Facebook and Pakistan

By Usama Khilji

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 Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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 (PBUH), 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.
http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/26-May-2010/Facebook-and-Pakistan

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