Khush Amdeed (Welcome)
Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.
This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.
The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I had been banned from Facebook and my account had been disabled a night before Facebook was banned in Pakistan. Before all this happened, I visited the blasphemous page “Draw Muhammad Day” and the content on the page hurt me badly.
Once again a certain group of westerners called it the “freedom of expression” and went on to show extremism – something they always verbally disassociate themselves from.
As a response to this lunacy, I thought it best to find out how they respond to others’ right of freedom of expression – I created an Adolf Hitler page right away and it read, “To all those who think they can ridicule Islam in the name of freedom of expression and yet punish those who speak of the genius of Hitler”.
The comment on the wall read, “Let’s hit them where it hurts them the most”. Further I added some photos of the Fuhrer, Nazi Party and the Italian Footballer Paolo Di Canio who was banned and fined by FIFA two years ago for performing the “controversial” Roman Salute which according to him gave him a sense of belonging to his people.
Within an hour tens of people joined the Hitler page which was named “H | T L E R”. The very next time I tried to log in I found out that my profile had been disabled for ‘violation of Facebook Regulations’.
Facebook’s reply for my inquiry was as following (also shown in above screenshot):
After reviewing your situation, we have determined that your violated our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. One of Facebook’s main priorities is the comfort and safety of our users.
We do not tolerate hate speech. Targeting people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or disease is a serious violation of our standards and has resulted in the permanent loss of your account.
We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason. This decision is final.
Now how is it that Hitler is termed as the most evil person in the history of mankind while those that bomb Muslims, commit heinous crimes in their countries, ridicule their Prophet and Quran and as a result hurt the sentiments of 1.2 billion Muslims are hailed as heroes? And I wonder why the victims of Holocaust are more important than victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Despite the protest of a large number of Muslims, Facebook has not removed the blasphemous page from the website.
According the statement issued by Facebook their policy is to withhold such content in countries where it is controversial. The statement specifically says that we do not remove Nazi content from Facebook because it is illegal only in a few countries. As two-faced statements go, this one takes the prize. Perhaps before issuing the statement the Facebook did not realise that words like “Adolf Hitler”, “Sieg Heil” and “Nazi” are not allowed to be used on Facebook to create new pages.
And if all this and the removal of Hitler page and the permanent deactivation of my profile isn’t enough, here is a testament to Facebook’s vile hypocrisy. The statement issued by Facebook on 20 May says, “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”
While, in another instance, Facebook replied me in entirely different way. Excerpt and screenshot is given above.
Now these two conflicting statements speak volumes about the discrimination by the Facebook. It simply means that Facebook through its official statement to global media wants the world to believe that they are the torchbearers of freedom of expression and allow everyone to speak their minds out. On the other hand the face that individuals like me get to see is a much horrible one. It talks about hate and intolerance and all forms of so-called equality and unshakable resolve. While Facebook is portraying itself as the silent and innocent onlooker for the entire world, I wonder what gives them the right to remove a major chunk of my life from the web.
As I wrote here a few weeks ago, Comedy Central censored the oft-controversial South Park after the show depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit, leading a fringe Islamist group Revolution Muslim to make an alleged incitement for violence against creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. This then led fellow cartoonist Molly Norris to create the posterlike illustration “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” to voice her support for Parker and Stone, saying in an interview, “As a cartoonist, I just felt so much passion about what had happened.. it’s a cartoonist’s job to be non-PC.”
Her illustration against Revolution Muslim’s response and the subsequent censorship of South Park was meant to be a one-off protest. However, Jon Wellington was inspired to create a Facebook page, “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!” which called for artists around the world to create their own depictions of Prophet Muhammad on May 20. The group claims that it is not trying to “slander the average Muslim,” adding, “We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions that we’re not afraid of them.”
Norris, the cartoonist the group claimed to be the inspiration behind the event, has distanced herself from the controversy, writing on her website,
I did NOT ‘declare’ May 20 to be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”…At any rate…my cartoon-poster, with a fake ‘group’ behind it…went viral and was taken seriously. I never started a Facebook page (I see that the two men who started the different FB pages names have now been made public). The vitriol this ‘day’ has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place. Only Viacom and Revolution Muslim are to blame, so…draw them instead!
On Wednesday, in response to the Facebook group and the increasing number of images (many that do, in fact, aim to insult the religion), as well as protests on university campuses across the country, Pakistan’s Lahore High Courtordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block Facebook across Pakistan until May 31. According to BBC News, “The lawyers’ group [that brought the petition] says Pakistan is an Islamic country and its laws do not allow activities that are ‘un-Islamic’ or ‘blasphemous.’ The judge also directed Pakistan’s foreign ministry to raise the issue at international level.”
So it seems that Comedy Central’s censorship has ultimately led to morecensorship. Does anyone else sense the irony here?
It is not that I don’t think “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!” isn’t purposefully offensive and hateful – looking at the Facebook page, the wall is littered with derogatory and ignorant statements against not just the Prophet but against all Muslims. Even if the group claims to not “slander the average Muslim,” the problem with any movement that goes viral is that the intended aim eventually becomes irrelevant, an after-thought. Wannabe “artists” are no longer concerned with the reason behind the South Park censorship, but instead use this platform to lob insults at the religion as a whole. Any sane person would tell you that’s ingredient for disaster.
But a sane person would also tell you the answer is not blocking the platform all together. First, blocking Facebook doesn’t mean the group went away, or that “Draw Muhammad Day!” was stopped altogether. Second, why does the state get to weigh in on a viral movement and subsequently make arbitrary decisions that don’t just blind Pakistan to the event but also cuts citizens off from the entire social networking website? If Pakistan reportedly has 2.5 million active Facebook users, that essentially means 2.5 million people were not given the opportunity to make the choice themselves. It essentially sends the message that the state knows what’s best for you, even if you know better. To me, that’s just as unproductive.
Freedom of speech is a tricky issue, there is no doubt about that. An anonymous blogger quoted on Norris’ website emphasized, “Fight for the rightto draw Muhammad, but then decline doing so.” This is a significant (albeit still controversial) statement. Yes, people have a right to voice their opinion – getting death threats as a result just fuels the root causes behind that opinion in the first place. But to use this as an opportunity to incite and marginalize a community already on edge? That’s another thing all together. As for the Pakistani government, concentrate on the big picture. Because the LHC decision may have only exacerbated the situation further.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
I agree with you that the thought of anyone disrespecting our Prophet (SAW) should make your blood boil and make you want to chop his head off. This should be our level of Iman that we love Allah and his Rasool above all even ourselves.
I however disagree that we as individuals should go about chopping heads. This is the duty of the Khalifa to impose such a punishment and as an individual or group of muslims we have no legal Islamic right to harm anyone.
While the incident of the Jew you mentioned may have happened, the order was given by the Amir-ul-Momineen of that time (the Prophet (SAW)) and Omar (RA) would have not been right if he ....
Read the full article here
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The “Draw Muhammad Day” Campaign
20th May 2010 was publicized as ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ where caricatures and cartoons of Prophet Muhammad were invited by participants. Apparently, it was a cartoonist Molly Norris whose satirical idea sprung into the “Draw Muhammad Day” campaign. After a US channel refused to play an episode of South Park that displayed Muhammad as a cartoon figure, Molly Norris drew a cartoon of Muhammad as a form of protest and even proposed the idea of May 20th as “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” However, given the response towards Facebook by Muslims around the world, Molly Norris apologized to the Muslim faith and asked for the day to be called off – (perhaps too late since it was already after May 20th).
Response by Muslims to the Draw Muhammad Day Campaign
The Campaign which started as a single page on Facebook was quick to produce many spin-offs all inviting caricatures of Muhammad. Muslims around the world were infuriated by the Campaign and students as well as general public came out in protests in Pakistan too. As a response to the hurt feelings of Muslims, Pakistani government temporarily banned Facebook via all internet providers. Soon after this ban, Youtube was also banned because of its ability to share videos with similar depictions. It has been said that these sites will be blocked in protest until May 31st.
Access to wikipedia and Flickr were also found to be denied but it is unclear if that is going to last for as long as the ban on Facebook. At the same time, many Muslim Facebook users had either changed their status (at some point) to call for a 10 day personal ban on using Facebook or forwarded messages informing of this campaign and how blocking Facebook for 10 days could hurt Facebook financially. SMSes were also circulated informing people of speaking up against this hurtful act.
As a Result of Muslim Pressure
As a result of Muslim pressure it was claimed that only in the first 2 days of bans Facebook lost 40b Euros and could lose up to 400b Euros. There are however conflicting reports about these figures and could very much be a rumor spread via SMSes. Note that SMSes claim BBC to have quoted these figures but I have not verified it elsewhere. However, news articles and news channels have caught on these figures and are being circulated amongst audiences in Pakistan and by the Muslim diaspora around the world.
Is it Blasphemous or More?
Is it just a question of blasphemy? The response by Muslims is that any pictorial depiction of any of the Prophets or of God is blasphemous. Picking a Prophet that is specific to Islam, however, implies an intent that is not necessarily intended at goodwill towards Muslims. It all started or perhaps became big with the (in)famous Danish cartoons series which was followed by public protests, and bans by Muslims around the world of Danish products and companies. Given that context, an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” campaign is not just a brave attempt at inviting freedom of speech but also perhaps an attempt at provoking the same feelings as before. Is it really a lesson to teach Muslims to appreciate freedom of speech or an attempt to test the limits. The response towards Facebook is then not a surprise – given the context above, it should be an “expected” response. And if it is expected, then to hold such a campaign means that it has malicious intents behind it. In this light, it does not remain a question of blasphemy for a group of people anymore, it becomes a question of instigating hatred, provoking mistrust and hurting a group of people.
Why is it Important to Understand the Intent Behind “Draw Muhammad Day”
Perhaps if we were living in a world where nations and countries, races and religions were clearly confined within unquestioned borders it would have been easier to say that “if it hurts you learn to deal with it, it is our freedom of speech” (not that I am quoting or claiming to have heard any one actually saying this) but in the world we live in today the reality is much different. Facebook was initially looking into the controversial page and was quoted to have said in The Times that “While the content does not violate our terms, we do understand it may not be legal in some countries,” the company said in a statement. “In cases like this, the approach is sometimes to restrict certain content from being shown in specific countries.” It is surprising however that a company, whose users, could alone form one of the top 5 countries of the world in terms of population, can so easily undermine the impact of communications beyond borders, diaspora and the diversity of the world today. It is no surprise then that Facebook ultimately took the page down.
Is the Ban on Facebook The Best Remedy
The question though that comes up is that the Facebook company might have learnt a lesson and will perhaps now start thinking up of ways of how to avoid such a loss again, but does the world really care? Perhaps reading about the Facebook ban just reiterated the world outside of Pakistan’s belief that the the developing countries have their issues with authoritarianism and lack of freedoms and if they were to find out the sentiments of the Pakistani public standing behind the government’s step it would just re-confirm their belief that every Pakistani, like every Muslim, is an extremist. (Okay – an exaggeration perhaps but a reality for many too.) It might be pertinent to add here that the issue of censorship in one way or another is practiced in all countries of the world and cannot be purely seen in the light of democracy vs authoritarianism, secular vs non-secular and North versus South.
Because there are plenty of businesses that depend on online marketing or communications via Facebook, some did raise concerns about whether a ban will help. On the flip side, some may be content with backing the bigger cause and sacrificing the Facebook space for 10 days. Of course, techy youth created proxy sites to host Facebook and apparently even Blackberry users could access it. So if it did really have an impact on any of the businesses within Pakistan is questionable.
It is important to bring up here that there were many alternative pages and groups that sprung up on Facebook in response to the “Draw Muhammad Day” campaign. These ranged from “Celebrate Prophet Muhammad” to “Draw Muhammad’s name” or “Against Draw Muhammad Day” and so on. Many groups came up with the belief that banning Facebook or the page is not the solution but to initiate positive pages and groups is the best remedy. The philosophy is to pretend it did not hurt, will be suffice to frustrate those who want to hurt the Muslims. However, in all of this underlying is the belief that we are one and the other is the enemy, whether it is from the viewpoint of the cartoonists and their supporters or the hurt Muslims and their sympathizers. It brings to question that if this does not increase the divide, then what is it really doing?