CAIRO – Criticizing its message and content as 'criticizing' Islam, Pakistan private schools federation has banned Malala Yousafzai's book ‘I am Malala’, stirring mixed reactions from students who deem the young girl as a symbol of their struggle for education.
“She is a hero and an inspiration,” Yumna Afzal, 16, of Lahore's exclusive Bloomfield Hall School told The Independent on Sunday, November 10.
“The decision [to ban the book] is completely wrong and it is a conspiracy to show Malala as a US puppet.
“I have heard talk shows on TV where people are claiming Malala is fake and the injuries she received are not real, but I really don't agree with them,” Afzal said.
Representing more than 152,000 institutions across the country, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation has banned Malala's book for being not ‘suitable’ for pupils.
Citing the ban, officials said the book will not be included in the curriculum or available at school libraries.
“The federation thought we should review the book, and having reviewed it we came to the decision that the book was not suitable for our children, particularly not our students,” Mirza Kashif, the federation's president, said.
“Pakistan is an ideological country. That ideology is based on Islam.... In this book are many comments that are contrary to our ideology.”
Kashif added that they would review their decision if Malala agreed to make changes to the book.
“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,” Kashif said.
“If she would look at these things and take measures not to hurt the emotions of Muslims, we will welcome it.”
Considered as a symbol of girls’ struggle for education, Malala stole international attention in October 2012 after she was shot by Taliban militants over her campaign to encourage more girls to go to schools in Pakistan.
Last August, Malala won the International Children's Peace Prize for her dedication to promoting education.
She now lives and attends school in England.
The book's criticism started after Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has vowed to attack the bookstores which sell the book, immediately adter its release.
Analysts claim that the book ban comes amid nationwide debates on Malala's activities, and aims at stigmatizing her.“The decision to ban the book is the result of a deliberate smear campaign run against Malala and the book by right-wing commentators,” said Bina Shah, a Karachi-based novelist and education campaigner.
“There has been complete confusion about the book, sown very deliberately in the minds of adults because of this right-wing talk.”
Yet, some students criticized the Pakistani new public figure as being used by the west to worsen the image of her country.
“The world already gets to hear a lot of corruption stories about Pakistan and this is only going to add to that same image,” said Zonash Raza, 15.
“Personally, I think it was a biased decision to send Malala to the UN to represent Pakistan because there are millions of other girls who are suffering far greater hardships, but are never noticed or sent to the UN,” Ramsha Shoaib, 15, added.
“She is giving a very negative image to the world outside. She, being a girl, was supposed to portray a positive image of the country.”
Pakistan, home of 180 million people, is a Sunni majority country with 85 percent Sunnis.
Shiites make up 10 percent of the total population.
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