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May 20

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, May 20, 2010 5:16 AM 

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Pakistani ban on Facebook over Draw Mohammed Day now extends to Youtube, Blackberry and Wikipedia, while Business Week notes 450 sites have also been blocked for "blasphemous" material.

From the CSM story:

Pakistani politicians have either remained silent or expressed support of the ban. On Wednesday, Talha Mehmood, chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior affairs, urged the government to redefine its relations with the West against the backdrop of an increase in incidents hurting religious sentiments of the Muslims.

Sounds good to me. We already inhabit alternate universes; might as well make it official.

But the blanket bans have also provoked the ire of many Internet users within Pakistan’s growing middle classes, who rely on Facebook for communicating with friends and organizing events. Many argue that the decision to ban the websites en masse was injudicious.

"Why on earth should Islam be given any immunity to criticism, hiding like ostriches and constantly getting offended is what has made us so backward," wrote one Nabiha Meher Shaikh.

Good question. Good luck.

Badar Alam, a senior editor in Pakistan’s Herald magazine, argues that the ban reflects the increasing role of religion in the judiciary.

“Since the 1980s there have been few if any at all progressive, liberal people who could make it to the bench,” he says. “The courts in Pakistan over the last three decades have in their judgments started citing religious injunction as much as, if not more, the laws and the constitution.”

Religious injunction would be sharia, of course.

The judiciary is also keenly aware of the popular impact of its decisions and has become a highly politicized institution, he argues. “It is a natural consequence of the movement for the restoration of the judiciary that the judges keep public's sentiments as much in mind as they do law. More often than not they have made 'popular' decisions,” he says, referring to a popular movement in recent years to reinstate dozens of deposed judges.

And 79 percent of Pakistanis favor "strict application" of sharia.

Facebook has reacted with “disappointment,” according to a statement made to Agence France Presse late Wednesday. “We are analyzing the situation and the legal considerations, and will take appropriate action, which may include making this content inaccessible to users in Pakistan.”

So long as Facebook's "disappointment" is directed at Pakistan, we're probably ok. Let's just hope Facebook leaves it at that and doesn't sharia-compliant on us.

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