The Lahore High Court has ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block Facebook in Pakistan because of some lame-ass campaign originating out of Seattle to make caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). According to the wire new agency Xinhua:
"Judge Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry instructed the Ministry of Telecommunication to enforce the ban on the use of Facebook in
and submit a written reply by May 31. Pakistan
Officials told the court that the government has already blocked parts of the Facebook relating to the caricatures competition but the petitioner argued that no part of any website can be banned unless the whole website is blocked.
Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali, lawyer for the Islamic Lawyers Forum, said that the competition of blasphemous caricatures created concerns among the Muslims across the world."
Widespread evidence, including personal, indicates that this ban has already come to pass.
Now, I should point out that I am no fan of this allegedly 'free speech' campaign, which is Western liberal cretinism taken to its extremes. Why? Because I personally think it is entirely hypocritical. There are laws in many parts of Europe for example (even in Denmark which flew into a rage over the Islamic world's reaction to the earlier blasphemous cartoons issue) which make any questioning of the scale of the massacre of Jewish people during the Nazi era, a jailable crime. You simply cannot even say anything that goes against officially sanctioned history and a number of people have been jailed for writing books that have been deemed to be a denial of the Jewish Holocaust. There are also laws (in Europe) that make blasphemy a cognizable offence, with the caveat that blasphemy is considered to be only against Christian beliefs. The US 1st (free speech) Amendment does legally protect all forms of speech but even in the US, it is socially and politically suicidal to say anything in the mainstream media that questions certain sacred cows, such as the right of Israel to exist, having sex with those 'under age', or to make fun of Jesus. I am not weighing in on the merits of these prohibitions, only pointing out that the freedom always exists within certain limits prescribed by society. The clash in this case is that the limits in the West are different from those other cultures or societies have set for themselves. And that what happens in one part of the world is immediately transmittable to another part through the power of the internet.
Secondly, my problem with this campaign is that it is not a little bit patronizing - as if the only issue left to ensure freedom of expression in the West is that these 'uncivilized and illiberal' Muslims need to be taught a lesson. In a world wracked by the perception (right or wrong) of a clash between Islam and the West, it is grossly irresponsible to further fan flames of bigotry and racism.
Having said all that, however, one can only rue our own immensely cretinous response to this silly campaign. Why do I think that? Consider:
1. Why, oh why, does everything in Pakistan boil down to banning this or that? Will we ever realize that 'banning' things does not really make them go away? Remember, Indian films were banned in Pakistan in the early 1960s and alcohol was prohibited for the country's Muslims in 1979...
2. Does Judge Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry even know what he is passing judgement about? Does the moron Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali? I have serious doubts they even understand what social networking sites - indeed the web - are all about. Did the court even take advice from any technical expert? Or did it base its judgement on what a moronic Islamic Lawyers Forum lawyer said to it? What does that say about the competence of our legal profession and higher judiciary?
3. Are we masters of cutting off our nose to spite our face or what? Will Pakistanis not being able to access Facebook in Pakistan stop this campaign? Will it prevent those Pakistanis who want to access the cartoons from accessing it in a number of other ways? Will we ban email subsequently?
4. What the hell does Facebook even have to do with this? From what I can gather, someone merely created a page in support of this campaign - like the millions of other pages hosted by the site - while the main campaign is hosted here, which is accessible still. It is akin to banning Facebook if Geo runs something the government does not like, just because Geo has a fan page on Facebook, while letting Geo continue its television transmission. But before some other bureaucratic moron decides to block that link, however, let me just quickly point out that there are a number of other places on the web where the same material is hosted. The only way you can block it all is by banning the internet altogether.
Given our history of legal and bureaucratic cretinism, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the next thing Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali demands. And gets.