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 Should not be banned in Pakistan!!!
    It’s “Ostrich-Syndrome”, someone says or does something you don’t like and you bury your head in the sand so you don’t see or hear it.
    That won’t stop any thing!!!
    Muslims are seen by most of the west as back-ward people because some idiot drawing a picture offends us so much we ban a web site and cut off our people from the only contact with the outside world they have.
    The idiot who started this is sat there laughing at you/us…
    Do you blame them? They get kick’s out of offending people, we just make it easier for them…

  2. @Imran khan you seem some traitor or secular First of all there is a difference between criticism and abuse and our beautiful Islam is the religion based on Logical reasons if any one ponder on it he/she will get down to the bottom of the truth so dont think that we the lil created things are smarter than our Creator whose word is Quran the problem is within us we ourself dont follow islam and dont give it importance and think that Quran is a book from stone age nauzubillah without even bothering to read or understand Quran encompasses the knowledge of everything let it be Medical, psychology, science, math, physics only if we bother to research on it or ponder rather than making fun of us ourself and giving the chance to non muslims to make the fun of us and secondly if Hindu’s ask you not to take breathe because they consider oxygen as their God thats ridiculous enough to reject ofcourse but yeah if hindu’s ask us not to insult some particular person because they respect him or he is their famous religious personality than it is our right not to insult him/her but rather engage in peaceful debates to get across our ideas and the reason why non-muslims are so progressing is because we ourself dont follow our Religion no one is following Islam who is? if anyone then he is not following it properly but rather following his own school of thoughts and relating it to islam and thinking that its right LOL the way your post seem to me that you are atheist because you either didnt study Quran or failed to understand it . if a robber is rich that doesnt mean we start robbing people so stop telling me that western countries are rich and progressing i know how they are progressing by attacking other nations and killing millions of innocent people and capture their land and resources and our arab world shame on them their money are preserved in US Banks LOL we the muslims are falling down so wake up and go back to Quran and read what it says.

  3. Dear Sameera,
    I apologise for any lapse of understanding on my part, but I would appreciate if you did not use prepositions such as “you” in a post that does not identify it’s audience clearly because it may well lead to a persecution complex amongst anybody reading it; and backfire on you with all sorts of retort. However, I do appreciate your effort to draw comparisons between Muslim populations around the world. From what I understand, you are trying to point out the stark hypocrisy in the conduct of different groups in our country, which is a valid point in my opinion.

    Dear Imran Khan,
    tahnk you for your comment. However, I do believe that a discussion on the belief system is completely out of order. I do not understand why we can’t practise the cliche “Live and let live”, or “Each to his own”. Why can’t we let people believe what they want to believe, and be concerned with our own only, and carry on with our lives instead of trying to make others’ miserable by pointing out perceived flaws in their belief systems?

    Dear Gill, Anon, and whatever,
    Thank you for your support, I appreciate it! 🙂

    Usama Khilji.

  4. @ the post above mine:

    I seriously don’t know what to make of this response above mine. I’m confused. It is amazing how people just go on and on about things that are common knowledge and in NO WAY related to the post at hand. It is beyond my understanding how people at once judge others citing phrases like ‘You and other Muslims like you’. Unbelievable!

    The post writer is presenting a valid argument backing it by logical reasoning and the response he gets from a needlessly charged (for unknown reasons) individual is that he is a hypocrite because he is using technology and “benefiting from freedom of speech” in a country that cannot hold free and fair elections. I mean REALLY? How are these two arguments even related?

    It appears to me that people just want to be read even if they have nothing valuable to add to a course of discussion.

    As for the post, a good article.

  5. Summery of response:
    It seems, Pakistan is far behind to Modern world and Muslims are still living in Stone Age. Let me tell you “it is age of reason not religion”. If you will never allow others to criticize your religion it will never evolve and it is becoming problem for you and non-muslims too. It seems Islam can‘t stand on open scrutiny therefore Muslims don’t allow it be criticized. Open it for debates on your countries, either It will rule the world or it will become the History.

    Keep in mind “freedom of speech” on religions is pith in developed countries(Europe and American). They have left behind the religions in 17th century, most of them don’t take religion too serious so are progressing in this era. “Freedom of speech“ is non-negotiable in Modern World.

    When you ask for respect for Islam and your Prophet. You forget that prophet Muhammad himself destroyed idles in Mecca in the first place without caring other religions, Taliban in Afghanistan did the same way but never was such response. When you burn flags of other counties, is that not offensive for their nation.

    Through out the Islam expansion period Muslims destroyed other religions not with preaching with sword too.

    When Hindus ask you to not eat cows because it is like God of some Hindus, you laugh at them. This is the way you respect other religions.

    “Islam is religion of peace and Tolerance” is a slogan from moderate Muslims but Muslims never show any tolerance; see how your react in Pakistan showing tolerance and peace.

    Instead of asking other to read Quran and Hadith, better read it yourself first in translation. Which state that: ”you can beat your wife.” ‘Earth is flat” “Star are made to make sky beautiful” ”Muhammad married 9 years girls while he was 52 years old” “Kill the infidels” ”Jews can’t be your friend (even there was no Israel)” “Universe was created in seven days” “Islam orders kill the apostate” There are many more contradiction of science and human right with Islam. I know Islam is not bad but these are the issues which need to be discussed. When your religion causes “suicide bombing” “hijacking plans” “killing Journalists”.

    After having all these issue how world can put it above criticism even there is no exception for other religions.

    Only the problems with Muslims are they attached with religions too firmly and never negotiate on this. Please think that your religion can be false. Keep in mind that all religions are man made. Take them seriously in every wake of life is problem now because they were make centuries ago. “Peace””Love all humanity not only muslims brothers also Jews can be your brothers if you love them too.”

  6. I am utterly disgusted by the level of hypocracy that you and other muslims like you display when it comes to your own view point. You are using modern technology and are benefiting from freedom of speech in a country that does not allow even educated people of my city Karachi to even vote with their will.

    when you go to west, you want to build mosques, convert the whole society into a sharia based islamic country, and want to openly call the host nation an infidel. however, for your own religion you have no patience.

    however, when you go to your beloved Saudi Arabia, you cant even speak withou the permission of your master the Saudi employer. where does your muslim brotherhood goes.

    Taliban are talking about killing innocent kids in Girls school in the name of Islam. where are they, when in Dubai, you can get prostitutes and alchohol whithout any problem. isnt Dubai a muslim country? Why dont you protest against that? You hypocrates..shame on you all. because of views like yours, simple muslims like me are suffering in our own country. just kill, and kill in the name of islam. What a honor you are bestowing upon the very religion that you so much shout to defend.

    why only Pakistan has taken the mandate to defend Islam? we are the most corrupt nation in the world, yet we are killing our own people in the name of defending islam. it is a muslim country, where a single younge woman cant even live, or travel without being raped or almost raped.. where you cant get a file moved, without bribe.. where you kill each other coz the other side is Shia and you are sunny and vice versa.

    shame on all of you .


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