After Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar win for a documentary on honour killing caused national outrage over Pakistan’s image, Pakistan’s censor board seems to have learnt its lesson and banned a documentary on the Lal Masjid and its notorious leader; choosing to err on the side of caution.

Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s award-winning documentary, ‘Among the Believers’ explored the roots of radical Islam and extremism and profiled Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz. The ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach being taken by the government regarding what to reveal to the public is symptomatic of our society’s jingoistic nationalism. While the documentary may be banned in Pakistan, to save Pakistanis from the shame of having to confront their own problems, the dissemination of the film internationally is a forgone conclusion. The documentary has been screened in 20 countries and has already bagged 12 awards. How does anyone in Pakistan think that banning this film will improve the image of Pakistan internationally?

Naqvi, the director, has said that the documentary was aimed at educating the public regarding the ideological divide in the country – something that desperately needs to be highlighted. The tone of the film is a world away from hate-fueled infotainment, or being ‘anti-state’, as the government puts it. If by negative image, they mean the documentary shows the grave reality of the deadly influence of radical minds on the young, then it is time to see this reality. This was one of the elements of the National Action Plan after the deadly APS attack in Peshawar – to end the ideology that spreads hate. How will this happen if the state does not let such exposes come to light that oppose extremism?

It’s not the first time that a film or documentary has come in the line of fire for religious or nationalistic reasons. However, censoring narratives that might open up a discussion on what should be tackled by the state, especially those that are clearly not against the state, but only make it seem complicit.