In the sound and fury over the Facebook ban, both in the media and in the individual comments and messages of Pakistanis all over the internet, it does not appear that the facts are clearly known. It all started last month when the American channel, Comedy Central, made a decision to censor the 201st episode of South Park, the most ruthless animated satire in contemporary times, after the creators Parker and Stone were threatened with the fate of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film director who was killed. The producers, quaking in their boots, placed a “censored” over the depiction of the Prophet (pbuh) and beeped the name when it was mentioned. They also completely removed a segment on censorship and chose not to provide the show on the internet. All in all a wise choice, given the circumstances.
The response to this censorship in the American free press was typical; a Seattle cartoonist drew a cartoon in the style of a poster by a, now pay attention, fictitious group ‘Citizens Against Citizens Against Humour. This ‘poster’ declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Muhammad (pbuh) Day”. Now, it wasn’t long before some other jokers decided to make this a Facebook event which in turn spawned the Facebook group of the same name. The cartoonist, Molly Norris, had created the cartoon as a sign of protest against the censorship of an American show. It wasn’t long before she realised she was in way over her head and distanced herself and said: “I have backed off of being associated with any group or cause.”
However, this back-pedalling came too late, for the “joke” took on a life of its own. May 20 has come and gone and it has become increasingly clear that in the quintessential style of an absurdist play, the boundaries between fiction and reality have blurred. What is truly remarkable is just how quickly 11,812 (official number of participants in the page) individuals from across the globe jumped on board! It is almost as if they were just waiting for an opportunity to make complete asses of themselves. Hang on, they probably were waiting, after all it is Facebook, and we all know that those who spend too much time on it really have nothing better to do and now it’s been proven.
Why are these people bothering about protecting free speech, and why does anyone care about what they say or do. They’re idiots! They’re fighting for the right to verbally vomit. Those who have fought for the freedom to speak would be rolling in their graves.
However, curiously, one member of the group states: “This isn’t about a hatred for Islam. This is about the fact that Christians in this country have watched for years as Christ has been mocked, satirised, and all-out slandered by the media in this country. The major networks and cable channels have made millions from comedy in which our figure of worship has been portrayed in a disrespectful light. Even South Park, the show that sparked this whole controversy, has done so. Most of us Christians just shrug it off, or we even have the ability to laugh at it. However, we’re pretty sick of being told which religious figures we can satirise and which we can’t. That’s what this is all about, and if you don’t understand it you’re part of the problem.”
Published in the Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2010.