Malala Yousafzai Says Faith Is a "Big Part of My Life"

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Fresh off an Oscars red carpet debut following the nomination of the film Stranger at the Gate, which she executive produced, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai sat down with Muslim Girl ahead of Muslim Women's Day to talk about all things faith, activism and what’s ahead.

“I grew up in a Muslim country and a Muslim family, committed to the teachings of Islam, so faith has always been a big part of my life — and it continues to be so today,” Yousafzai said.

Her faith, she said, is the foundation of her advocacy, both in the ways it informs her famously peaceful demeanor as well as a driving source of her activism.

“I started learning the Quran with translation at around age 10 and remember that it had these powerful messages about doing good and being a virtuous person. They made a big impression on me then and have stayed with me ever since,” she said. “Islam says that you cannot stay ignorant, that you have to go and seek knowledge — no matter how hard it is, or how far you have to travel.”

For Yousafzai, a core tenant of Islam is to ensure that others do not misuse religion to do harm. “We see in Afghanistan how the Taliban is exploiting a twisted interpretation of Islam to enforce its gender apartheid regime. My faith guides me to know that it is wrong to deliberately and systematically oppress girls and women — not letting them get a haircut, see a doctor, or go for a walk in the park. Afghanistan is not the only Muslim country in the world, but it is the only country in the world that stops girls from going to school.”

As for what’s next, Yousafzai said she is doubling down on the core mission that started it all for the young activist: access to education for all youth, particularly women and girls. “With so many crises impacting our world — war, climate change, poverty, discrimination — it can be difficult to know where to lend support. But for me, education will always be a priority,” she said. “To help secure a better future, we need everyone to stay informed, stay resilient and find creative ways to take collective action on the issues they understand and care about most.”

Related: Malala Yousafzai and Husband Are the Ultimate “She’s Barbie and He’s Just Ken” Duo


Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue