An official representing some 10,000 private schools in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province is distancing his association from efforts to ban a book by teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai.
Earlier, news agencies quoted the chiefs of two other private-school associations — the All-Pakistan Private Schools Federation and the All-Pakistan Private Schools Management Association — as saying they wanted to ban the book, “I Am Malala,” because of its anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistani content.
But Aqeel Razaq, the head of the All Private Schools Executive Association in the northwestern province, told RFE/RL that no such ban was being enforced and that his organization had never discussed the issue.
“We can only ban books that are related to our curriculum. This book was never considered to be included into our curriculum,” Razaq said.
“This is a general book and will not be affected by our ban. If students want to read books on their own, it is their choice. They can read anything.”
Razaq said that Malala’s book had been criticized on television talk shows and in newspaper columns but that this did not affect their views about Malala.
“At this point, we do not have an official policy of whether to encourage or discourage our children from reading the book,” he said.
“We know Malala Yousafzai for her struggle for girls’ education. Whether her book is controversial or not is a separate issue,” Razaq added. “But Malala Yousafzai is a great name and has turned into the pride of Pakistan.”
I Am Malala
Pakistan is rife with conspiracy theories about Malala. Some private-school officials and conservative commentators have alleged that she is being promoted by the West for its own interests.
They say her book does not show appropriate respect for the Prophet Muhammad because it fails to use the abbreviation PBUH — “peace be upon him” — as is customary in Pakistan.
In addition, they also accuse her of praising “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie, who is accused of blasphemy by Islamist extremists.
Malala’s supporters point out that Malala only said in the book that while her father viewed “The Satanic Verses” as offensive to Islam, “he believes strongly in the freedom of speech.” The book quotes Ziauddin Yousafzai as telling fellow Muslims, “First, let’s read the book and why not respond with our own book?”
Some conservative commentators are also offended by the book’s description of the plight of minorities in Pakistan and by criticism of the country’s powerful army.
Malala was seriously injured when she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012. She earned global fame and received many awards after recovering from her injuries and was considered a top candidate for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Attacked By Conservatives
WATCH: Malala Yousafzai’s thoughts on her life before and after the attack, based on an extensive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal: