The creators of a locally-based, ‘Islamic’ social networking website launched in 2010 have called on Muslims to delete their accounts on the “blasphemous” Facebook and switch to Millat Facebook.
Speaking at a conference on the topic ‘Blasphemy by Facebook and Role of Muslim Youth in Social Media’, MFB founder and CEO Umar Zaheer Mir said that world’s biggest social networking website had hurt millions of Muslims when it hosted a competition of blasphemous drawings in 2010.
Mir said that all Muslims should delete their Facebook accounts and switch to MFB to strengthen Islam and guard the Holy Prophet’s (peace be upon him) honour. This suggestion was later endorsed by the participants at the conference in the form of a resolution, which also demanded that the government ban all websites that offended religious sentiments.
Mir said Muslims were not against the use of modern technology, but against its misuse. He said liberty did not mean having the freedom to hurt others’ feelings. He said they had launched MFP just two days after the Lahore High Court had temporarily banned Facebook in 2010.
Asked why he was accusing Facebook of blasphemy now when the site had not hosted blasphemous caricatures and almost two years after the competition, Mir told The Express Tribune that their opposition to the website would continue.
“First, it is almost Eid Miladun Nabi. Secondly, Facebook is about to launch its initial public offering (IPO) soon and we want to send them a message, that we will be there at every step to counter it,” he said.
He said MFB had registered 300,000 users within 10 days of launching and now had 500,000 users. “MFB has more features than Facebook. All Muslims should not only use it but also delete their accounts on Facebook,” he said, adding that MFB was a non-commercial website dedicated to Islam. “We are spending about Rs3.5 million per annum running the site but we are not taking donations or hosting ads,” he said.
He said MFB was being supported by Global IT Vision, a software house and IT consultancy. Global IT Vision was behind recent advertisement campaigns for Tehreek-i-Insaf in which residents of Lahore and Karachi received voice messages from Imran Khan inviting them to party rallies.
Other prominent participants in the conference included Advocate Waleed Iqbal, son of Dr Javed Iqbal, PTI Secretary General Ijaz Chaudhry, Mufti Muhammad Khan Qadri, Vice Admiral (r) Javed Iqbal and Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique.
Mufti Qadri said the linking of Islam with terrorism and extremism was a conspiracy against a peaceful religion. He said Facebook had deliberately provoked Muslims by hosting the blasphemous caricatures competition. He said the United Nations should take action against Facebook.
Advocate Iqbal said he was in favour of the use of modern technology, but within limits.
Ijaz Chaudhry said Muslims should play their role to protect the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) honour. He said all political parties should contribute in this regard. He appreciated MFB and its team.
Siddique said Facebook had hurt millions of Muslims by declaring blasphemy as allowed under the right to freedom of expression.
On May 19, 2010, the LHC banned Facebook from being accessed in Pakistan, after Siddique filed a petition accusing it of hosting the blasphemous caricatures competition. MFB was launched on May 25, 2010. Five days later, the ban on Facebook was lifted. The site had over six million registered users in Pakistan as of February 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly mentioned Waleed Iqbal as Dr Javed Iqbal’s grandson. The error has been rectified.