Facebook divides civil society in Pakistan

There are many Pakistanis who oppose banning Facebook and YouTube.

Islamabad: When hundreds of Pakistanis are protesting against social networking websites Facebook and YouTube for carrying the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, there are many in this conservative Muslim country who oppose the decision of banning these sites and believe in tackling this situation by adopting counter measures.

Protesters in major cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Peshawar spent last Friday shouting "Death to Facebook", "Death to America" and burnt US flags.

But surprisingly and in contrast with the past, the religious leadership, which organised the processions, could not attract big gatherings for the protests.

Around 4,000 people came in the streets to protest against Facebook and YouTube in Karachi, 3,000 turned up in Lahore, around 500 gathered in Multan, up to 400 appeared in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and 250 showed up in north-western city of Peshawar.

In Lahore, protesters burnt US, Norway, Sweden and Denmark flags. In Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Peshawar, people blocked main roads and shouted death to Facebook, America and Western media, which humiliated the holy prophet.

"We have to show unity in this war of the present time,” remarked Farid Ahmed Paracha, a central leader of main opposition religious party Jamaat-e-Islami.

"We should tell America that this is the final battle and we are ready to win it," he told the gathering in Lahore.

“This Facebook and YouTube are being used negatively against Muslims and to humiliate our holy prophet, we warn USA and the whole west they should avoid such practice otherwise a new war will start,” said Mirza Hassan, a college student in Rawalpindi.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) also restricted more than 450 links besides completely banning Facebook and YouTube after a court decision for restricting all Internet sites carrying blasphemous material.

But there are also many people who think that protesting against such acts was not a right way to handle this situation.

“What will be impact on Facebook, USA, and the west if we block our own roads and create a panic in our own country? We should simply accept their offence and prepare ourselves to beat them technically in all the areas,” said Hasan Nasir, a young computer engineer.

A debate has also been started among the members of civil society discussing the justification of ban. Hundreds of e-mails have been generated on the popular e-mail groups including the media groups to argue for or against this ban.

“We always turn up for non-issues. This is true that they have hurt us, but halting the life in our own country satisfies their aims. We should openly face this and try to respond it by concentrating on our jobs and taking our Muslim Ummah up to their level in economic and social departments. Then we should leave them behind in all other departments and take our sweet revenge,” said Mubarak Ahmed, operator at an international call centre.

“My Prophet is above all these things and criticism. His personality is far above of all of this. I don’t care who is making what kind of caricatures of him. He is blessing for the whole world and I love him from the core of my heart. His blessings are for the entire world and his critics will meet their destiny on the doomsday, me or anybody else has no need to worry,” commented Tariq Zia, social officer at a local NGO.


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