The Facebook Ban: More Political, Less Religious?

As the unwavering controversy over Pakistan’s ridiculous decision to ban websites such as Facebook and Youtube continue to mount, the more I am beginning to speculate whether such a decision is actually a political one, blanketed through the use of the religion card.

It appears that the ban came as a result of an online group on Facebook called “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day,” which featured “blasphemous” cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. These caricatures, as a result, forced Pakistan’s High Court to impose the ban, claiming that they would remove it as soon that page was taken down.

However, the page has now been taken down (possibly by Facebook’s owner Mark Zuckerberg himself). And, further, the creator of the actual page, Molly Norris, publicly expressed her apologies saying that the page was never intended as a portal to degrade the Prophet.

But the question I now ask is: why hasn’t the ban been removed yet, but instead extended till May 31st? The “blasphemous” page has been removed, and Norris has already expressed her apologies; so what is stopping Pakistan from lifting the ban right away? Perhaps it could be possible that those silly drawings of the Prophet was merely an excuse for the Pakistani government to ban not only Facebook, but also websites such as Youtube, Flickr, and over 400 other websites, claiming that they, too, contained offensive material geared towards Islam and the Prophet? Maybe, there is more to the story than meets the eye – or in this case – religion.

Besides, there is a plethora of other pages on Facebook which are also geared towards the disparagement of Muslims and Islam. And they have been in existence for quite a while now. As a matter of fact, Facebook and Youtube aren’t the only websites that consists of hate and anti-religious material, for there is a myriad of websites that are also doing that. These also include porn and other similar material that are deemed immoral and unislamic. So, why hasn’t Pakistan reacted or taken action against those anti-religious pages? How does only insulting the Prophet against the whole of Islam (or even God), make it more blasphemous? And why make this decision to ban Facebook and Youtube now? Could it be because they are reminded of the prophet cartoons, which appeared in Dutch newspapers in 2005, and then, once again, in South Park’s recent depiction of the Prophet wearing a bear mascot suit earlier this year, hence causing them to also associate Facebook as part of this bizarre and twisted conspiracy? I mean, really now, where is the sense and logic in all of this?

It is known that Pakistan has well over 40 million active users of this popular site, Facebook, of which some not only use it to simply socialize or meet new friends, but also as a platform to promote/advertise their businesses and/or services. Hence, the ban does not even remotely affect Facebook, financially, but it definitely has a detrimental effect on the work of thousands and thousands of Pakistanis, which will inevitably affect Pakistan’s economy as well.

Frankly-speaking, banning such sites has no logical justification, not morally nor religiously. Yet, since this “blasphemy” is taking place in the United States (US) – a country considered to be immoral and hostile by many Muslims in Pakistan and throughout the Muslim world – it makes sense to eradicate the site all together. And many protestors in Pakistan further took this opportunity to depict odium in the form of hate slogans that aimed towards the US by shouting, “Death to Facebook, death to America”; to make matters more ominous, they also burnt US flags accusing Americans as being the “root of all mischief.”

So what do I think? Well, I just find it utterly pathetic how the Pakistani government is using religion as an excuse to gain power and control over the mass, convincing (and perhaps even brainwashing) the populace into believing that the ban is for their own good. As a matter of fact, these daft caricatures of the Prophet should be the least of their problems. Very least, in fact. The country has far too many bigger and much more serious problems that need desperate attention. For one, they should focus all their political energy and economic resources on educating women, while at the same time, trying to improve their unstable rule of law system.

Though, I am not exactly sure what Pakistan’s political agenda actually entails, especially in banning these sites now (when it could have been done a very long time ago).

All I know is that a country, which has produced numerous dictators; created ethnic and sect-related conflicts; and continues to struggle against its own militant extremists, who have killed thousands in their own nation in the past 60 years, to ban Facebook and Youtube over a stupid virtual group solely for religious reasons is nothing but a fallacy.

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