KARACHI, Pakistan – Provincial police in Pakistan this week raided bookstores and confiscated copies of an elementary school social studies textbook containing a picture of education activist Malala Yousafzai, a polarizing figure in the country.

The picture of Ms. Yousafzai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, appeared in a chapter on national heroes with Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The world’s youngest Nobel Prize winner, Malala, as the 24-year-old is widely known, is celebrated worldwide as a courageous figure of her activism, despite being shot in the head by a Taliban rifle in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as a schoolgirl in 2012.

Her biography “I am Malala”, which she wrote together with the experienced British foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, was an international bestseller. The following year, 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But in her own country she is the subject of heated debate.

“For many in Pakistan, Malala symbolizes everything they think they hate the West,” said Nida Kirmani, professor of sociology at Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. “For others, it is a symbol of women’s rights and resistance to Islamist forces,” she added.

“For these reasons she has become a divisive figure.”

Critics say the seizures show a desire to repress critical thinking and a growing intolerance of opinions that contradict conservative Islamic beliefs and cultural norms.

In 2012, Taliban militants attempted to assassinate Ms. Yousafzai on a bus returning from school after the BBC website published an article about her experience under her rule. She moved to the UK and graduated from Oxford University last year.

Last month, in an interview with UK Vogue magazine about where her young life could lead, Ms. Yousafzai questioned the need for marriage, which sparked a backlash in Pakistan. “I still don’t understand why people have to get married,” she said, according to the article. “If you want someone in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?”

In May, her tweet enraged that “violence in Jerusalem – especially against children – is unbearable,” a number of Pakistanis who neither mention the Palestinians nor condemn Israel.

Police and officials from the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board, a provincial agency, began raiding stores across the city on Monday to confiscate copies of the book. The board did not want to say how many stores were searched or how many books were confiscated.

On Monday, Ms. Yousafzai’s birthday, celebrated as Malala Day by some in Pakistan, authorities confiscated the entire inventory of textbooks from the Oxford University Press publishing office in Lahore, saying the company had not received a certificate of objection, or NOC, from the government.

“No NOC means breaking the law,” Punjab Provincial Education Minister Murad Raas said in a tweet.

Oxford University press office staff in Lahore declined an interview request.

On Tuesday, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, an organization that claims to represent 150,000 schools, launched a documentary entitled “I Am Not Malala” to express their controversial views on Islam, marriage and their pursuit of a Western agenda to highlight.

“Parents do not want their children to follow in Malala’s footsteps, even if she continues to win awards,” said Kashif Mirza, president of the association. “Malala has fallen into the trap of the West and is now working on a Western agenda against Pakistan and Islam.”

The same association previously ran a campaign against Ms. Yousafzai demanding that the government ban her memoirs for what they claimed was offensive to Islam and the “ideology of Pakistan”.

In recent years, as the influence of the Pakistani Taliban and other militant Islamist groups has increased, textbooks and other teaching materials have been scrutinized.

Riaz Shaikh, an academic based in the eastern city of Karachi who was involved in the development of textbooks in Sindh Province, said that in the textbooks Ms. Yousafzai, Mr. Salam, and Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani Christian child activist, who was involved in the campaign against abusive child labor and was murdered at the age of 11. Islamist groups then targeted the textbook authors with death threats.

Dr. Bernadette L. Dean, Dr. Shaikh’s colleague in the group and a well-known educator fled Pakistan in 2015 out of fear for her life.

“Unfortunately, Pakistani society has evolved into hatred, conspiracy theories and politicization of religion,” said Dr. Shaikh. “For this reason, a significant part of the Pakistani population regards Malala and other heroes as their villains.”

Last year, Punjab’s Curriculum and Textbooks Committee banned 100 textbooks in a single day for calling content “anti-Pakistani” and “blasphemous”. One of the banned children was a math textbook for children that had pictures of pigs – pork is forbidden in Islam – to help explain a math problem.

Last year the provincial parliament recommended banning three groundbreaking books on Islam, including “The First Muslim” and “After the Prophet” by British author Lesley Hazleton, and accused them of blasphemy.

Leading human rights groups and liberal politicians have called for the Punjab Provincial Council to withdraw the order to confiscate the textbook containing Ms. Yousafzai’s photos.

The Pakistani Human Rights Commission, an independent civil oversight agency, said Tuesday the raids “marked a new low in the state’s attempts to control information and manipulate public discourse.”

On Wednesday a member of the Pakistani parliament, Sherry Rehman, defended Ms. Yousafzai on the floor of parliament.

“If you can’t see Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai as your heroes, then only God can help you,” she said, referring to the former prime minister who was killed in a 2007 suicide bombing in Rawalpindi. “Malala faced extremists and got a bullet in return.”

Zia ur-Rehman reported from Karachi, Pakistan, and Emily Schmall from New Delhi.