AUSTIN SZABO WRITES – Pakistani student and education activist Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography has been well received everywhere, it seems, but in her own country.
On November 11, The Guardian reported that nationwide, Pakistani private schools had banned her book, I Am Malala, from being studied or read.
Education officials point to the activist’s supposed lack of respect for Islam and her role as a ‘tool of the West’. This way of thinking is not new. Unfortunately, Malala’s fame in the West has worsened her reputation at home, to the point that many consider her a pawn. Officials as important as private school groups have bought into the myth.
“Everything about Malala is now becoming clear. […] To me, she is representing the west, not us”, says Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association. The group has banned Malala’s book from the libraries of its 40,000 partner schools. Worse, it hopes the government will do the same for public schools. Kashif Mirza, the head of a similar group, said that, with her book, “she became a tool in the hands of the western powers.”
Malala’s crimes against Pakistani propriety include neglecting to use the acronym ‘PBUH’ (Peace Be Upon Him) before every mention of Muhammad and defending Salman Rushdie’s freedom of speech despite the the controversial nature of his book, The Satanic Verses. These offenses are seen as evidence that Malala is a Western puppet, and not evidence of her publishing a book for an international audience.
However, rightwing backlash against the 16 year old activist may not be the only reason behind the censorship.
While the world seems on Malala’s side, Pakistan is still divided. The Taliban continues to control vast swaths of rural Pakistan, and has threatened anyone selling, buying, reading, or even holding the book. According to The Independent, Kashif denies that the ban is due to fear of attacks, but his actions conform to the wishes of the Taliban. The extremist terrorist group recently appointed the man who planned Malala’s attack, Fazlullah, as its new leader, a clear indication of its agenda.
With fear of attacks from the Taliban and with right wing conspiracy theorists claiming she is a puppet, Malala Yousafzai is meeting the most resistance in her own homeland, where only half of women receive any education at all, and where reform is as distant as ever.