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Citizen Voices

Banning Books Is An Utter Violation Of Democratic Principles

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In this globalised world, when democracy is considered as the only thinkable political system that could help the developing countries have a positive image at the global level, Pakistan is harming its own image as a democratic country. Freedom of thought and speech is an essential part of democracy. But recently, the ban on 100 books in Punjab by the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board reveal that we may not have the complete freedom to speak our minds.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the book-reading habit does not have its place in our day to day routine. Students in schools, colleges, and universities, are not encouraged by their seniors or teachers to read anything outside of the curriculum. Therefore, we cannot understand what impact books can have on the intellectual growth of individuals and how banning books hinders this growth. Pakistan’s literacy rate is 60% (1), and every thinker knows that with this 60% ratio, no country can perform up to the mark and when the 40% people of the community have not seen the walls of any school. It is all moonshine to think that banning books without any rock-hard reason would make people more loyal and true Muslims.

Ostensibly, Punjab Tahafuzz-e-Bunyad Islam Bill 2020 (which has thankfully not been passed as the lawmakers said that they had voted in its favour before reading it) would ensure the publications of only those books, which would be in line with the instructions prescribed by the government. Perplexingly, it would be a unique experience for writers, as they must keep in their minds what should be written and what should be not.
Countries around the world support and promote their writers and researchers and enable them to produce more and more work to upgrade their positions in the fields of science, arts, and technology. But in Pakistan we are continuously censoring our writers.

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The books, apparently, have been banned for containing anti-Pakistan and anti-Islamic teachings. But I am astonished that if such kind of content was written in the books then why didn’t the government know of it earlier? It seems that either the previous governments did not understand the sensitivity of the matter or the current government is extra-enthusiastic for creating a radical change.

Let’s assume that being a Muslim, I should only read those books that complement my religious understandings. But does that mean, I should not go for the books which are not written by the Muslims or the “true Muslims”? I remember Ibn-e-Rushd, a great Muslim philosopher, who once said, “truth can’t contradict truth”. It shows that reading different interpretations of a single phenomenon would ultimately lead us to the objective truth.
Instead of banning books and writers, the government should create an environment where everyone has his/her voice so that one could say that one is living in a democratic country that supports freedom of speech and thought.

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Naya Daur