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A Formidable Lady

I’m very glad to have crossed the path of Asma Jahangir.  Today, news came of her death, at 66.  (Go here.)  Malala Yousafzai issued a tweet:  “The best tribute to her is to continue her fight for human rights and democracy.”

Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, when she was 17.  At 15, she had been badly injured in an assassination attempt by the Taliban.  Today, she is 20 and a student at Oxford.  Just last week, she met with Asma Jahangir at Oxford.

Jahangir was an amazing presence.  I hope the below will give you a taste.  I wrote it from the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012.  This lady left a firm imprint on my mind.

Asma Jahangir is a formidable, formidable woman. She is a Pakistani lawyer who works for women’s rights, and human rights. She has been beaten and threatened with death too many times to count. Her father was a dissident, and political prisoner, and her mother was a similar free-thinker.

She talks about a particular case: She defended a 13-year-old boy, who was accused of blasphemy. A judge acquitted him. The judge was murdered. I can only think, “Bless that judge — a brave and good man.”

Jahangir says that Islamists “use the ladder of democracy to get to the top and then saw it off.”

And I wish — I wish – you could hear her mock Western governments. For several years, she was a rapporteur at the U.N. for freedom of religion. And the Westerners, she says, “were so afraid, so politically correct.” In imitation of them, she trembles in fear, and makes her voice quaver. Priceless.

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