BIRMINGHAM - Malala Yousafzai said Tuesday books were ‘the weapons to defeat terrorism’ as she officially opened Birmingham’s brand new £188 million library.
She opened the futuristic-state-of-the art library where she told a crowd of 300 people that by educating ‘minds, hearts and souls’ she believed global peace could be achieved. She told the crowd gathered in Birmingham’s Centenary Square: “Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to begin with my personal story.
“In my school in Swat, I was considered to be a good obedient student and I also used to get top marks in my class. Apart from my textbooks I read nine books from the library.
“I thought I did a great job in my whole 15 years of life. But last year, seven days after the incident that I faced, I was brought here to Birmingham for further treatment.
“When I was discharged from the hospital, I was introduced to this new society, which is different from our society in Pakistan, in many ways. Here people tell me that they have read hundreds of books. It does not matter how old they are, they take a keen interest in reading, even children of six and seven years have read more books than me.
“Now I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge.
“Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism. There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word.
“I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls. This is the way forward to our destiny of peace and prosperity.
“Books are very precious - some books can travel you back centuries and some take you into the future. In some books you will visit the core of your heart and in others you will go out into the universe. Books keep ones feeling alive. Aristotle’s words are steal breathing, Rumi’s poetry will always inspire and Shakespeare’s soul will never die.
“There is no better way to explain the importance of books than say that even God chose the medium of a book to send His message to His people.”
Since her ordeal, Malala has been awarded the Tipperary International Peace Award and the International Children’s Peace Prize. But she claimed her work was far from over as she vowed to continue to speak up for the educational rights in poverty-stricken countries.
She said: “We must not forget that 57 million children are out of school. We must speak up for peace and development in Nigeria, Syria and Somalia. We must speak up for the children of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, who are suffering from terrorism, poverty, child labour and trafficking.
“Let us help them through our voice, action and charity. Let us help them to read books and go to school. And let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.”
At the opening, she received membership of the Library of Birmingham and unveiled a commemorative plaque.
The plaque read ‘The Library of Birmingham was opened by Malala Yousafzai on September 3rd, 2013’.
The teenager also placed the very last book on the shelves of the new library - her own copy of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho.
She also paid tribute to the people of the city and the doctors that fitted her with a titanium plate and a cochlear hearing implant.
She added: “It is an honour for me to be here in Birmingham, the beating heart of England. Birmingham is very special for me because it is here that I found myself alive, seven days after I was shot. It is now my second home, after my beloved Pakistan.
“This great library, which is the biggest library in Europe, has educated the people of Birmingham for decades and it will continue to enlighten future generations.
“As one said, a room without books is like a body without a soul. And I say ‘a city without a library is like a graveyard’.”
The teenager, who has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, spoke confidently with just a hint of stiffness on the left side of her face.
Malala is attending a school in Birmingham, which has a large Pakistani population. Her family has moved to the city to be with her.
In the past four months more than 66,000 crates of books have been moved from the old 1970s Central Library into their new home.
The building contains around a million books, access to a vast film and television archive belonging to the British Film Institute and is the new home of the second largest repository of Shakespeare’s works in the world. The library also houses first editions of Shakespeare’s works.