After the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement filed a petition with the court, describing the Facebook account as blasphemous because it had Muhammad caricatures, Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block Facebook until 31 May.
In Pakistan, which has some 45 million Facebook users, a number of pages have already been blocked.
The lawyers stress that Pakistan is a Muslim nation and its laws ban un-Islamic or blasphemous activities. “The competition has hurt the sentiments of the Muslims,” one of the lawyers stressed.
The judge who ruled against Facebook also called on the Foreign Ministry to raise the issue at international level.
In Pakistan, the controversy has a large impact, as the Facebook affair became front-page news in the country’s most important media.
The Daily Times reported for example that the women’s wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and students from various educational institutions organised various demonstrations.
In reality, Pakistan’s blasphemy regulations, which are now used against a social networking website, are the country’s worst tool of religious repression.
According to National Commission on Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church, 964 people have been charged between 1986 and August 2009 for desecrating the Qur’an or defaming the Prophet Muhammad. They include 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 349 Ahmadi, 14 Hindus and 10 members of other religions.
Specifically, these rules are Articles B and C of Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which were adopted in 1986 under then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq.
According to them, anyone who offends Islam and its prophet can be punished; in the case of an insult to Muhammad, that can entail the death penalty.
Ever since their introduction, these regulations have been used as a tool of discrimination and violence. (DS)