Pakistan bans Facebook, Youtube over 'Draw Mohammad Day'
Pakistan blocked YouTube, Wikipedia, and other websites Thursday to try to suppress a Facebook page declaring Thursday Everybody Draw Mohammad Day. Many protested the 'blasphemy' of depicting the prophet.
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The protests are reminiscent of the 2006 cartoon controversy that originated in Denmark, in which Danish and later European publications printed caricatures of Mohammad. That, too, led to protests in Pakistan, which left five people dead, and prompted the bombing of the Danish Embassy in 2008.Skip to next paragraph
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Heeding public sentiment
Pakistani politicians have either remained silent or expressed support of the ban. On Wednesday, Talha Mehmood, chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior affairs, urged the government to redefine its relations with the West against the backdrop of an increase in incidents hurting religious sentiments of the Muslims.
But the blanket bans have also provoked the ire of many Internet users within Pakistan’s growing middle classes, who rely on Facebook for communicating with friends and organizing events. Many argue that the decision to ban the websites en masse was injudicious.
"Why on earth should Islam be given any immunity to criticism, hiding like ostriches and constantly getting offended is what has made us so backward," wrote one Nabiha Meher Shaikh.
Badar Alam, a senior editor in Pakistan’s Herald magazine, argues that the ban reflects the increasing role of religion in the judiciary.
“Since the 1980s there have been few if any at all progressive, liberal people who could make it to the bench,” he says. “The courts in Pakistan over the last three decades have in their judgments started citing religious injunction as much as, if not more, the laws and the constitution.”
The judiciary is also keenly aware of the popular impact of its decisions and has become a highly politicized institution, he argues. “It is a natural consequence of the movement for the restoration of the judiciary that the judges keep public's sentiments as much in mind as they do law. More often than not they have made 'popular' decisions,” he says, referring to a popular movement in recent years to reinstate dozens of deposed judges.
Facebook has reacted with “disappointment,” according to a statement made to Agence France Presse late Wednesday. “We are analyzing the situation and the legal considerations, and will take appropriate action, which may include making this content inaccessible to users in Pakistan.”
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