Inspiration or danger? Private schools in Pakistan ban Malala Yousafzai's book

The education campaigner's story of being shot by the Taliban would be 'negative' for children

Lahore

Tens of millions of Pakistani children will struggle to lay their hands on the book written by Malala Yousafzai after the organisation representing the country's private schools decided to ban it.

The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, which says it represents more than 152,000 institutions across the country, has decided that allowing pupils to read the book, I am Malala, would have a "negative" effect on them. The federation also said it believed the book was not entirely respectful of Islam.

The book will not be included in the schools' curriculum, nor will it be stocked in school libraries. Pakistan's most elite schools belong to the federation. The government does not plan to teach it in state schools, though it is not banned.

"The federation thought we should review the book, and having reviewed it we came to the decision that the book was not suitable for our children, particularly not our students," said the federation's president, Mirza Kashif. "Pakistan is an ideological country. That ideology is based on Islam.... In this book are many comments that are contrary to our ideology."

The book, written jointly by the teenage education campaigner who was shot last year by the Taliban, and a British journalist, Christina Lamb, was published last month to widespread international enthusiasm. The 16-year-old tells of her life in the Swat Valley – where her father ran a private school – when it was under Taliban rule, of writing an anonymous blog for the BBC, and of her campaign for girls' education.

Yet in Pakistan, the reaction to Malala and her book has been mixed. Many have claimed she has been used by the West for its own interests. The Taliban threatened to attack bookshops that stocked it.

Mr Kashif, who said 25 million pupils attended private schools in Pakistan, claimed that in the book Malala had defended the writing of Salman Rushdie on the grounds of free speech and had failed to use the abbreviation PUH – "peace be upon him" – when referring to the prophet Mohamed. He said there was a sense that Malala had not written large parts of the book, because it referred to things that happened before she was born.

Observers say the ban comes amid discussions in Pakistan about Malala's actions. It also follows recent controversy at a celebrated Lahore private school that started teaching sex education.

"The decision to ban the book is the result of a deliberate smear campaign run against Malala and the book by right-wing commentators," said Bina Shah, a Karachi-based novelist and education campaigner. "There has been complete confusion about the book, sown very deliberately in the minds of adults because of this right-wing talk."

In Pakistan, some of Malala's strongest supporters are schoolgirls. Yet pupils from Lahore's exclusive Bloomfield Hall School, where fees are £116 a month, held mixed views about the book.

Zonash Raza, 15, said she sympathised with Malala, yet believed her speech at the United Nations was damaging to the country's reputation. "The world already gets to hear a lot of corruption stories about Pakistan and this is only going to add to that same image," she said. Yumna Afzal, 16, said Malala was an inspiration for girls across the country and that she had revealed the importance of education.

"The decision [to ban the book] is completely wrong and it is a conspiracy to show Malala as a US puppet," she said. "I have heard talk shows on TV where people are claiming Malala is fake and the injuries she received are not real, but I really don't agree with them. She is a hero and an inspiration."

Ramsha Shoaib, 15, said: "Personally, I think it was a biased decision to send Malala to the UN to represent Pakistan because there are millions of other girls who are suffering far greater hardships, but are never noticed or sent to the UN.... She is giving a very negative image to the world outside. She, being a girl, was supposed to portray a positive image of the country."

A recent briefing document prepared by Unicef suggested Pakistan faced a "myriad of challenges" in its efforts to educate its youngsters. Indeed, after Nigeria, Pakistan has the second highest number of unschooled children in the world.

The situation is especially poor for girls, particularly in rural areas. In the remote tribal areas that border Afghanistan, Unicef says that maybe only one in five girls attends school. Across Pakistan, adult literacy for women stands at 45 per cent, compared with 70 per cent for men.

Mr Kashif, the federation president, said that more than half of children in Pakistan attended private schools. He said half of all pupils were girls and that women made up 90 per cent of teaching staff. He said if Malala agreed to changes to the book, the federation would review its decision. He denied the ban was prompted by fears of attacks.

"We are the biggest supporters of Malala. The private schools shut down [when she was shot]. We all support her, we are not against her. She is our daughter," he said. "If she would look at these things and take measures not to hurt the emotions of Muslims, we will welcome it."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution