Pakistan Court Orders Facebook Block Over Muhammed Caricature Group

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Everybody Draw Muhammed Day, a satirical protest movement dreamt up in response to the outrage over a South Park episode in which the prophet Muhammed was depicted in a bear costume, has itself led to far greater fallout than anyone might have expected: Now, a court in Pakistan has ordered Facebook to be blocked over an “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” Facebook group.

Not just the group, mind you — which Pakistan’s department of communications had already blocked by the time the matter made its way to the Lahore High Court — But the entirety of Facebook, which had close to 1.5 million members in Pakistan as of December and may have since surpassed that number.

BBC News reports:

The petition, filed by a lawyers’ group called the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement, said the contest was “blasphemous”. Facebook denied that it was “trying to slander the average Muslim”, on its information page for the contest. (emphasis added)

Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court ordered the department of communications to block the website until 31 May, and to submit a written reply to the petition by that date.

An official told the court that parts of the website that were holding the competition had been blocked, reports the BBC Urdu service’s Abdul Haq in Lahore. But the petitioner said a partial blockade of a website was not possible and that the entire link had to be blocked.

The lawyers’ group says Pakistan is an Islamic country and its laws do not allow activities that are “un-Islamic” or “blasphemous”.

As you might suspect, contrary to the article, Facebook didn’t issue the denial, as Facebook, Inc. has nothing to do with the group: Rather, the user-generated group in question, “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” did. From its info page:

As a snarky response to Muslim bloggers who “warned” Comedy Central about an episode of South Park showing the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bear suit, one Seattle cartoonist, who calls laughter her form of “prayer,” is asking artists all over the world to create depictions of Mohammed on May 20, then submit the images to a Facebook page she set up.

Hopefully this page will spark seroius [sic] debates in international forums. This page will continue to exist and the date will remain the same. PS: We are not trying to slander the average muslim , its not a muslim/islam hatepage. We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammed depictions, that we’re not afraid of them. That they can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us to silence.

The group currently has more than 40,000 members. On the group’s wall this morning, one Facebook user from Pakistan posted “My country blocked ur shit………….we r not as fool as u think,” along with a link to an article about Pakistan’s Facebook block; he presumably won’t be too happy when he finds out that the very service he used to bash the group and defend Muhammed has been blocked too.

(via BBC News. title image of Lahore High Court via Wikipedia)

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