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      From the 
editor
 
 20th Oct - 2nd Nov 2012
       sue on boat-headshot


Does our front cover surprise you? A beautiful young girl wearing a traditional Muslim hijab, or headscarf?

You'll undoubtedly have heard of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai and her fearless campaign for the education of girls in her native Pakistan. Who hasn't?

The Taliban's attempt to assassinate this extraordinary girl has dominated headlines worldwide since 9th October, when members of the extremist Muslim group boarded a school bus (yes, a school bus), asked for Malala by name and then shot her.

Not surprisingly, the story has shocked the world, including most of the Islamic community. The Taliban's action can be seen only as abhorrent and despicable by anyone possessing a shred of humanity - the attempted murder in cold blood of a child, for no other reason than that she believes girls should have an education, and had the guts to say so publicly.

On page 10, David Hopkins writes movingly about Malala's dream, and about the myriad ways in which females are degraded, subjugated and denied the most basic human rights by many male-led regimes around the globe.

 There was a time when the Spiritualist movement was radical - vibrant, campaigning, passionate and united. Spiritualists were at the forefront of campaigns for social reform and equality, championing the abolition of slavery, votes for women and equality for all under God.

In her book Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in 19th-Century America, Ann Braude of Harvard University's Divinity School offers numerous examples of the ways in which Spiritualists have stood for equality.

Writing of the situation in America in the 1880s and 90s, Braude says: What distinguished spirit mediums from other religious women who rose to public roles...within their religious communions was their commitment to women's rights.

Commitment to achieving the equality of the human race in all its aspects is for me a vital part of what it means to be a Spiritualist attempting to live a spiritual life. Of course it's wonderful to go to church, sing, say a prayer, and certainly to get a message from a loved one. But isn't the whole philosophical basis of Spiritualism really about the living, rather than the dead? Isn't it about how we live this life, in preparation for the next? What is the point of any earthly spiritual or religious movement if it's not about working towards fairness, respect and equality of opportunity for all? The Brotherhood of Man?

Writing this, especially when thinking about Malala, I feel even more awkward than I usually do about typing those words "Brotherhood of Man", for very obvious reasons.  How much I would love to see the phrase replaced with "Brother and Sisterhood of Humanity".

Granted, it's a very trivial thing indeed compared to the suffering and repression of Malala and those she campaigns for. And yet, language is a powerful tool, and even in 21st-century Britain, where to some extent equality of the sexes is enshrined in law, we still live under the 19th-century ruling that, where language is concerned, "the male is deemed to encompass the female". Time for a rethink?

The international outrage generated by this brutal and appalling crime against Malala has served to unite people of all faiths and none in a common desire to see her vision of equality fulfilled, not just in terms of education, but in many other ways.

If you haven't already done so, I urge you to add your voice to those of people worldwide who have already signed the petition in support of Malala's brave campaign. It reads:

"We call on Pakistan to agree a plan to deliver education for every child. We call on all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls. We call on international organisations to ensure the world's 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015."

As we go to press, Malala is making a slow but steady recovery in Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, to which she was transferred after doctors in Pakistan had stabilised her in the immediate aftermath of the Taliban's attempt on her life. The petition already has almost one million signatures and in November it will be delivered personally to the Pakistani president and prime minister by United Nations special envoy for education, Gordon Brown.

If you don't have access to the internet but want to show your support for Malala and the millions of females who are forced to live in subjugation, why not ask a friend or family member to sign the petition on your behalf? Standing together for what is so self-evidently right, we can make an enormous difference in this world.

To sign the petition, visit: www.avaaz.org/en/malala_hope_f/?bOABHbb&v=18800


Sue Farrow, Editor

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