Facebook ‘poked’ by Lahore High Court

Published: September 22, 2011
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Will blocking Facebook really accomplish the goal of controlling blasphemous content? Numerous websites display content inconsistent with Islam - will all of these be banned?

The Lahore High Court has directed the ministry of information technology to block access to all websites spreading religious hatred, which may possibly include Facebook at the end of an investigation. What is it that we plan to achieve through this ban? 

While I cannot possibly defend the distasteful and offensive contest (Draw Prophet Muhammad day) held on Facebook, many have expressed concerns about the possible hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of this move.

Rest assured that in the interest of mitigating the spread of religious intolerance, I am sure the LHC has been working just as tirelessly to ban websites with anti-Ahmadi content (or content against any religious minority, for that matter), some of which have been operating since even before Facebook became popular. I bet my bottom rupee that Pakistani judges and lawyers jump off their seats and wave their fists with the same ferocity when the presence of anti-Ahmadi or anti-Hindu websites and Facebook pages is made known to them, right?

What about the extremist websites and blogs that serve as petri-dishes of religious fanaticism by openly praising Osama bin Laden, and fostering an air of tolerance towards terrorist activities that plague our nation? No?

I’m fully confident that all porn on the internet – which I trust is just as much against our religious values, is on the verge of being vanquished from our midst. After all, this is an ever greater threat to our conservative values considering that not too long ago, much to our ignominy, Pakistan was shown to be the world leader in porn searches.

As we carry on relentlessly on our noble path to search and destroy internet content inconsistent with our religious and cultural values, where will it all end?

Facebook is not the only website in the world where such content is found. What about the innumerable blogs that spew out the same hatred? How soon will it be before we turn our attention to YouTube because of videos that are against the spirit of Islam? And then popular fashion websites for indecent content? Not to mention Google, which brings all this unholy material at our fingertips. Are we looking at a slippery slope of moral dictatorship that will eventually lead to a near total internet ban?

I am positive that Muhammad Azhar Siddiqui, on whose behalf the petition against these sites was launched, is not motivated by the idea that banning Facebook would divert user traffic to our very own Milat Facebook, launched in May at Lahore High Court Bar Association where Azhar displayed the site for the first time. Our admiration for him and his cause remains undiminished, even with the revelation that he’d remain logged on to Facebook for 14 hours a day.

Speaking of Milat Facebook, this is clearly what we need – a way for Pakistani Muslims to further cloister themselves into their own secret world, where their own perspectives and ideas alone reverberate. Apparently, our modus operandi for fighting the animus against Muslims is to disconnect ourselves from a vast social nexus where we have the potential to reach hundreds of millions of people, and lock ourselves up into our own private echo-chamber.

Facebook is a massive social network which is not about sacrilegious content. Muslims use this site to spread the word of Islam, and to extenuate the emergence of Islamophobia around the globe. Pakistani entrepreneurs use Facebook to advertise their services and products. And most importantly, average Pakistanis use Facebook as a convenient way to stay in touch with each other, as well as with friends and family abroad.

By banning Facebook, not only are we harming our own people but providing extensive publicity for such filth. A series of events that ought to have been ignored to death, have been making headlines because of our fixation with stamping out sacrilegious material. Not to mention that the sheer volume of such material on the internet and the ability to access the banned sites through proxy lines, makes this crackdown highly ineffectual.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.