Why there should be no ban on Facebook in Pakistan!

The Facebook event ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ indeed came as an offensive shock not only to Muslims around the world; but to all those who believe in tolerance and respect of others’ beliefs. Islamic tradition disallows the representation of the Prophet Muhammad in any state, but a special event to draw caricatures of a revered and respected religious figure is tantamount to hate speech, and was most certainly bound to provoke a strong reaction across the globe, especially from followers of Islam.

In Pakistan, the courts reacted by blocking access to Facebook on May 19, and to YouTube on May 20, owing to the presence of blasphemous material on these mass sharing and communication portals. However, it is pertinent to discuss the dynamics of this issue before concluding the extent of its effectiveness.

Facebook is a social networking site where millions from all over the world can interact with anybody with a Facebook page anywhere in the world through his/her own page, known as a profile.. Photographs are shared, messages are sent, one can write on another’s ‘Wall’, and there are millions of groups and fan pages for varying interests for people to interact and discuss different topics on. Another useful component of Facebook is events, which can be made by any user for any purpose, and people can be invited to it. Events range from art exhibitions to school functions, protest demonstrations, book readings, parties, concerts, charity drives, business meetings, etc., and reminders are given to users on the home page once an RSVP is given.

One such event, ‘Draw Muhammad Day’, had been made by a Facebook user in Seattle in reaction to the censorship of an episode of the popular American animated satirical comedy ‘South Park’ that had a graphic representation of Prophet Muhammad, and in support of the freedom of expression. However, this was insensitive to millions of Muslim users of Facebook. Muslims reacted by ‘reporting abuse’ for offence on the event and page, however, the Facebook administration has announced that the event and page do not violate Facebook’s privacy statement and terms of use; hence, they cannot be deleted. Another point to be noted here is that the Facebook event has been made by a private Facebook user, and is not endorsed by the Facebook administration. The event can only be seen if searched for, or if one is invited to it.

However, the question that arises here is whether the blockage of Facebook by official Pakistani authorities is useful and effective.

The chances of a Pakistani participating in this event are very slim. Rather, Pakistanis were one of the most active in creating and spreading awareness about, and making groups and events to counter this event considered blasphemous by Muslims. One such event declared May 20 as ‘Respect Muhammad Day’ and encouraged users to share and talk about the sayings of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Other reactionary groups were also made calling for the deletion of ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ event and page. Another movement titled ‘Boycott Facebook on May 20’ was also initiated that encouraged users not to use Facebook on May 20 in protest of the ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ event. This was a viable option as users could boycott the page upon their own discretion, but a ban on access to page in the entire country becomes too imposing and borders draconian.

This is a time where Muslims should exhibit strong faith and be unmoved by any attacks on their religion; and take peaceful and constructive steps to avert such offensive outbursts. The state blocking the site makes it seem like it is fearful of its citizens losing faith and averting to blasphemy. Furthermore, the ban, in effect, alienates the Pakistani people from Facebook users all over the world. These people could have been made aware of the sensitivity of such an event rather than being cut off! What is more interesting is that Pakistani internet users still have access to websites with pornographic material, but not to a social networking site. Does pornography not pose a threat to public morality in the country?

It is also pertinent to explore the effects the Facebook ban has had on Pakistanis. Facebook is a much cheaper and quicker medium for mass communication and interaction purposes. Its interactive features make it all the more useful for people to meet others with similar interests, and makes networking for all purposes very convenient. Many developmental projects have their grounding in Facebook where social activism and community service, as well as awareness programmes are made popular. It is a place for many Pakistanis, especially the younger lot, to meet and discuss ideas, and mobilize resources for different causes. Examples of youth organizations with a mass purposeful presence on Facebook include Future Leaders of Pakistan (FLP), Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA), Thali, Zimmedar Shehri, among others. There are many religious groups as well where religion is actively discussed, and information is exchanged. Many businesses use Facebook to appeal to prospective customers and have pages that have become alternatives to more costly websites.
With a plethora of crises mounting in intensity and causing discontent in society, Facebook is a world of its own that acts like a welcome distraction as well as hope for the internet-using Pakistani. However, the blockage of Facebook is only increasing this discontent and discomfort amongst the public, acting as an infringement of personal freedoms. Hence, these factors must be considered and explored by the Pakistani authorities before such a ban with wide repercussions is imposed. Moreover, the state should concentrate on solving more pressing issues that the Pakistani is facing; such as loadshedding, inflation, unemployment, and illiteracy, and lack of proper healthcare facilities.

Usama Khilji is a social activist, debater, and writer based in Islamabad.

Note: This article is published as an attempt to cover both sides of arguments about Facebook ban in Pakistan.


18 thoughts on “Why there should be no ban on Facebook in Pakistan!”

  1. Facebook has officially reopened in Pakistan. We will appreciate if you invite all your friends to join FaithfulBillion Network. Let us not forget that facebook did not take any action against our cry for deleting pages that were disrespecting our Beloved Prophet (Pbuh).

    We don not need facebook or any other network that insults, disrespects and degrades our Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.)

    We will react to it as we strongly condemn, blasphemous caricature competition held at Facebook and that every other act, which can possibly become the cause of spewing hatred and inciting violence.

    FaithfulBillion.com an endeavor to show to the world that we muslims are merely not an above billion number of individuals, but we are part of such an undivided group, which exists with strongest element of commonality in their beliefs.

    We need your help to make this a success…
    Invite friends from your facebook and orkut account to join us…

    SIGNUP NOW!!! You will surely enjoy here.

    http://www.faithfulbillion.com

    Regards,
    Faithful Billion Team

  2. The reason we do not have any images of Mohammad (PBUH) is that people do not start to worship his image, as the Christians have done with Jesus (PBUH). Mohammed (PBUH) was a man, the messenger of God all mighty.
    It is right that we show the proper respect and expect other to show some respect for our beliefs.
    But their will always be people that do not!!!
    Banning Facebook in Pakistan will only give them bigger amusement and a greater sense of achievement, why not keep on doing this until all Muslim Nations stop using the internet (or any other media) and return to the dark ages…
    Like I said banning Facebook is like burying your head in the sand, it won’t work.
    Education and Knowledge is key, educate people like these on what true Islam is, tell them not all Muslims want to kill innocent people have Big Beards, Hats and Missiles in their back pockets!!

  3. @Hend have u ever seen Mohammad that you are drawing his photo? even his companions never drawn his photo? and if u r so inspired by Mohammad then why don’t you accept islam and become muslim and follow his teachings did u ever bother to read what he said? whats tempting you to draw his photo? its illegal in Islam to draw his photo.

  4. can u justify your last lines…? how can u say state concentrate on other prblms… u think itz nt our prblm?…. celebrating drawing day of muhammad is not a big issue…. u think like this????
    f9 there can b other alternatives as wel instead of ban. we can use their tools against them as well….why dont you upload positive points of Pakistan on youtube or facebook..instead of indian videos… we can tel the world dat we r not extremist… by uploading videos of ur college university projects, brilliant students of Pak, ur working places, pictures of ur cities especialy islamabad..
    few days back, i had conversation wid a person living in america.. he was surprised when i told him dat m a girl frm Pak…. he was shocked and said.. “IN Pak R U HAVING FACILITY OF INTERNET..?? AND A WOMAN ALLOWED TO USE IT?? STRANGE….”
    So we can tell the world dat we are living in good environment, not in battle of war…

  5. Haider

    Who said I will draw a vulgar picture of Mohammad? I can draw a respectful picture also. As a real person in history of the world, any person in the wold can draw his picture, Muslims cannot object. What about respecting artistic freedom…specially of people belonging to other religions? Again please give a logical and reasonable answer.

  6. @Hend why would u want to draw Muhammad when muslims dislike? are u getting paid for doing that teasing others? how would u feel if some one draw vulgar paintings of your parents?

  7. Haider

    You have just proved the point of Imran that ‘Islam cannot stand the scrutiny’ and therefore Muslims don’t allow criticism on it.

    What is wrong in drawing Mohammad? Can you give a reasonable and logical answer to this instead of preaching and venting your diatribe.

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