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.