Though she is no longer in Pakistan, her presence there looms larger than ever. The attack on her seems to have galvanized opponents of Taliban-style religious extremism across the country into taking a public stand, despite the danger. Her case is being compared with that of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose fiery suicide in 2010 in protest of official oppression helped trigger the Arab spring. Girls across Pakistan are participating in an "I am Malala" campaign, the country's media and national leaders have condemned the attack, a group of clerics has issued a fatwa against the shooters, and rallies and prayer vigils have been held, including one in Karachi which drew tens of thousands. The Taliban, apparently stung by all the criticism, have begun threatening the Pakistani media over their coverage of the case.
If -- and it's a big if -- this outpouring of revulsion against the attack is sustained and grows into a vigorous expression of public disgust at the interminable religious violence afflicting Pakistan, then it's possible that some real change could be achieved. As with the Arab spring, half the battle is coming together in reassuring mass numbers and banishing the fear which people naturally feel at standing up to violent thugs, whether those thugs be a dictator's enforcers or religious terrorists. And as with the Arab spring, one should not expect too much. Getting rid of the Taliban will not transform Pakistan into Denmark any more than getting rid of Mubarak did so with Egypt. But girls' right to education (Malala's cause), and the right of citizens to express their views without being gunned down by troglodytes from the Dark Ages, are very basic principles; unless they are firmly upheld, it's hard to see even a glimmering of hope for Pakistan to have a decent future.
In the meantime, the Taliban have re-affirmed their determination to kill Malala, and have also declared their intention to kill her father. The flames of decent people's hatred for these murderous fanatics will not soon be lacking for fuel.