Within the dusty pages of the apocryphal book of Judith, a most intriguing drama unfolds at the edge of the Iron Age. Perched on a mountain pass, the town of Bethulia is under siege by an Assyrian army bent on conquering Jerusalem. But the fortified town must be taken first, to insure that the inhabitants do not attack the infantry from behind as they march eastward.
The people of Bethulia are starving and out of water. If the town is captured, the men will be slaughtered and the women enslaved. The elders of the town proclaim that within three days, if there is no sign from God, it means that God's will is for the citizens of Bethulia to surrender. But a widow named Judith approaches the elders and claims to have a plan for defeating the enemy.
This is what she says: "Who are you to know what is in the mind of God, when you don't even know what is in the hearts of men." With that, she receives permission to execute her plan, which results in an Assyrian retreat from Bethulia and consequently Jerusalem being spared from annihilation.
Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old spokeswoman for human rights from the town of Migora in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, was targeted for death by the Taliban. This is the same band of thugs that gave safe haven to al-Qaida while that group was planning its attack on America -- which it carried out on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Taliban in Pakistan have recently taken responsibility for the despicably cruel act of throwing acid in schoolgirls' faces. Answering a CNN reporter, a spokesman for the Taliban said: "If and when we find any girl from Parachinar going to university for an education, we will target her the same way, so that she might not be able to unveil her face before others."
These radical Islamists boarded a school bus with military weapons and asked for Malala by name. But they botched her execution because the bullet that entered her head fortunately did not kill or seriously disable this remarkable teenager.
Malala has spoken out against the Taliban's policies of torture, murder and cruelty. But the "enlightened" Taliban see their role as the Blues Brothers did in the 1980 film by the same name. According to both, they were/are on a "mission from God." To the peril of innocents, the Taliban are not nearly as funny as the Blues Brothers were.
The Taliban are not only dead-set against girls seeking an education, they are eager to disfigure or murder those that dare to pick up a book.
These religiously observant brutes don't mind blowing people to shreds while worshipping in mosques. This practice is all too common not only in nuclear-armed Pakistan but also in the dysfunctional state of Afghanistan, where 41 Muslims were recently murdered in a mosque.
Both the Taliban and their brothers in religious idiocy, the infamous al-Qaida, claim that they are doing God's work by murdering not only Christians, Jews and Hindus, but other Muslims. In fact they have murdered thousands of Muslims in the name of God while crying out "Allahu akbar" (God is great).
We are locked in a struggle for the future sanity of our planet with bloodthirsty demagogues who are not interested in negotiations and hate the idea of democracy, social progress and human dignity. With all of our military might, we are barely able to hold them back as they continue to rise and evangelize.
History, though, is not only stained by the shadow of despots; it is also illuminated by dedicated souls who have been willing to risk their lives in the service of humanity. One such champion of righteousness is Malala, whose fearless words have been internalized by a wide range of followers in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially after her attempted assassination. Scores of Muslims that once supported the Taliban have now had a change of heart.
Malala may not have said it to her adversaries directly, but her courageous actions echo what Judith said so long ago: "Who are you to know what is in the mind of God, when you don't even know what is in the hearts of men."
Mike Miller of Bakersfield is a steel fabrication estimator for a local manufacturer. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.