November 12, 2013
I Am Malala banned in Pakistan’s private schools
by Nick Davies
Zarar Khan reported for the Associated Press this weekend (picked up here by the Boston Globe) that Malala Yousafzai’s memoir, I Am Malala, has been been in private schools across Pakistan. Education officials in the country say that the teenage activist’s book is “a tool of the West” and disrespectful of Islam.
Yousafzai, only sixteen years old, has risen to prominence as an advocate for rights to education and for women, particularly in the region of Pakistan where she grew up, where the Taliban frequently banned girls from going to school. She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in October 2012, making her a vital symbol of activism in the Middle Eastern nation. And just last month, Little, Brown and Company published I Am Malala, her memoir co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb.
On Sunday, the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association announced that the book would be banned from all 40,000 of the group’s affiliated schools and their libraries. APPSMA president Adeeb Javedani also encouraged the government to ban it from school curriculums, saying, “Everything about Malala is now becoming clear. To me, she is representing the West, not us.” Kashif Mirza, the chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, voiced a similar objection, calling Yousafzai “a tool in the hands of the Western powers.”
The specific grievances that Mirza lists include that Yousafzai fails to show enough respect for Islam by mentioning Muhammad without the abbreviation PUH (“praise be upon him”), and that she speaks positively about Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and the minority sect of Ahmadis, whom Pakistani law has deemed to be non-Muslims because they do not believe Muhammad to be the final prophet. Yousafzai laments the Ahmadis’ status in Pakistan, where they can be imprisoned for up to three years for worshipping openly. Meanwhile, the mention in I Am Malala of The Satnatic Verses refers to her family finding Rushdie’s work offensive, but ultimately valuing freedom of speech; she quotes her father as saying, “First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book.”
Rumors about Yousafzai being a stooge used by the West, even a CIA agent, have swirled around her for some time now, which Khan attributes to “the level of influence that right-wing Islamists sympathetic to the Taliban have in Pakistan” and “the poor state of education in Pakistan.”
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.