Tag Archives: facebook ban

Why Does No One Challenge Stupidity a.k.a the Internet Ban?

25 Jun

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There is no end to the stupidity of certain segments of Pakistani society. Without informed judgement and any concerns for progress and individual freedoms, the Lahore High Court continues on its Internet banning rampage. My fury leaves me speechless.

Here are details from todays The News:

“Government Blocks 17 Website Links

ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday blocked 17 links of different websites including YouTube having blasphemous and anti-Islamic contents while seven websites will be strictly monitored.

The seven websites put under strict monitoring mechanism nose are: Yahoo, Google, Amazon, bing, MSN, Hotmail and YouTube. If the websites found placing any blasphemous material, strict actions will be taken by blocking those links as well, said a government official after attending a high-level meeting in which decision was taken to block 17 links of different websites. “The Information Technology Ministry has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block 17 links of certain websites on which blasphemous contents exist.

“We are currently in the process to implement the orders of the government for blocking the 17 links,” a senior PTA official said, while talking to ‘The News’ here on Friday.He said the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had been instructed by the PTA to block identified 17 links and monitor seven websites strictly. The decision to block 17 links came during the inter-ministerial committee meeting held here on Friday to evaluate the websites having anti-Islamic contents.

AFP adds: The Lahore High Court earlier this week ordered the government to block access to nine websites including Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing for showing material against the fundamental principles of Islam and its preaching.”


I saw the hordes of lawyers line up to demand the freedom of the judiciary – I find it hard to believe that not even one of them has the courage or the conviction to stand up and demand the freedom of the media?  I understand there is intimidation but if we continue to be silent and let all our freedoms be taken away one by one – we will no longer have the freedom to even speak up. This is no longer a matter that we can continue to overlook. The apathy and inaction of the educated middle classes will be the cause of their downfall and the destruction of Pakistan.

It seems there is a whole slew of citizens waiting in line with petitions to get certain websites banned and obviously our lawyer brethren are ever ready to strike in support of their demands but what makes me really sad is that there is not even one lawyer, or one citizen who will stand up to legally challenge this ridiculous ban? Why is it that the forces of obscurantism speak so loudly and boldly but the forces of reason remain unreasonably quiet?

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Pakistan Bans the Internet

23 Jun

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I thought the embaressing episode of the facebook was over and sense had prevailed! Apparently not!! I read the following in the Top Stories section of english daily, The News

BAHAWALPUR: The Lahore High Court has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to immediately block nine websites for publishing and promoting sacrilegious material, and ordered the PTA chairman to appear in the court on June 28, 2010 along with all relevant material.

Justice Mazher Iqbal Sidhu of the LHC Bahawalpur Bench, while hearing a write petition on Tuesday, ordered blocking of nine websites including Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Google, Islam Exposed, In The Name Of Allah, Amazon and Bing.

A citizen, Muhammad Sidiq, filed a writ petition No. 3246/2010 in the LHC, seeking a ban on the websites for publishing blasphemous materials and twisting the facts and figure of Holy Quran. Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Hussain Azad also endorsed the viewpoint of the petitioner and demanded blocking of these websites.

Counsel for the petitioner, Latif-ur-Rehman Advocate presented CDs and other evidence in the court, showing that the said websites were publishing sacrilegious material. Later, President High Court Bar Aslam Dhakkar said the court has given a historic decision. He said the legal fraternity would observe a complete strike in Bahawalpur on Wednesday (today) against publication of such material by these websites. He said a meeting would also discuss the situation today.”

Did you stop breathing? Because I did! I then rubbed my eyes and checked the date to see if it was April 1st. It wasnt. Apparently, certain segments of society dont need April Fool’s Day to act foolish. What upset me about this news story – other than the utter absurdity of the demand ofcourse – was the level of ignorance displayed by those demanding the ban. Could the petitioners and the lawgivers maybe have looked into the matter at hand and learnt that sites like Yahoo, Bing and Google are “search engines” and aggregate materials on the internet and are not responsible for the content found on other websites. But it seems like those who dont use the internet and are not familiar with its most fundamental and basic concepts and tools are most concerned about what is on it. Ironic!

The kinder part of my brain wants to believe that this is just an attention seeking ploy. The brother’s judicial were feeling that they were not occupying enough of the media limelight and needed to relaunch their media career with a boom boom pow. So they said – lets knock the internet out! That should make headlines. One of the most injurious results of the lawyer’s movement has been giving the fraternity legal a taste of the media limelight and the feeling of hero worship. They have become addicted and constantly indulge in such behavior to regain airtime lost. But if you do want to take the airwaves by storm, how about you try something new and not something that has already been done. Demanding bans on the internet is so two thousand and late!!!

But seriously, lawyers want to strike and protest, blasphemous material on the internet? and ban it. Well then as one of my friends, AA, suggested they should also petition to ban books, movies, the written word, the pen, the keyboard and anything that has ever been used in or aided and abetted in putting out blasphemous material into the world. Maybe that will make us happy!

I remember we were so enraged when the Americans threatened to bomb us to the Stone Age. Shouldnt have wasted our energy on being angry about that had we known we were going to legislate our way into the stone age ourselves!

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Speak Up!

2 Jun

Thousands took to the streets to protest against facebook and blasphemous content being published on it. On May 28th, 80 innocent Pakistanis were murdered in cold blood as they were peacefully praying in a house of worship. I wonder how many will take to the streets to protest this atrocity. I have a feeling that there will be few or maybe even none. There will be the usual round of condolences and demands for inquiries. But we know these are merely hollow promises. In Pakistan, little is accomplished without popular support and popular support does not lend its self to causes such as protection of minorities.
When we wanted the judiciary restored, we took to the streets and had it done. When we wanted facebook banned we took to the streets and had that done. But I have a feeling we don’t really want to protect the minorities in our country, so we’re going to let this one slide and stay inside. It’s ironic that we are willing to take to the streets for the sanctity of the name of the Prophet (PBUH) but not for any of his teachings. I am no religious scholar but what I remember from my poorly taught Islamiat classes in school, despite the poor fashion in which they were taught; the Prophet preached that it was a sin to harm innocent people.

Funeral Procession for the Victims of the Lahore Massacre

But somehow it doesn’t matter what happens to those that “we” don’t consider Muslims. While the phenomenon of terrorism is new, the problem of sectarian violence is not. We have harbored violent hatred and have not been afraid of expressing it since the establishment of Pakistan. We have massacred Shia’s, Ahmedi’s, Christians, Sikhs – you name it and we’ve attacked it! We are so caught up in some billowing self-righteous rage that we have become blind to the teachings of the religion that we profess to love and in whose name we commit all of these sins.
But these really aren’t Muslims some would say. And some would cite the teachings of popular television anchors who consider these people, particularly, the Ahmadi’s wajib-ul-qatl. But from what I remember, The Prophet (PBUH) preached, that even in times of War, those who do not pick up arms, should not be harmed; particularly women and children. But innocent children were slaughtered in this rampage in the name of Islam. The old and infirm suffered frightened and tortured deaths, while they were busy in worship. This is not the Islam that the holy Prophet (PBUH) preached. The senseless and unprovoked murder of innocent citizens is not condoned by Islam.
The people that were murdered were peaceful, tax paying, law abiding citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is the responsibility of the state, under the constitution and religious doctrine, to provide security to those citizens who despite adhering to different religions, pay taxes and abide by the laws of the land. But instead of providing protection to these people, we let television programs go on air, where anchors are allowed to rally support for murdering innocent citizens. And in the wake of such hate filled media, innocent people are murdered. But we don’t care; we let the program continue being aired and we allow the hate mongering anchor to continue preaching in public. Not a word, a whisper or a whimper about this is heard. Because in our twisted world view, its ok to say whatever we want about any other religion or its followers. But when someone attacks our religion in any way shape or form, we are up in arms in a matter of minutes. We expect the world to show us nothing but respect while we show none of this to any other religion. We can laugh, joke, degrade and even attack and murder the followers of other religions without having our collective conscience even flinch. How did we become so hypocritical and irrational? How did we become so cruel?
With the deaths of 80 innocent Pakistanis, the lives of hundreds of families have changed forever. There is sorrow and heartache and fear in hundreds of Ahmadi homes tonight. But as the rest of Pakistan sleeps easy and TV anchors remain hypocritically silent, they forget that tomorrow this could be them. Through our collective silence, as we aid and abet a culture of intolerance and senseless killing, that one day might consume us too.  A famous poem sums up the dangers of being silent over injustice to others, with apologies to the original poet, if we were to adapt it to the Pakistani context, the poem would look like this:

                                                 In Pakistan, they came first for the Hindus and Sikhs,
                                                  And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Hindu or Sikh
                                                                  Then they came for the Christians
                                                    And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Christian
                                                                  Then they came for the Ahmadis
                                                  And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Ahmadi
                                                                     Then they came for the Shias
                                                        And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Shia
                                                                       And then they came for me
                                            And by that time, there was no one left to speak up.
This violence, intolerance and injustice must stop. And it must stop with the largest majority speaking up against it. For once, let’s stand up and show the world that we actually abide by the spirit of the religion that we profess to love and follow. Let us turn not far away, but towards the Holy Book and teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) to learn that this kind of violence and hate is not tolerated in Islam. Haven’t we all suffered for years because of this violence and hatred? What good has it ever done to our country or the image of our religion? This senseless killing, violence and hate must stop. And it will not stop unless we demand that this be done. So speak up for those that are treated with injustice because if you don’t, tomorrow there will be no one left to speak for you either.

Published in The News June 3, 2010


Ban Hypocrisy

23 May

As a child I was told that God created human beings to be Ashraf-ul-Makhlooqat–the greatest and best of all of God’s creations. And we were given this honour because, unlike in the case of other creatures, God gave us free will–the ability to choose between actions. He then gave us intellect and commanded us to acquire knowledge so that we could use the two in our exercising that free will.

As a Muslim, I hang my head in shame as we take to the streets to protest the inconsequential actions of a few. With intolerance, like injustice, already rampant in our society–and these are two of the things least liked by God and his Prophet (PBUH) – we are unworthy of the title of Ashraf-ul-Makhlooqat. Now we have brought shame upon our nation and our religion through our irrational actions that defy but the gift of intellect and intelligence bestowed upon us by the Creator, as well as His commandments.

The protests across Pakistan demanding the ban on the social networking site Facebook defied reason and logic. It is true that the website contained material that was blasphemous and hurt the sentiments of many Muslims. Muslims across the world have the right to be upset by this and to protest against it. But asking for a ban is an action that not only defies logic but defeats the purpose.

Banning Facebook in Pakistan did little but make us a laughingstock in the world. A more effective way of protest would have been to use the same platform to counteract the offenders who started the mischief. And this effective action has been taken by thousands of Facebook users, who started protest groups and campaigns that were gaining visibility and registering the Muslim protest in a more meaningful way. Instead, we in Pakistan chose to impose a ban and then congratulate ourselves about it, as if we had accomplished some great feat.

Let’s analyse what we accomplished. We received bad press from around the world. We helped the rest of the world reconfirm their misguided belief that Muslims are reactionary and incapable of rational thought. We played right into the hands of those who wanted to provoke Muslims. We brought internet connectivity in our country to a near-halt, thereby hurting our own economy and hundreds of small-business owners who rely on Facebook and other social networking sites for their livelihood.

Oh, and did I mention we did not stop the blasphemy either?

Banning the website in Pakistan didn’t make the page go away from Facebook, although we did congratulate ourselves as if we had managed to put an end to it.

But this is not what hurt me most. What hurt most was that while our people and the media were out protesting against a website, we as a nation continued our endless descent into chaos. And as we continued to plummet from rock bottom to whatever is even lower than that, we chanted hollow slogans in the name of religion but paid no heed to its spirit or injunctions that could have been our salvation in these times of great despair.

Our political leaders claimed that they were willing to lay down their lives for the Prophet (PBUH). I found it ironic that they issued such statements when they paid no heed to–in fact, showed great disregard for–all of the Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings and the commandments of God.

We continue to lie, cheat and steal. Bribery and corruption are rampant across the country, yet these don’t seem to cause even a facial muscle to twitch in the political leadership. Last I checked, these were also considered sins in Islam. There is violence and oppression against the innocent. Last I checked, these were banned in Islam.

I remember the chilling story of the massacre at Gojra, when innocent Christians–men women and children–were brutally slain in the name of religion. There wasn’t a peep from these defenders of the faith who now protest so loudly. Last I checked, the Prohpet (PBUH) through both his actions and words had forbidden any harm to come to those who are innocent, regardless of their religion. And while the champions of Islam protested against Facebook, policeman near Wah illegally held a young girl child for 21 days and brutally raped her. Who stood up to protest the atrocity against this innocent child?

The Prophet (PBUH) merely turned away from those who not just criticised him but protested violently against him. He chose to reason, persuade and convince, rather than to incite violence his opponents. After the conquest of Mecca, he pardoned even those who had plotted against his life. Such was his attitude of mercy, peace, justice and reason.

On the contrary, great was his intolerance for injustice and oppression of the weak. It’s a pity that those who claim to defend the honour of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) have learnt so little from his example. With their hollow words, they incite violence among misguided and unemployed youths of the country. They disregard the spirit of our religion and its teaching. They lobby for political gain under the guise of Islam.

They seek to gain popularity by using the name of religion, although they do so little to act upon what religion commands. They choose the injunctions of God that suit their political motives, disregarding the others. To me this reeks of hypocrisy. And last I checked, hypocrisy was also a sin in Islam. So could we try and ban hypocrisy instead of Facebook? That might be better for our country and really please God.

The writer is a student of Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, working for a master’s degree in public policy. Email: tell.sehar@gmail .com and www.sehartariq.wordpress.com 

Published in The News, May 23, 2010 http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=240839

Can We Ban Hypocrisy Instead of Facebook, Please?

21 May

The Jamaat-e-Islami is the main political party that is organizing anti-facebook protests in Pakistan. It was in large part due to their efforts that the issue of the “everybody draw muhammad day” got visibity and facebook eventually got banned. The Jamaat has a history of being a very disciplined political party and effective organizer of street protests.

The women’s wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, organized a large rally in Lahore about this and scores of women and children carrying posters and Jamaat flags attended the event. They even made ripples on the international media scene and the associated press and reuters carried coverage of these protests which the Jamaat proudly displays on its website. In these videos you see an angry mob of protestors chanting slogans and there are interviews with articulate and very forceful women who issue “warnings” to facebook to  be prepared for the wrath of the Muslim world.

The videos just made me sad. I wanted to shake this woman, who was the protest leader,  and ask her if she knew of any other Muslim country protesting in this manner. But more than that reasonable argument, I wanted to ask her if she had heard about the young girl near Wah who had been detained illegally and raped by police officers for 21 days. Was she aware of the misery that this child had suffered? Did she care? Would she raise her voice for that child?

She probably wouldnt. Probably no one from the Jamaat would. A quick visit to the website of the Jamaat will show you ban facebook logos and news plastered all over it. You will see a ton of anti america rhetoric but no mention of or outrage at the ills that plague our society. Ironic.

And as any student of Islamic history would know, that had the Prophet (PBUH) been in a sitaution like this would undoutedly have stood up to demand justice for the young girl so creully treated before he demanded revenge or retribution for the actions of a frivolous few. Instead of making a fuss about his detractors, he would have fought for ridding our land of the injustice where the guardiuans of the law are its worst abusers.

Our Prophet (PBUH) the wisest of all men taught us, through his own example, to stand up against hypocrisy and injustice. It is amazing to me that we and the Jamaat in particular are willing to die in the name of the Prophet but are not willing to organize a single protest or rally or even a statement of codemnation for this heinous act and the countless others that are so frequent in our land and would undoubtedly have been whole heartefly condemned and probably abhirred by our Prophet (PBUH).

To me this sounds like hypocrisy. And from what little I know of my religion, hypocrisy is a sin.

Pakistan Bans Facebook

20 May

Pakistan has banned facebook. And if you thought that was funny (or not) it just gets better. Because we decided to ban youtube and wikipedia and blackberry service too!!! because those sneaky Pakistani’s were trying to access facebook on their blackberries. Naughty Naughty!

Can someone pinch me please so that I wake up from this Orwellian nightmare? Or wait, dont….because in this nightmare, the biggest problem in my country is that people are upset about a facebook page. I can live with that. If I wake up I might return to the Pakistan where there is no electricity, no gas, no water and no safety.  Tantrums over facebook are infinitely better. 

But what’s this tantrum about? Its about a group of attention seeking people on facebook who decided to host an event called Everybody Draw Muhammad Day and tried to get people across the world to draw images of the Prophet  Muhammad (pbuh). And this offended the religious sentiments of our people. So they took to the streets because a facebook page had hurt their feelings. And our judiciary, was so upset by their adoring masses being upset that they took prompt action on our hurt behalfs and decided to give it to the offender. They promptly slapped the offender with a……….. (drumroll)………….. court order!

Bravo!!  Take that you offending website!

You thought you could have your blasphemous fun!? Well, we banned it!! You cant do it anymore!! HA!

What!? You mean you can get that offending content through other websites as well? Hang on …let me call Daddy SuoMoto and get him to take notice of this. He’ll fix it. He can fix anything!

Daddy!! Its not just facebook! Its all the other kids too! Can you ban them as well!?

Thanks! I love you!

Ok done! Now you cant get it on any other website. Phew! Daddy saved the day again! We manged to stop their nefarious designs!! Now they cant do it!

 They can!? How!? Arent they afriad of daddy’s orders? Arent they upset that we arent talking to them or looking at them? Surely they are going to stop now!

They arent?? But There are Muslims across the world standing up in rage and protest. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. There is a new protestor being born every second!! 

Huh? You mean …. the rest of the Muslim world doesnt care? They didnt say anything? No rallies? No protests? No burning things!?

You mean the event is still going to go on!???


Unfortunately, the incitement of religious sentiment in the name of free speech continues and we are the laughing stock of the world.

You mean our court order and our protesting didnt do anything!?

It did!! It made headlines the world over again (because we werent getting enough attention as it is! :P)  and we reaffirmed the world’s belief that we are a nation of myopic fools who’s faith isnt strong enough to withstand a facebook page and who’s priorities are misguided enough to push to the top a page on a social networking site while turning a blind eye to the chaos and destruction that surrounds us.

Given the scope and breadth of the internet, its really hard to control the flow of content. But one cant blame us for trying. Did someone think about the sustainability of this order or its viability before it was implemented? Obviously not!! Thought makes for boring headlines! Already we are beginning to see a domino effect, and the telecommunications authority is shutting down one social networking site after the other. Where will this ridiculous ban end? With the banning of the internet!?

When will our hypocrisy end? When Media houses were banned during the Lal Masjid operation and the Long March because they were inciting violence and civil unrest, they took to the streets and protested in the name of freedom of the media. Could they please stand up and let us know why its ok to ban one medium and not their particular media outlet? What happened to all their “principles”?

(Did someone say they didnt ever have any excpet self promotion!? WOW! harsh!!)

And what happened to the strength of our faith? Is it really so weak that it gets offended by a facebook page? I would say that makes for pretty weak belief !!

But this website is against our religion you say…..

Not just me …but the court order too. Daddy said we couldnt do anything in this country that was against our religion…thats why he ordered the ban.

Oh! Now you tell me. Ofcourse, its part of the law. Why didnt you mention this important rational legal argument before!? Makes total sense now. I apologize.

But …..if thats the law and we care about implementing the law so much especially when it concerns religion; what about the other teachings of Islam? We seem to disregard those completely. Funny that we get so mad about a facebook page but not about cheating, lying, thievery, bribery, rape, harrassment of women….I thought those acts were forbidden too?? Where and when did God tell us that a stupid facebook page that shouild have been ignored as a childish attempt to attract hatred was a graver crime than those we commit against our own countrymen and women?? I totally didnt get that memo.

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