There is a new joke doing the rounds in Pakistan at the moment: What’s the difference between Facebook and the Lashkar-e-Taiba [The terrorist group suspected of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks]?
Answer: Facebook is banned in Pakistan.
The Lahore High Court banned Facebook after the social networking site was used to promote a viral campaign called: ‘Everyone draw Mohammed day’. Muslims generally regard any artistic depiction of Mohammed as blasphemous.
But why stop there? Pakistan rarely does things by halves so Youtube, Flickr, Wikipedia, and Blackberry services have also been proscribed “in view of [their] growing sacrilegious content”.
“Down with Facebook” chanted supports of the Islamic Lawyers Forum whose members had brought the case to court.
Their representative, Azhar Siddique, told Reuters “The court has ordered the government to immediately block Facebook until May 31 because of this blasphemous competition”.
Pakistan also refused to renew a visa for Jyllands-Posten’s reporter, Puk Damsgaard Andersen, whose paper sparked the first ‘cartoon controversy’ by publishing caricatures of Mohammed. Officially, Pakistan says it can no longer guarantee Anderson’s safety.
There is hope for Pakistani Facebook users yet. The company could always circumvent the ban by changing its name – Jamaat al-Facebook, anyone?