Pakistani teenager/newly published author Malala Yousafzai was the guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Tuesday night, and it was a remarkable interview in several ways. Stewart was visibly touched throughout the segment, saying at one point, “Nothing feels better than making you laugh.”
Perhaps the most memorable part of the segment occurred when Stewart asked Malala to describe the Taliban’s presence in Swat Valley and how she and her family thought that she’d never be a Taliban target because of her youth, figuring instead that her father Ziauddin would be the one under threat.
“Why should I wait for someone else,” said Malala when explaining why she put herself at risk. “Why should I wait for the government, the army that they would help us? Why don’t I raise my voice?… And I said, ‘I need to tell the world what is happening. I need to tell the world that Swat is fighting against terrorism.”
Judging from various tweets sent out before the show aired, it seemed Malala also wowed everyone present in the studio: The Malala Fund shared this photo of Yousafzai and Stewart that was taken shortly before the taping:
Tonight! Jon welcomes Malala Yousafzai. Don't watch if you hate feeling inspired.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 9, 2013
— aasif mandvi (@aasif) October 8, 2013
— j.r. havlan (@JRHavlan) October 8, 2013
For the most part, viewers were equally impressed with Malala judging from the Twitter reaction.
Jon Stewart to Malala: "Nothing feels better than making you laugh." @TheDailyShow
— The Aerogram (@theaerogram) October 9, 2013
Never, in years of watching this show, have I seen Jon Stewart be so deferential to a guest.
— Amina Elahi (@aminamania) October 9, 2013
Do you think Jon Stewart was going to cry while listening to Malala?
— Piali Roy (@PialiRoy) October 9, 2013
"I said to myself if the Talib comes for me, I would take off my shoe and hit him," but then I thought I'd tell him what's right. — #Malala
— Beenish Ahmed (@beenishfahmed) October 9, 2013
"I know your father is backstage, and he's very proud of you. But would he be mad if I adopted you?" Jon Stewart to Malala on @TheDailyShow
— Ismat Sarah Mangla (@ismat) October 9, 2013
— Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) October 9, 2013
— Homa Sabet Tavangar (@growingupglobal) October 9, 2013
have you ever heard Malala Yousafzai speak? it'll give you life
— Ayesha A. Siddiqi (@pushinghoops) October 9, 2013
There was, however, some dissent.
I wish Malala would break out of her heavily-media-coached TV personality to the real amazing self. Jon Stewart Show was disappointing.
— Rafat Ali (@rafat) October 9, 2013
Malala has become a celebrity in the West (rightly so) but the West isn't listening to her anti-war, pro-education message
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) October 9, 2013
The interview was also notable because it took place a day after Adam B. Ellick of The New York Times released his mini-documentary The Making of Malala. Ellick’s 2009 documentary on Malala, Class Dismissed in Swat Valley, helped launch her to international fame. In this new film, Ellick openly wonders if he and the other adults that surrounded Malala should have realized she would be a target. “By giving [Malala] a platform, did I inadvertently play a role in her shooting?” he asks. The New York Times piece also takes a more critical look at Malala’s father and his role in pushing her into the spotlight.
Several other interesting Malala-related reads have come out this week in connection to her new book, I Am Malala, and Friday’s Nobel Peace prize ceremony. Mark MacKinnon of Toronto’s Globe and Mail examines Malala’s “mighty machine” which now includes a five-person “Malala press office” based in London that’s staffed pro bono by public relations firm Edelman.
And novelist Kamila Shamsie profiled her for The Guardian. Shamsie’s piece is notable for the fact that she was able to briefly get Malala to put her guard down and get her to sound and act like the teenage girl that she is. (A tip from the piece: “[I]f you really want to get her animated, talk about the one subject that can make almost any Pakistani turn into a bit of a teenager: cricket.”)
There was also this memorable quote from Malala about the man who shot her: “It’s hard to kill. Maybe that’s why his hand was shaking.”