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Malala Yousafzai turns the other cheek to the Taliban

By David Simpson and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 6:33 PM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in 2012, is still a Taliban target.
Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in 2012, is still a Taliban target.
  • Malala says she wants to return to Pakistan someday and run for office
  • Taliban still want her dead, spokesman says
  • Malala survived the shooting and spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday
  • She had resisted a Taliban order against girls in schools in Swat Valley

Editor's note: See a side to Malala you haven't seen before in Christiane Amanpour's special interview, The Bravest Girl in the World, on CNN Sunday, October 13, 7pm ET. The program, recorded in New York before a studio audience, will include exclusive material.

(CNN) -- Malala Yousafzai stared death in the face a year ago when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head. The militants still want to kill her, but she has learned to turn the other cheek, she said.

The Pakistani Taliban issued a new death threat this week against the 16-year-old.

She has been fighting for years for the right of girls to get an education, putting her at odds with the Islamist militants.

Jon Stewart asked her what she would do if a Taliban assassin came calling again.

"I'll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well," she said Tuesday. And I would tell him, 'that's what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'"

Fighting the Taliban is important, but through peace, dialogue and education, she said.

But the Taliban often prefer to let their guns do the talking.

They would target her again, if she came back to Pakistan, a spokesman for the militant group told CNN on Monday. Malala has lived outside of her homeland ever since she was shot last year.

Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the teenager was targeted because she was used in propaganda against the Taliban.

Gordon Brown: How Malala forced terrorists onto defensive

"The girl has been used by the Pakistani administration for propaganda against the Taliban and had been involved in a fake-anti Taliban and anti-Islam propaganda and was targeted," Shahid said. "Yes, if there is any opportunity we can target, she would be on our hit list again."

The Taliban would target her again if given the chance, he said, just as it would target anyone who opposes the group.

He denied she was targeted for promoting education for girls.

"Taliban are not opposed to girls education, if it's within the ambit of Shariah and Islamic education, but they could not support anti-Islamic agendas and Westernized education systems," Shahid said.

The militant group destroyed over 170 schools between 2007 and 2009, the U.N. said.

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Malala was 15 when gunmen jumped onto her school bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley on October 9, 2012, and shot her in the head. She survived and underwent brain surgery in Britain.

She recovered and addressed the United Nations in New York on her 16th birthday, July 12.

"They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed," she said. "And then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices."

The Taliban's actions sparked large protests in Pakistan and condemnation worldwide.

In a BBC interview published Monday, she said the Taliban are "misusing the name of Islam."

"Killing people, torturing people and flogging people ... it's totally against Islam," she said.

Taliban to Malala: Why we shot you

The Taliban banned girls from schools in the Swat Valley in 2009. Malala anonymously blogged for the BBC in opposition to that order and became an open advocate for girls' education, telling CNN in 2011, "I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up."

This year, the Malala Fund was created to support education for girls around the world.

Malala's name has been mentioned in speculation about the Nobel Peace Prize, due to be announced Friday. Her memoir, "I am Malala," will be published Tuesday. And on October 18, she is expected to attend a "Youth, Education and the Commonwealth" reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

In the BBC interview, she said she wants to return to Pakistan someday and continue her fight.

"I will be a politician in my future," the told the BBC. "I want to change the future of my country and I want to make education compulsory."

CNN's Max Foster contributed to this report.

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