Countrywide protests against Facebook caricatures
Karachi, May 22: Pakistani protesters shouted "Death to Facebook", "Death to America" and burnt US flags on Friday, venting growing anger over "sacrilegious" caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) on the Internet.
A Facebook user organised an "Everyone Draw Muhammed Day" competition to promote "freedom of expression", inspired by an American woman cartoonist, but sparked a major backlash in the country of 170 million.
Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the row has sparked comparison with protests across the Muslim world over the publication of satirical cartoons of the Holy Prophet in European newspapers in 2006.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) banned access to Facebook, YouTube and more than 450 links, including restricted access to Wikipedia in view of what it called "growing sacrilegious content".
The PTA released a toll-free telephone number and email address, and has acted on complaints received by the regulator.
Apology necessary: In Karachi, religious parties mobilised hundreds of protesters onto the streets to demand a ban on Facebook and an apology from the social networking site for humiliating Muslims.
Activists shouted slogans such as "Death to Facebook", "Death to America" and branded the US the "root cause of all mischief" at the peaceful rallies.
In Multan, hundreds of people rallied, burning US flags and tyres to block traffic before dispersing peacefully.
About 250 people demonstrated in Rawalpindi, as well as Peshawar, where they chanted "Death to Facebook, death to Youtube", an AFP reporter said.
In Lahore, the Islami Jamiat Taliba, Imamia Students Organisation, Khaksar Tehreek and other organisations staged rallies and demos to condemn Facebook.
Disappointed: Facebook expressed disappointment at being blocked and said it was considering whether to make the offending page inaccessible in Pakistan. YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing site, said it was "working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible". afpYour Comments
Facebook fury: Death sentence sought for 'blasphemers'
Lahore: Protests against the posting of blasphemous images of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) on social networking site Facebook continued on Friday and religious leaders demanded that Muslim rulers either ensure an international legislation carrying "capital punishment" for committing blasphemy against all divine messengers or abdicate their thrones.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and acting Punjab Assembly speaker Rana Mashhood also condemned the Facebook for allowing its users to post blasphemous images of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Protest demonstrations were organised in various localities. Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan activists led by Qari Zawwar Bahadur held a rally in Gulberg, Khaksar Tehrik in Ichhra on Ferozepur Road, Aalmi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat in Naekabad, Tehrik Dawat-i-Haq in Bhati Gate while lawyers took out a rally from district courts up to the Data Darbar.
The largest public meeting was held on The Mall outside Masjid Shuhada. It was organised by the Tehrik Hurmat-i-Rasool, an umbrella organisation of over two dozen parties. Visibly charged participants chanted slogans against site.
Speaking to them, various leaders warned the West of retaliation if it continued committing blasphemy of the Prophet of Islam in the name of "freedom of expression".
Speakers urged President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to take a harsh stance on the issue.
They also criticised PML-N leaders, especially the Sharif family.
Maulana Amir Hamza warned that if the acts of blasphemy were not stopped and perpetrators not punished, neither the US ambassador nor the embassy would be spared. Dawn
Blackberry services go offline across country
Islamabad: On the directives of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for blocking Facebook in the country, all cellular companies froze Blackberry services until further notice. Although the PTA had blocked Facebook, the website was still accessible on Blackberry handsets as these services are routed through RIM servers. According to sources, the PTA has asked all cellular companies to put an immediate cap on all Blackberry services until further notice. The PTA had issued the directives on the orders of the Lahore High Court, who had asked the government to make sure that Facebook was blocked for all Internet users in the country. app
Offensive page removed
Islamabad: A Facebook page that was considered offensive to Islam and led to a ban on social networking website in Pakistan has been removed, possibly by its creator.
The Facebook said on Friday it had not taken any action on the page which had attracted more than 100,000 users. AP
Cartoonist apologises to Muslims
Washington: An American cartoonist whose work inspired a controversial page on Facebook has condemned the effort and issued an apology to Muslims.
Molly Norris, of Seattle, drew a sketch in April in protest against a decision by the US television channel Comedy Central to cancel an episode of the popular show "South Park" that carried blasphemous content.
In her cartoon, Norris proposed May 20 as a day for making sketches like hers. A page quickly turned up on Facebook but Norris, writing on her website at mollynorris.com, said she had nothing to do with it.
The cartoonist claimed that she did not 'declare' May 20 as the day for a competition of sketches on the issue, adding that what she had said "was a satire" but it "was taken seriously and hijacked".
"I never started a Facebook page; I never set up any place for people to send drawings to and I never received any drawings," she said.
"The vitriol this 'day' has brought out… is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place," she said. "I apologise to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off," she said. Afp
US slams blasphemous Facebook images
Washington: The US has deplored blasphemous images of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) on Facebook as "deeply offensive to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike", saying America does not condone expressions that lead to violence or hatred. The US State Department also expressed respect for any actions that need to be taken under Pakistani law to protect their citizens from offensive speech, but expected a balance between restricting offensive material and ensuring flow of information for the Internet users. "Obviously, this is a difficult and challenging issue. Many of the images that appear today on Facebook were deeply offensive to Muslims and non-Muslims alike," Philip J Crowley, assistant secretary of state, said. app