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A Pakistani Court Might Ban Facebook Over Blasphemy Concerns

Published on 22 March, 2017 at 10:19 pm By

Instead of ending its notorious blasphemy law which has claimed the lives of 68 people in 2016 alone, Pakistan is planning to block Facebook because it is unable to control blasphemous content.

According to reports in the Pakistani media, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has hinted at the possibility and will give its ruling on Monday, March 27.


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Protesters demanding the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, at a rally in Karachi in 2010. Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

In fact the Government of Pakistan, too, is trying to get extract information on blasphemers from Facebook and Twitter.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters a couple of days ago that the Pakistani embassy in Washington had held talks with the two social media giants seeking their help to track Pakistanis committing blasphemy in the country or outside.

So serious is Pakistan about blasphemy and punishing those who commit blasphemy that it is ready to extradite alleged blasphemers from outside the country. Pakistan has already identified 70 such persons.

 

On Wednesday, the court told the government to take the help of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and identify blasphemers.

When told that Facebook needs around 3 weeks to share information, the court reportedly asked the government to “block Facebook”.

“We don’t need social media if it cannot stop blasphemy,” the court was quoted as saying by The News International.


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Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/ Getty Images

Blasphemy is a very serious issue in Pakistan and those convicted of it are sentenced to death. But that is when the law interferes. What is dangerous is that anyone can be killed by a fanatic Islamist mob if accused of blasphemy, whether or not the guilt is proven.

Mobs have targeted and killed many, especially members of the minority communities, in the last few years across Pakistan. Mobs have not been convicted for such crimes.



Just a couple of days ago, a 7-year-old, a baby and an old woman from the Ahmadi community were burnt alive after their house was set on fire by fundamentalists for alleged blasphemy.

 

A mob violently protests on the streets of Pakistan.DailyPakistan

Fanaticism runs deep in Pakistan’s society, where the desire to be identified as the progenies of Arabs is preferred over the sub-continental cultural identity.

In 2011 Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, for the former’s opposition to blasphemy law. Qadri was sentenced to death but fundamentalists erected a tomb in his memory and hail him as a hero.

 

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his fundamentalist bodyguard for opposing blasphemy. AP

In Pakistan minority groups such as the Ahmadi, or Ahmadiyya,are legally discriminated against through draconian acts such as Ordinance XX. This coupled with the government’s own apathy for the minorities gives a free hand to the lakhs of fundamentalists in the country to kill or forcibly convert minorities without fear of law.

In a dilemma over privacy concerns and cultures of regressive countries such as Pakistan, Facebook is planning to make users themselves vote on what kind of content they would like to see.

Technically, a content will automatically get taken down if it breached personal or national standards.

The problem with this system is that fundamentalists, who are unusually high in Muslim countries, would then be able to push out any article criticizing any aspect of Islam or any progressive debate, such as on triple talaq, by voting against it in large numbers.

 

Houses of Ahmadi community members sealed off by police following an attack on them by the radicals. Dawn


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The increasing freedom of the fundamentalists and the Arabization of the Pakistani society has created a conducive environment for terrorist groups to thrive. And that is a huge problem neither the Pakistani government nor the Pakistani courts are in the mood to solve because they are too busy arming the radicals.

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