LAHORE: Once again the ban on Facebook remained the hot topic as students, intellectuals and civil society activists debated whether the flow of information should be blocked in such a manner.

People from all strata of society continued to protest across the city against the blasphemous caricature competition on the social networking site. A number of protests were held over the week as well as on Sunday, demanding that the authorities take concrete steps on the issue. The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) held an open house discussion in this regard, in which the unanimous opinion was that the Facebook ban should be lifted.

Counter-productive: Speaking at the SAFMA open house debate, IA Rehman condemned the caricature contest, saying that hurting a community’s sentiments in such a way was not only a mistake but also a crime.

However, he said the ban on Facebook amounted to making people bereft of their freedom of expression, which was only likely to prove counter-productive.

In yet another interesting move, three different groups launched their own so-called ‘Facebooks’. One of these named ‘MillatFacebook’ has been launched by a group of lawyers, while another named ‘EmanFacebook’ has been launched by three youngsters. The founders of these social networking websites have blatantly copied the entire structure of the original Facebook, but they say their aim is to bring together Muslims on a single platform. The response to these websites has been very insignificant. Yet web-marketing experts claim that if somebody comes up with a stylish interface and a proper marketing campaign, people might want to turn to an alternative.

The blasphemous caricature contest on Facebook led to protests across the country, which forced the Lahore High Court to pass an order banning the popular social networking website across the country. The ban, which was imposed on May 20, is expected to be lifted today.

People far and wide wait anxiously for the final verdict of the court regarding the Facebook ban.

The Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) also launched their vehement protest against the incident thus showing that the whole country was united in this issue.

“If any one individual puts up cartoons ridiculing the holocaust, that material would be removed immediately,” Overload band member, Farhad Hamayun told Daily Times. There were different television shows on air where Muslims were being ridiculed but the Facebook administration shouldn’t have ignored such an incident, he said.

“Banning Facebook for life does not matter to me although it’s a good marketing tool but the question remains what is our government going to do about it. If Muslim web developers start a campaign against the holocaust, a number of ‘problems’ will be created on the web,” he said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the matter was being taken up at the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the government had a firm stance on the issue. “This issue had surfaced earlier as well and the people behind such things should understand that hurting the emotions of a certain people is not called freedom of speech,” he said.

People across the city including students, journalists, labourers, fashion models, businessmen and transporters have demanded that the authorities demand a formal apology from the Facebook administration.

Exhibition: While protest continued, a painting exhibition, ‘Decoded’

by Irfan Hassan was held at the Drawing Room Art Gallery. Hassan’s paintings were largely based on Hindu mythology.

Another painting exhibition, ‘The Art of Narration’ by Matloob Baig and Awais Saleem was also held at the Royaat Art Gallery. While a solo painting exhibition, ‘Error 404’ by Sara Khan was held at the Alhamra Art Gallery.

Simultaneously, the four-day Brecht Theatre Festival, organised by the Ajoka Theatre was also in full swing at the Alhamra Arts Council, where four plays were showcased.

Source: Daily Times – Site Edition    Monday, May 31, 2010

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