KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistan’s provincial police raided bookstores this week and seized copies of a primary school social studies textbook, including a picture of education rights activist Malala Yousafzai, a polarizing figure in the country.
Mrs. Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, was featured in a chapter on national heroes with Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Malala, the world’s youngest Nobel laureate, is known worldwide as a 24-year-old who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan’s Swat Valley but has been praised worldwide for her bravery. 2012.
His biography, “I am Malala,” co-authored by veteran British foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, was an international best seller. The following year, in 2014, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In his own country, however, he is the subject of intense debate.
“To many Pakistanis, Malala symbolizes everything they hate about the West,” said Nida Kirmani, a professor of sociology at Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. She added, “To others, she is a symbol of women’s rights and resistance to Islamist forces.”
“Because of this, he has become a divisive figure.”
Critics say the seizures reflect a desire to suppress critical thinking and growing intolerance, in stark contrast to conservative Islamic beliefs and cultural norms.
In 2012, Taliban fighters attempted to assassinate Ms Yousafzai on a bus returning from school after the BBC website published an article about her experience under their rule. He moved to Britain, and graduated from Oxford University last year.
Last month, In an interview with British Vogue magazine, Mrs. Yousafzai questioned the necessity of marriage, thinking about where her young life might go, and there was a backlash in Pakistan. “I still don’t understand why people should get married,” he said, according to the article. “If you want to keep someone in your life, why do you have to sign the marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?”
In May, his Tweets Not to mention the Palestinians, a number of Pakistanis expressed outrage at the condemnation of Israel, saying that “violence in Jerusalem – especially against children – is intolerable.”
A provincial authority, Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board police, on Monday launched a raid on shops across the city to seize copies of the book. The board did not say how many stores were raided or how many books were confiscated.
On Monday, Ms Yousafzai’s birthday, which some people celebrate as Malala Day by Pakistan, seized the entire stock of textbooks from the Lahore office of the authority publisher, Oxford University Press, stating that the agency had failed to obtain the objectionable certificate. , Or NOC, from the Government.
“No NOC means breaking the law,” said Punjab Education Minister Murad Ras “A”. Tweets.
Staff at the Oxford University press office in Lahore rejected an interview request.
On Tuesday, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, an organization that claims to represent 150,000 schools, Has been turned on It is a documentary, “I am not Malala,” highlighting her controversial views on Islam, marriage and pursuing a Western agenda.
Kashif Mirza, president of the federation, said, “Parents do not want their children to follow in Malala’s footsteps, even if she wins the award.” “Malala has fallen into the trap of the West and is now working on the Western agenda against Pakistan and Islam.”
The same federation had earlier launched a campaign against Ms. Yousafzai claiming that the government had banned her memorabilia because they claimed it offended Islam and “Pakistan’s ideology”.
In recent years, textbooks and other educational materials have come under further scrutiny as the influence of Pakistan’s Taliban and other militant Islamist groups has increased.
Riaz Shaikh, an East Karachi-based academic involved in textbook development in the Eastern City province, said he and his team were textbooks Mrs. Yousafzai, Mr. Salam and Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani Christian child activist who ran the campaign. Against abusive child labor and at the age of 11 he was murdered. Subsequently, Islamist groups were targeted by death threats to textbook authors.
Dr. Bernadette L. Dean, A colleague of Dr. Sheikh’s group and a renowned teacher, fled Pakistan in 2015 for fear of his life.
“Sadly, Pakistani society is built on hatred, conspiracy theories and the politicization of religion,” Dr Sheikh said. “This is why a significant portion of Pakistan’s population considers Malala and other heroes as their villains.”
Last year, the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board banned 100 school books a day because of content described as “anti-Pakistan” and “reprehensible”. One of the prohibitions was a children’s math textbook that included pictures of pigs – pork was banned by Islam – to explain a mathematical problem.
Last year, the provincial parliament recommended the banning of three final books on Islam by British author Leslie Hazleton’s “The First Muslim” and “After the Prophet”, accusing them of slander.
Top rights groups and liberal politicians have demanded that the Punjab Provincial Board revoke the order to confiscate school textbooks with pictures of Mrs Yousafzai.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, an independent civil watchdog, said the raids were “a new minimum in the state’s efforts to control information and drive public opinion.”
Sherry Rehman, a member of Pakistan’s parliament, defended Mrs Yousafzai on Wednesday On the floor of Parliament.
“If you can’t consider Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai as your heroes, only God can help you,” he said, referring to the former prime minister who was killed in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi in 2000. “Malala was confronted by extremists and received a shot in return.”
Zia-ur-Rehman reports from Karachi, Pakistan, and Emily Shamal reports from New Delhi.