PTA bans, and words we cannot say

Is "Jesus Christ" a bad word? Why is it on the list of banned words, allegedly put forward by the PTA?

Umair Tariq November 17, 2011
Dearly beloved and graciously naïve,

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has allegedly compiled a list of words that the directors have deemed obscene and want to ban for text messages. As laughable as this may seem, this list, if real, is a clear example of the extremist mentality that some of the office-bearers in Pakistan have.

Sifting through these banned words, I discovered that even the word “Jesus Christ” might be forbidden, along with many other words of everyday usage. Why on earth has Jesus’s name been banned? Is it some kind of an abusive word? As much as rightists and McBurqas may like it, this list is totally ridiculous.

I want to ask the defenders of this list how they would have felt if the name of the Holy Prophet (SAW) was placed on a list of banned words elsewhere in the world. I am sure there would be protests all over the country with furious mullahs demanding justice. But here in our country, alas, we take pride in discrimination against minorities. I feel ashamed when I think about Jinnah who envisioned a country where there was no place of religion in affairs of state . However, in our country, loyalties are measured by the amount of bashing and discrimination that we do against other religions of the world and against our own minority communities.

This attempt to ban words is not only a serious offence against the freedom of expression, sex, and religion which is guaranteed by the Constitution, but also inherently inhumane. The PTA aims at potentially banning many words that are part of human psychology and contribute to the development of natural thought process.

Many words such as ‘condom’, ‘period’, ‘premature’, ‘tongue’, ‘arse’ and  ‘intercourse’ appear on the list. I wonder what will happen to the government’s birth control program and the millions of rupees spent to curb the population growth if the PTA gets what it wants.

I also see clear discrimination against women when it comes to word ‘period’. Are women not to talk about this natural cycle that was created by God?

The fact that the words 'tongue’ and ‘intercourse’ appear on the list make me wonder about the intellect of the PTA. These words are part of everyday conversation, and are not obscene in the slightest. Forbidding people to use them is clearly a breach of the fundamental rights of a citizen provided by Pakistani Constitution and international law.

The list hasn't even spared innocent children who believe in ‘fairies.' Now, no grandmother can text her loving grandchild about how 'fairies live on the moon.'

It is true that cell phones and smart phones have become an inherent part of our lives. However, nowhere in the world have I seen such an assault against the freedom of expression except in theocratic countries such as Iran. This censorship is the result of the overall extremist mentality of the PTA.

Rather than putting emphasis on character building and progressiveness, the government threw us into confusion that ultimately led us to religious intolerance and extremism. We have given up regard for the privacy of an individual and we have forsaken the golden rule of religious tolerance on which Islam was founded.

According to these people, the liberty currently enjoyed by the minorities of our country is “enough” - the same liberty where Christians are raped and forcibly converted to Islam, where innocent Hindus are killed and where Ahmadis are unnecessarily targeted.  I wonder how these people will react if the West suddenly replaces the liberty currently offered to Muslims and introduces this concept of “enough” liberty to them. How would they feel then?

I truly wonder at the hypocrisy of our nation.
Umair Tariq A telecom engineer from Islamabad who writes on social issues
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.