Assembled for a cause

Published: June 9, 2010

Group of social activists worries about tolerance wearing thin in society.

ISLAMABAD: The ban on Facebook has been lifted; but for some people, the underlying principle that propelled the ban continues to linger on. For this reason, a group of 30 socialites, journalists, students and bloggers assembled in Kuch Khaas Art Gallery on Monday and offered their strongest disapproval of internet censorship.

Renowned writer, editor and columnist Raza Rumi led the discussion and shared his thoughts on Lahore High Court’s (LHC’s) ban on the social networking website.

“It was a terrible thing which LHC did, banning the internet and restricting our access to information,” Rumi said. He quoted an example from the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), where a woman used to throw garbage on him everyday but he used to ignore it, to make his point. “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a tolerant man [and we should learn from his example],” he said.

The participants also shared their personal experiences during the ban.

Sana Saleem, a participant, said she had written a blog in a newspaper criticising the ban, which turned people, including some of her friends, against her. “The part which scared me the most was that people were getting personal and sending me threats on my mobile phone,” she said. “People I knew were giving me options like ‘either you use facebook or love the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’,” she added.

Zeeshan, another participant, described the sense of fear that people who were against the ban felt. “The worrisome part was the way everyone was afraid to talk on the subject,” he said. “My friends went to the Press Club in Karachi to protest and were attacked by people [for speaking against the ban],” he added.

Maha, a socialite, was troubled how people in Pakistan blindly supported the ban. “People were not discussing rights and wrongs [in the ban] but were actually agreeing to the censorship,” she said.

At the end, Khaas Art Gallery’s curator, Zeeshan, said more people needed to step-up and discuss issues that concern them.

Kuch Khaas, a sister organisation of Khaas Art Gallery, is a “not-for-profit social enterprise comprising of a community space for public discourse, the pursuit of knowledge, meaningful entertainment, civic engagement and advocacy in the city of Islamabad”, according to their Facebook page. It serves as a platform for urban socialites to come together and discuss issues that bother them.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 9th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Shayan Afzal Khan
    Jun 9, 2010 - 3:24AM

    Its interesting that someone commenting on this article is required to leave their name, but the person writing it is not! I am forced to comment on this piece of (fairly flawed) reportage as the proprietor of Kuch Khaas. While I happened not to be present at this talk by Raza Rumi, being well-versed with Raza’s style of speakin g, as well as being fairly conversant with both the subject of the discussion as well as the calibre of participants that are drawn to our talks, I am pretty sure that the talk was of far more depth than the author of this piece has tried to insinuate.

    More relvantly, Kuch Khaas does not serve as “a platform for urban socialities to come together and discuss issues that bother them.” Rather, we try very hard to raise awareness in civil society about issues of current and common concern. Also, we try to bring art and culture related activities to our centre, which is an open forum and not restricted to socialites or in fact to any section of society. It is for this reason that our events are open to all, that we charge no fee, and that we insist on not restricting ourselves by having a membership.

    The classes that we are organising are also open to all. While the instructors will be charging the students, Kuch Khaas does not charge the instructors or the pupils any fee, and have an agreement with the instructors that they will take a 30% intake of students from underprivileged schools and/or backgrounds so that we may be able to bring in students who would not otherwise be able to attend these courses and attain these skills.

    Kuch Khaas is also working hard to get its children’s library up and running – this too will be a free service for those who cannot afford to pay for it. We have planned to set up agreements with local government schools that do not have the facility of a library so that we may be able to share the joy of reading with children who do not have access to such books.

    We also have many other projects on the anvil through which students belonging to elite schools will be devoting their time and effort to mentoring students from less privileged schools from around Islamabad.

    I do hope this gives you a better idea of the ethos at Kuch Khaas – do come around to meet us and maybe even volunteer your time if you find something that interests you at Kuch Khaas.Recommend

  • Irum Ahsan
    Jun 9, 2010 - 10:57AM

    I wish I was able to attend this discussion because I am sure that Raza must have lead a very interesting and meaningful discussion. I think we need to be aware of issues around us and should have enough scholarship to respond to such issues rather than shutting them out completely. Banning anything can never be a solution. We give people, with less knowledge, to speculate on our issues by alienting with them ourselves. What we need today is to read even the crapiest stuff written on our religion or prophet and respond to it with examples from the life of prophet himself as Raza has done. Great going Raza and Kuch Khas forum.Recommend

  • Hira Shah
    Jun 9, 2010 - 12:51PM

    The thing is that everyone has their own opinion. I support the ban because i think it was the first step towards recording our protest. but yes i agree its not enough, we need to now talk to them why they did this and explain to them that how it isn’t right. I will never give any body the option of either loving the Prophet (PBUH) or loving facebook, because i don’t have the right to do so. But then if a support the ban i also don’t want to be called an illiterate and fanatic. Because this is my choice. The key to all this is patience!!!!Recommend

  • Jun 9, 2010 - 6:14PM

    I am pretty much sure the ban on facebook was justified. There’s difference between free speech and hate speech. RR must have done a good job but he should have mentioned examples where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ordered executions. Also, when quoting examples, one has to see if they were during the makki or madni era, as there is a vast difference between the two. When we expect the state to be custodian of our rights, why not the rights of Muhammad PBUH?Recommend

  • Aziz
    Jun 10, 2010 - 5:50AM

    what an irony that most of these blogging intellectuals do exercise their right of censorship when you comment on their blogs and that’s too absolutely and without any oversight. On the contrary, they are not ready to allow censorship in blasphemy matters!. Come on and state clearly what do you stand for?Recommend

  • Jun 10, 2010 - 8:10PM

    Faisal: thanks for the comment. Please note that we as Muslims love and respect our great Prophet (pbuh) – this is a non-negotiable position. But when some silly, uninformed people try to ridicule we must react with reason – after all we are “ashraf-ul-makhlooqat”. If we ban the entire internet whom are we damaging other than ourselves!

    There are many ways to protest and even force sites such as Facebook not to hur the sentiments of the people. But internet is neither a country (whom you can declare jihad against) nor a person (who can be booked under blasphemy laws).

    As Adil Najam said we have given the issue so much importance that millions noticed that FB page. If at all we should have blocked the FB page (like several other countries) and not ban over 800 sites!!

    Aziz: I am not sure what are you saying – if it is an attack directed at my blogs then the best place would be to leave such a comment on my blogs. Though I agree that there should be no double standards on censorship. Blog owners/editors face a difficult situation while moderating comments. Recommend

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