controlling women, killing them in the name of honour and take pleasure in subjugating them to a life of ignorance and misery.

Then we will not be a nation of men and women, who are servile to authority; who accept abuse without question from authoritative figures whether MNAs, sons-in-law of the Chief Minister of the largest province of Pakistan or their bosses in the workplace; who will insist on being treated with equal respect and honour; who will not make excuses that they have to accept bribes because that is how the system works, they will have the courage to change the system. They will stand up for truth, even if it challenged the established traditions, dogmas and prejudices.

And when they will have the courage to speak the truth, they will not become bigots whose insides and outsides are always at odds with each other, living a life of double standards, saying one thing and doing just the opposite.

But for that we need parents like Ziauddin Yousafzai, an enlightened man, who has played a major role in shaping the personality of his daughter, giving her the courage to speak up for her rights and stood behind her when she raised her voice, knowing that it was dangerous; in fact, it is unprecedented in that part of the world. He wanted her to become a politician because he understands the importance of politics in the life of a nation and the role of women in it. She was able to be brave because he is brave enough to face the opposition and the threats.

Parents have the power to mould a human being. Nothing can surpass that power. They have the choice to either leave a legacy of timid, narrow-minded, unimaginative and intolerant children, who cannot confidently interact with the rest of the world; who cannot come to terms that there are others in this world with different faiths, different opinions, different convictions; who always see the world with their blinders on; who are judgmental and critical of others, but unwilling to accept criticism from others and ultimately, who are bigots and hypocrites.

Or they can leave a generation of courageous, outspoken and honest children, who can think and speak for themselves and challenge what they find objectionable and untrue; who have inquisitive minds; who can challenge authority, instead of giving in blindly; who want to learn everything and who question everything they learn.

Then we will have scientists, thinkers and philosophers, instead of just degree holders looking for jobs; we will have people, who will direct the nation towards an age of enlightenment; an age of open debates, unbiased and unfettered discussions on the most controversial subjects. We will have people, who read, question, imagine and think; who lead, not just follow!

Pakistan will enter a glorious age of art and culture, drama and music, poetry and creative writing; and an age of scientific discoveries and philosophical ideas; an age of understanding and comradeship among people of various religions and ethnicities. There will be unleashing of human potential and creativity. And there will dawn an age of not just tolerance, but encouragement for dissenting voices and respect for different faiths. Then we will have Darwins, Galileos, Newtons and Einsteins; Marie curies, Rosa Parks and Rosa Luxumbergs; Kants, Hagels, Marx and Russells.

Thus, the most fitting tribute to Malala is for every parent to pledge to treat their daughters with respect, give them all the opportunities to exploit their talents and give them the confidence to stand on their own.

Then the great spirits will prevail and the weak minds will hide in the darkest corners of this world, afraid to show their face. Let’s all imagine this together because then we can make it happen.

The writer has been practicing Family Medicine in Florida since 1983. She is one of the founding members of the Pakistani American Association of Tampa Bay; was on the board of PAKPAC, which is a lobbying organisation for Pakistani causes in the US; and former president of the Fatima Jinnah Medical College Alumni. Email: shahnazk@gmail.com