KARACHI/LAHORE/WASHINGTON: Lahore High Court asked the foreign office to protest to the US against the hosting of blasphemous content on Facebook.
The court declared on Friday that it will summon the foreign minister if the foreign office failed to abide by its orders.
The court further said that the United States was responsible for the offensive material on facebook as the site is registered there.
The US view
Meanwhile, the US deplored the blasphemous images on Facebook as “deeply offensive to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” saying America does not condone expressions that lead to violence or hatred.
The State Department expressed respect for any actions that need to be taken under Pakistani law to protect their citizens from offensive speech but expected a balance between restricting offensive material and ensuring free flow of information for internet users.
“Obviously, this is a difficult and challenging issue. Many of the images that appeared today on Facebook were deeply offensive to Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” Philip J Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, said.
“We are deeply concerned about any deliberate attempt to offend Muslims or members of any other religious groups. We do not condone offensive speech that can incite violence or hatred,” the spokesman added.
On Pakistan’s dealing with the issue, the spokesman stated, “there are actions that Pakistan can take under Pakistani law. We respect those. But there needs to be a balance to make sure that in rightly restricting offensive speech, or even hate speech, that Pakistan continues to protect and promote the free flow of information.”
Protests all around
On the same day, protesters in various parts of Pakistan shouted “Death to Facebook”, “Death to America” and burnt US flags.
The protesters were venting growing anger over “sacrilegious” caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) on the Internet.
In Karachi, religious parties mobilised hundreds of protesters onto the streets to demand a ban on Facebook and an apology from the social networking site for humiliating Muslims.
Activists shouted slogans such as “Death to Facebook”, “Death to America” and branded the United States the “root cause of all mischief” at the peaceful rallies, said an AFP reporter.
In Multan, a shrine city in Punjab province, hundreds of people rallied, burning US flags and tyres to block traffic before dispersing peacefully.
In the northwestern city of Peshawar, about 250 students and religious activists staged small protests, chanting “Death to Facebook, death to Youtube,” and on one occasion torched a US flag, an AFP reporter said.
The offending Facebook page has attracted 105,000 fans, and five pages of crude manipulated pictures and caricatures. Pages denouncing the competition and calling for a boycott of the May 20 competition attracted far more fans.
Facebook expressed disappointment at being blocked and said it was considering whether to make the offending page inaccessible in Pakistan.
YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing site, said it was “working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible”.
The controversy has yet to incite a mass outpouring onto the streets in Pakistan, where there are an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users, and it remains to be seen how far protests will spread to other Muslim countries.
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