07/16/2021, 14.20
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Pakistani government bans books about Malala Yousafzai

by Shafique Khokhar

The state agency responsible for approving school curricula pulls books from middle schools that mention the activist. For education rights advocates, this is a “deplorable” action. “The danger is that young people will grow up with a rigid, conservative and intolerant vision”.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - All copies of a book for middle schools that mentions Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who has fought for women’s right to education in her country, have been pulled from shelves.

The Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) made the decision after writing to the book’s publisher, Oxford University Press, saying that the books, intended for social studies classes, had not been issued the necessary No-Objection Certificate (NOC).

Malala's picture was included in the book along with that of other prominent Pakistanis, including 1965 war hero Major Aziz Bhatti, the nation’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and various Pakistani poets and artists.

Mariam Kashif, a teacher from Karachi, laments the PCTB’s decision. “The whole world celebrates Malala, but in Pakistan she is not recognised as a national hero even though she is a symbol of the struggle for women's rights.”

Some books had already been sent to schools, but the PCTB and police officers raided shops across Lahore to remove the last copies.

Some officials went to the Oxford University Press office in Gulberg seizing the entire stock of books.

“Extremists hate Malala, but the state must not adopt their narrative,” said Suneel Malik, an education rights activist, speaking to AsiaNews.

“While many countries are making progress in the field of women's education thanks to Malala, terrorists who kill people in the name of religion are celebrated as heroes in Pakistan. This is alarming,” Malik explained.

According to activists, this attack on academic freedom is an attempt by the government to prevent private publishers from adopting textbooks that might not be approved after rigid scrutiny.

For Malik, “It is deplorable that a state that claims to be democratic also uses religion in education. The danger is that young people will grow up with a rigid, conservative and intolerant vision that will play in favour of religious parties”.

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