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Pakistan Blocks Facebook After Muhammad Caricature Contest

pakistan court orders government to block facebookA Pakistani court has ordered the government to block access to Facebook due to a contest involving images of the Prophet Muhammad, and has also asked that the foreign ministry investigate the roots of the competition. The government has complied, telling ISPs in the country to block Facebook and any other site displaying caricatures of the prophet, but the sites have not received court orders as of yet, according to Reuters.

Any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemous in Islam, and recent history shows that the cartoons are no laughing matter. In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 caricatures of Muhammad, with infamous results. Over 100 people died in protests over the cartoons -- including five in Pakistan -- and the Danish Embassy was bombed by al-Qaeda in 2008.

But the order by the Pakistani court comes on the heels of the recent 'South Park' controversy; an episode that was aired last month lampooned Muhammad in a bear suit (a reference to the Jyllands-Posten controversy). As a result, show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone received threatening messages from an online Islamist group.

The creators of the Facebook contest wrote, "We are not trying to slander the average Muslim. We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammad depictions that we're not afraid of them. That they can't take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us into silence."

On the one hand, we think that it's a lot of knee-jerk reactionism on the part of this Pakistani court to block access to the world's largest social networking site over a single contest -- and it could backfire among young Pakistanis. We're also not sure if blasphemy and truly dangerous speech are one and the same. Should Pakistanis be able to access information that goes against and even derides their faith? We happen to think so. On the other hand, instead of imposing American ideals (which we are so often ready to do) on Pakistan, we should also take a step back. We can see the anger that such depictions cause -- and what do they accomplish? Do people think that, by ridiculing Islam, its followers will somehow become more endeared to non-believers? It's a thorny issue. [From: Reuters]

Tags: censorship, extremists, facebook, government, islam, jyllands-posten, mohammed, muslim, pakistan, religion, socialnetworking, top