Facebook Banned in Pakistan

Facebook sketch competition on Prophet Muhammad sees site banned.

May 19, 2010, 10:55 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan May 19, 2010 -- A Pakistani court today banned the use of Facebook in Pakistan until May 31. The ban was in response to a Facebook page called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" to be held Thursday.

Sketches of Prophet Muhammad are considered an act of blasphemy by Muslims and this Facebook page has already incurred criticism from several Muslims. Pakistan's Law Minister Babar Awan said that "this issue will be raised on all international forums."

The fallout has already begun in Pakistan, where in the port city of Karachi protestors have taken to streets protesting the Facebook page.

In 2006 after Prophet Muhammad's caricatures were printed in a Danish newspaper thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan, burning banks, restaurants and gas stations affiliated with Western companies. Several people were killed and many wounded in the violent protests.

In 2008 a car bomb exploded in the parking lot of the Danish embassy in Islamabad killing six and wounding many others. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was a reaction to the printing of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks has been in hiding since 2007 when he portrayed the prophet in the body of a dog. He was allegedly targeted for murder by Colleen LaRose, the American woman who has been charged with aiding al Qaeda and referred to herself on the Internet as "Jihad Jane."

The Facebook page threatens to trigger another round of outrage and possibly violence over cartoon versions of the prophet.

"This act is below morality, to torture people on the basis of their religious beliefs ... it's a social networking forum. What business do they have to announce such a despicable event?" asked Zeeshan, a liberal and frequent Facebook user.

The sketch competition on Facebook has the potential to attract wrath and criticism from not only Pakistan but the entire Islamic world.

Facebook Prophet Page Triggers Fears of Violence

"It's a deliberate effort to broaden the gulf between the Muslims and the rest of the world and show them as violent people," says Mushtaq, another Facebook user.

The Facebook ban comes on the day when U.S. CIA chief Leon Panetta and U.S. National Security advisor James Jones are in Pakistan to hold meetings with the country's top political and military leadership to discuss "U.S.-Pakistan relations, the security situation in the region, the shared terrorist threat and fight against extremists, and the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue," according to a joint statement issued by the office of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

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