Everyone is agreed that the drawing of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is offensive and blasphemous and not what any follower of Islam would ever tolerate. Plus the double standard was not easy to ignore. We advocated in this space yesterday that instead of banning the whole of Facebook, it would have been better if those pages of the website were blocked which were hosting these caricatures. However, what we saw on May 20 was something that is difficult to condone and can only be explained by overzealousness on the part of the PTA which said that it had banned around 450 websites in addition to Facebook. These included Wikipedia (which was accessible by late evening), YouTube and the picture-hosting site Flickr. A PTA spokesman has said that this has been done to prevent users in Pakistan from seeing blasphemous content which the government regulator says can be found on such sites. While one can understand the sentiment behind this, the point is that any number of websites can be perceived as offensive by any number of users. The issue is that where should the line be drawn. With Facebook, this could have been resolved — as we have reiterated before — by blocking the specific pages but it is difficult to justify the ban on the new websites added by the PTA to its blacklist on Thursday.
If the authority continues to block domains for content in this manner, it might as well ban the whole internet. Apart from the outrage that Thursday’s action of blocking 450 extra websites caused in Pakistan, it has made the country a laughing stock in the eyes of the world. Those behind such hate sites are seeking exactly the kind of response that they have received in Pakistan. The most effective response in such cases is to ignore it completely and it will disappear on its own.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.
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