The organization which represents Pakistan’s private schools has banned the book penned by Malala Yousafzai, I am Malala. The memoir, published in October, was co-written by British journalist Christina Lamb and has become an international bestseller. The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation believes the book to be disrespectful of Islam, saying that it would have a “negative” effect on the children of Pakistan.
Another private school group, the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, has also banned the memoir from 40,000 libraries in the schools with which it is affiliated. The association has also asked the government to block the book from being taught in schools.
The book ban will affect approximately 152,000 elite private schools in Pakistan, which will not be allowed to teach the book or to have it available in school libraries. State schools will not add the book to their curriculums, but will be allowed to keep it in the library, where it will be available for children to read.
While living in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Malala Yousafzai saw the Taliban destroy schools in order to discourage girls from getting an education. Since then, Yousafzai, 16, has dedicated herself to the education of girls in Pakistan, an issue that led to her being shot by the Taliban last year – the same group now threatening to attack any book stores that carry her book. In addition to her work to further the cause of girls’ education, she also anonymously penned a blog for the BBC. After the attack that almost cost Yousafzai her life, both she and her family moved to Britain, where they now reside.
Among the arguments made to justify Malala Yousafzai’s book being banned in Pakistan is the fact that Yousafzai failed to include the abbreviation “PUH (Peace be upon him)” when referring to the prophet Mohamed. Also troubling to the federation is her assertion that the right of free speech protects Salman Rushdie, whose book, The Satanic Verses, led to a fatwa being issued against him by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, in 1989.
Conspiracy theories regarding Yousafzai abound in Pakistan, where many believe that she has become a puppet for the West, even going so far as to claim that the attack that seriously injured Yousafzai was staged by the West to make her an international heroine. Right wing groups of Pakistan also allege that because the book contains references to events that occurred before her birth, Yousafzai could not have been the author.
The president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, Mirza Kashif, has stated that if Malala Yousafzai agreed to certain changes being made to her book, his organization would take a second look at the decision to ban it. “We are the biggest supporters of Malala. The private schools shut down [when she was shot]. We all support her, we are not against her. She is our daughter,” he said. “If she would look at these things and take measures not to hurt the emotions of Muslims, we will welcome it.”
By Jennifer Pfalz