Jon Stewart is a professional personality. He’s met and spoken with more celebrities than most, conducting interviews nightly on his Daily Show. He’s usually prepared for any answer he might get, even if they do surprise him a little bit. But 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai absolutely stunned Stewart with her answer to one of his questions on the Tuesday, October 8th show.
Malala Yousafzai, for those who don’t know, is an outspoken advocate for women’s right to education everywhere, and particularly in her homeland of Swat Valley. Two years ago, when she was 14, a Taliban fighter made an assassination attempt on Malala. He boarded a vehicle she was riding in with friends, put a gun to her head, and pulled the trigger. Miraculously, Malala survived. She was transferred to a hospital in England, where she made a full recovery and is now back in school.
Stewart began the interview by asking Malala about her homeland, and what it was like when the Taliban first showed up. Then he asked her about when she found out she was a Taliban target. She responded that she found out when a friend asked her if she had searched for herself on Google lately; doing so revealed that the Taliban had targeted her. She thought it wasn’t serious at first—who would kill a child? But then her thinking changed.
“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’”
When the camera panned back out to show Stewart and Malala, Stewart had both his hands up to his mouth in astonishment at her absolute understanding and trust in pacifism at such a young age. This young woman could be filled with rage at the injustice that happened to her and many other women in Pakistan, and yet she stands firmly by her belief in a better world through peace and education.
She started the Malala Fund to promote education and empowerment of females, and recently released her book, I am Malala. Mr. Stewart’s interview came just a few days prior to this year’s announcement for the recipients of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Malala was certainly a crowd favorite, but was not one of the official winners announced Friday, October 11th. If she had been chosen, she would have been the youngest ever winner of a Nobel Prize in any category. Take a look at Malala’s heartwrenching interview with Jon Stewart: