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In qualified support of the facebook ban – by Muhammad Amir Khakwani

While a number of valuable articles have been posted on the LUBP criticising the facebook ban, here is an alternative, thought provoking perspective by Muhammad Amir Khakwani. Unlike our tradition, we are placing this newspaper article on the front page in order to invite a constructive debate on this perspective. Also provided below Khakwani’s article is another equally interesting article on this topic which was recently published in the Digital Journal:

Source: Express, 22 May 2010


Also of interest is the following article on the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”:

‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’ Controversy Still Raging Worldwide

Source: Digital Journal

Saudi Arabia banned Facebook’s EDMD page. Indian Muslims are demanding that India do the same. Pakistan lodged protests with the UN and US, even as the issue divides its people. Sweden closed its embassy there. Now the controversy threatens the World Cup.

UPDATE: Few non-Muslims today are more vehemently opposed to EDMD than its creator,Molly Norris. Not even the Against EDMD F/Bpage, of which Ms. Norris is now a member. In fact, Ms. Norris is now recruiting visitors at her website to join the Against EDMD page as well. Unfortunately for Ms. Norris, YouTube user MrBeydoun4Palestine just posted a brand newominous video that uses her earlier enthusiastic words against her. The message of the edited video cuts and soundtrack is unmistakable. Doesn’t look like joining the opposition helped hermuch, though she did dodge one fatwa. So far. The original EDMD news roundup as follows.

The Everybody Draw Mohammed Day controversy continues to rage on worldwide, and shows no signs of abating despite its May 21 expiration date. Sweden closed its embassy in Islamabad for an indefinite period due to security concerns. That act appears to stem from the controversy surrounding Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has gone into hiding.

Yesterday the Lahore High Court (LHC), which issued the injunctions banning Facebook and YouTube in Pakistan, petitioned Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to lodge an official sovereign protest to the US over the blasphemous Facebook page. Today, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States complied. Pakistan has also filed a grievance with the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Yet even in Pakistan itself, as the Economic Times is now reporting, the controversy is causing rifts in Pakistani civil society between the Islamists who want social networks like Facebook banned, and modernists who oppose the bans as self-defeating. Thesweeping social networking ban are even starting to affect many major Pakistani businesses.

Those same kinds of societal rifts are now surfacing in India. As the usanewsweek.comwebsite is now reporting, Indian Muslims have been petitioning the national government to ban Facebook over the row. Though predominantly a secular society, India was the first nation to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Many in India who consider that ban a national embarrassment are calling for the government to repeal it as its 21st anniversary approaches. In related news, Xinhua reports that the government of Saudi Arabia is also now blocking the controversial EDMD Facebook page. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting on news that the cartoon controversy is casting a dark shadow over the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. Local Muslims were outraged over a relatively mild sketch drawn by famed South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (aka Zapiro) syndicated internationally May 20.

South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council issued a press release on its website this past weekend condemning the Zapiro cartoon. Zapiro himself has received a number of death threats from enraged Islamists, as well as a defamation lawsuit from South African President Jacob Zuma. South African officials fear heightened security risks for the upcoming World Cup beginning on June 11. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) had already threatened to launch terror attacks against the World Cup venue last month, and now local Muslim anger is mounting. Mr. Zapiro’s own response to South African Muslims aggrieved by his cartoon? “Get over it.

Ironically, the creator of the original EDMD cartoon, Molly Norris, has attempted to distance herself from the controversy by disavowing the campaign and apologizing to Muslims for it. Yet she is still facing death threats from offended Islamist extremists, while proponents of the EDMD contest are now accusing her of cowardice for disowning the campaign she herself inspired. It is an entirely no-win situation for cartoonist Norris who, like Martin Luther, only wanted to make a mild statement of protest but wound up sparking a cultural conflagration far beyond her ability to extinguish. Even her fellow cartoonists are greatly divided on the issue. Much more on the EDMD controversy at and Google’s search page.

UPDATE: It looks like some Muslims have come up with a creative idea to counter EDMD, to wit EDHD: Everybody Draw (the) Holocaust Day. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about EDHD is that no one will likely get killed over it. Food for thought. A banquet, actually.

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  • Pakistan Facebook ban not the answer
    A more powerful protest would be to let Pakistanis use Facebook and Twitter to oppose ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’

    Bilal Baloch and Nadia Naviwala, Saturday 22 May 2010

    Since “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” was announced on 20 May, those associated with its creation have been rushing around to distance themselves from the ensuing controversy. Cartoonist Molly Norris has announced, “I am NOT involved!” Apparently, Facebook user Jon Wellington used her cartoon to create the group. But even he has stepped back, “Ya’ll go ahead if that’s your bag, but count me out.” It’s not so easy to step away from these developments, however.

    With a widening crackdown threatening Pakistan’s 20 million internet users – Facebook was blocked first, on Thursday YouTube and Wikipedia were added to the list, and now Twitter – the Facebook ban is about more than a simple social networking site. While everyone, including the US state department, seems to want to clean their hands of this situation, neither Facebook nor Muslims can afford to step back. The question is, how to step up?

    Illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad are blasphemous in Islam. It is clear – and has been for some time – that the transnational Muslim community does not respond well to depictions of their beloved prophet, and neither is this breaking news. The violence and fury that resulted from the publication of 12 editorial cartoons by a Danish newspaper in 2005 are well-known. To whimsically revive the issue on the world’s largest social networking site is an irresponsible poke-in-the-eye. Against this backdrop, then, the juvenile attempt to mock a holy figure in one of the world’s largest religions deserves serious attention.

    While sensitivity to drawings may seem irrational to non-Muslims, many religions and cultures have sore spots that the world has learned to respect. Freedom of speech is a right, but this right is not befitting of irrationality. It should be treated like any other right afforded by civil liberties: with responsibility. And when it is abused, an apology or some form of resolution is in order.

    According to its own terms, conditions, and precedents, Facebook should have removed the group. Facebook’s policy makes it clear that obscene content and the triggering of hate material toward any group, individual, or religion will be banned and removed. Last year, Facebook was quick to honour requests by Italian authorities to shut down a page dedicated to Massimo Tartaglia, the man who allegedly punched Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at a political rally in Milan. No such urgency found its way to the controversy behind the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page: only yesterday did Facebook shut it down.

    Unfortunately, because Facebook did not initially ban the page – despite requests – Pakistan banned Facebook. But Pakistan has millions of internet users and the banned sites constitute 25% of internet traffic. Many Pakistanis are asking why the sites were banned in their entirety, when the government might have launched a more effective and moderate response, including banning individual pages where possible.

    It may have never occurred to the government that the most effective response would have been to actually allow Pakistanis, in consonance with Muslims worldwide, on Facebook to express their own outrage. Muslims had already created Facebook groups in protest and such a viral campaign would have been a much more powerful, compelling, and dignified response than the reactionary shutdown. And it may have sparked more: negative images of the prophet could have been countered by using Facebook and YouTube to communicate his positive significance to Muslims in new and creative ways.

    Ironically, the current debacle provides Pakistanis with the best opportunity to demonstrate that Muslims can communicate their way out of a crisis. As Monis Rahman, head of one of Pakistan’s largest internet companies states, “There are too many assumptions being made about Pakistan’s vibrant, educated internet community.” But if westerners fail to note that this community exists in Pakistan, it’s because their voices have been drowned out by Pakistan’s reactionary authorities.

    Now is the time for Pakistan’s internet community to engage in an organised and compelling dialogue: if not with the offenders, then most certainly with the rest of the world that is watching. Pakistanis need to take back the internet, and do for social liberties in Pakistan what the Lawyer’s Movement once did for civil rights. At the same time, they will demonstrate to Muslims that there is a third way: organised communication is a more effective response to conflict than violence or silence.

    News of the ban on Twitter came as the keys on this unrestricted mac typed away. The question is: where does this end? Pakistan is not Iran – where rock music, western movies, and associating with the opposite sex can earn fines and lashes. But with Pakistan’s internet authorities hunting out “sacrilegious content”, it’s not just about caricatures anymore. From the protests against drones, to frequent rallies by the religious right, Pakistanis have demonstrated their strength on the streets. Now is the time to demonstrate their power on the internet.

    • This article was co-authoured by Nadia Naviwala, a student at the Kennedy School of Government, and fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

  • The ban should stay — for now

    By Mina Sohail
    May 24, 2010

    With the government having banned the social networking website Facebook and YouTube, I am glad that for once we have paid more heed to the sentiments of our own people as opposed to those living in Timbuktu. Many argue that the ban will spoil our image further internationally. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. For once, let’s not be concerned with how we are labelled by the West. Let’s instead fret over how people at home are reacting. Let’s try to support and protect their rights and beliefs.

    However, I am not saying that an outright ban is the best solution. But we do need to look at the larger picture for now. In our country, there has always been a divide between what the state does and what society wants. We need to bridge that gap. So the government for a change acted according to the wishes of the people.

    Facebook recently said that comments and content can be upsetting for someone but that is not a reason to remove the discussion. Agreed. But a caricature contest of our Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is not something that will ‘hurt’ our religious ideology. It will spark a storm and ignite rage among people.

    In 2007 Thailand blocked YouTube because the site showed a slide containing manipulated photos of its king. The same year, access to YouTube was blocked in Turkey after clips deemed to be mocking Mustafa Kemal Ataturk appeared on the site.

    Banning Facebook will not prevent people from making those caricatures. An indefinite ban cannot be a good longterm solution. We cannot be cut off from the rest of the world. However, for the time being, the ban should stay because it reflects the sentiments of millions in Pakistan who feel outraged.

    Published in the Express Tribune, May 24th, 2010.

  • Maharashtra (India) wants Facebook page banned
    Yogesh Naik, TNN, May 22, 2010

    MUMBAI: With city Muslims expressing their displeasure over social networking site Facebook hosting a competition on Prophet Mohammed’s images, the state home department has written to Union home secretary G K Pillai seeking a ban on the webpage.

    A copy of the letter has also been sent to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, a division of the information and technology ministry.

    Additional chief secretary (home) Chandra Iyengar said the state had written to the home ministry, urging it to ban the page.

  • Facebook Blocks Access in India to Controversial Page
    John Ribeiro, IDG News
    May 24, 2010 7:10 am

    Facebook has blocked in India the controversial “Everybody draw Mohammed Day!” page that last week led to the site being banned in Pakistan.

    The move follows protests by Muslims in the country over the page which invites users to put up caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.

    “Out of respect for the local regulations, standards and customs, we have decided to restrict access to the ‘Everyone Draw Mohammed!’ page from India, after being contacted by authorities and reviewing the matter closely,” a spokeswoman for Facebook said on Sunday in an email.

    We have not removed the Page from Facebook, but have only restricted access to it from India,” she added.

    The page was inaccessible from India from late Saturday.

    Officials at India’s Departments of Telecommunications and Ministry of Home Affairs said on Sunday that they were not aware of the Indian government blocking the site. The country’s Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 allows the government to block web sites under certain conditions.

    Access to Facebook was restricted on Wednesday in Pakistan by the local regulator, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Earlier, a court in the country had instructed the government to block the site. On Thursday, PTA also blocked YouTube, citing sacrilegious content on the video-streaming Web site.

    Facebook may consider IP blocking in Pakistan after further review of local regulations, standards and customs, the Facebook spokeswoman said on Sunday.

    A move to block the page in Pakistan would be in line with Facebook’s stated policy on the issue.

    When dealing with user-generated content on global Web sites, there are occasions where content that is illegal in one country is not, or may even be protected, in another, Facebook said on Thursday. Most companies, including Facebook, approach this issue by preventing certain content from being shown to users in the countries where it is illegal, it added.

    The “Everyone Draw Mohammed!” page had 112,541 fans and 12,983 photos on Sunday. The page was however brought down on Thursday for two days by a page moderator who got scared after his e-mail and Skype account was hacked into, and his personal data revealed, according to a post on the page on Saturday.

    The page has spawned a number of look-alike pages on Facebook with the same or similar names, as well as pages opposing it.

  • Haqqani lodges official protest over Facebook images with US

    * Richard Holbrooke assures Pakistani envoy that he understands Muslim sentiments have been hurt

    WASHINGTON: Pakistan has lodged an official protest with the United States over the blasphemous representation of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) on a Facebook page, with Islamabad’s ambassador in Washington conveying Pakistani sentiments to senior US officials.

    The page containing sacrilegious material drew a strong reaction from Pakistan and was removed from the networking website on Saturday morning.

    Talking to US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani expressed the sentiments and strong feelings of the Pakistani government and people over the issue.

    US envoy: Holbrooke assured the Pakistani envoy that he understood the Pakistani and Muslim sentiments over the appearance of the images, which were offensive to all, the Pakistani embassy spokesman said.

    The embassy also sent an official protest to the US Department of State over the blasphemous contest being held on Facebook, saying it had “immensely hurt and discomforted the people and the government of Pakistan”.

    According to the spokesman, the embassy said the reckless act had enraged millions of Muslims in Pakistan and worldwide.

    The embassy urged the US government to “take effective measures to prevent, stop or block this blasphemous contest immediately”, pointing out that according to the laws of commerce and business, Facebook was governed by the legal jurisdiction of the US. app\23\story_23-5-2010_pg7_2

  • The article says: “Zapiro himself has received a number of death threats from enraged Islamists, as well as a defamation lawsuit from South African President Jacob Zuma.”

    But the link the article provides says that

    “Jacob Zuma is suing Zapiro for R7 million for the ‘Rape of Justice’ cartoon which was published in The Sunday Times on 7 September 2008.”

    Zuma’s cartoon which is simply The Prophet lamenting that his followers have no sense of humor is proving to be amply accurate.

  • @Arun You are dying in your hatred of Islam and Muslims. That is the long and short of your so called sense of humour.

  • Just a point of view!!!

    Lets start it this way, there was a time in 2007 when a drama queen Chris Crocker launched a ridiculous video ‘Leave Britney alone’ on youtube, video was basically what they call it “an idea” for getting more traffic so that he can earn more money out of it by Google Adsense and you know what! it actually worked, he got 4 million views in just two days and of course huge amount of money too.

    Now lets talk about “Draw Muhammad Day”! What is it and how it began !?
    Episodes 200 and 201 of South Park (carton show), broadcasted it in early April 2010 was the beginning of it. After that there was some protest against it but it really didn’t change anything, matter of the fact is it actually gave an “idea” to webmasters that it could be our new “idea” to make huge amount of money! And then we heard of “Draw Muhammad Contest” on Internet everywhere.
    Now what we heard next is !!!!

    Ban on 3,4 websites from Pakistan gov,
    Here is my question “this is it!?”
    Now you might be thinking, why would I say so!

    Try to understand it this way, you are in your home and a guy is standing outside of your door, cursing you, calling you names, saying bad things about you in front of your neighbors.
    What will you do?
    a) Sit in your TV launch and tell your self that “he’s a lunatic, just forget him, I don’t have to fight”.
    b) Go outside and punch him in the face.  
    Now at this point, what Pakistani gov did is the act (a)!!!

    Here is another question (ask your self), Banning 3,4 sites really solved our problem?
    Answer is NO. Go to Google and search in images for this “Draw Mohammed” you’ll see a lot of pages filled with sketches! even if you search for ‘South Park episode 200’, you’ll find it on many watchonline websites. For example;

    Now won’t you ask your selves “What is all this banning about then?”
    First of all understand one thing our politicians have no religion accept Money, they are liars, they alway come up with so called facts to settle you down [because they are political (politicians! remember!)]
    Now let me tell you why they exactly ban these few sites!
    According to ‘New World Order’, which was presented by USA in 1999, there was a new map of future World, in which Pakistan wasn’t on the map (does this ring a bell?)
    According to that map they said “Pakistan is a dangerous country and it needs to be vanished” and in this map they show that in 2013 Baluchistan and Serhad will be merged into Afghanistan and some part of it in Iran.
    Now look around you Serhad is on war and a major operation is about to begin in Baluchistan by our present gov, they are doing it on USA’s will. And the killing of Bugti in 2006 was the beginning of it in Pakistan.
    Now in these days when “Draw Muhammad Day” could become an anger for Pakistani people and it can push them to come on roads for the protest against “Draw Muhammad Day” + against USA plans in Serhad & Baluchistan, it would be better to ban few sites just to show these Pakistanis that Pakistani gov, is not a complete puppet of USA. Pakistan gov, want to prove it to you that” At last we had done some thing which you people want!” But the matter of fact is gov, had tried to fool this nation again and they almost got succeeded.

    Now at this point there is still another interesting question left “Should we boycott the whole internet?”
    My answer would be NO, because “The End of The Internet” or “Internet 2” is already on there way which might took place in 2012.
    The real truth behind “Internet 2” is, a small internet network which could be easily monitor, a new internet network which will only let you go through few thousand websites. It has been created to stop the Freedom Of Speech. There will be like old times after Internet 2; like when we used to heard on PTV that only 20 persons has died in bombing but actually 200 were dead! There will be a war outside and you’ll not be able to figure out “whats really going on!!!???”

    Now lets talk about the real thing, “Protest against Draw Muhammed Day.”
    Problem can not be solved by banning few sites, instead of that actually all muslim leaders have to get together and then force Western powers to delete all links from servers which has been uploaded or even stop it from being uploaded.

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