Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pakistan Bans the Internet.

Hey everyone. I haven't been blogging for a long long while. Mostly because I started working in August and since then have had this unrealistic image of my not having time to blog. A whole lot has happened since then. Much stuff relating to the band, work, my ACCA (I'm done!) and quite a few other topics. However, right now what I feel is most important is Pakistan's currently ongoing Internet censorship. This is an email I'm sending out to everybody I know. I thought I'd post it here too.

FYI. I can't access Facebook and stuff so any comments over there will not get to me anytime soon. Comment here please. Here we go:

"Hello, fellow countryfolk.

This is a manually generated response to the plethora of msgs I recieved initially urging & then celebrating the ban on Facebook. A ban that now includes Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube and for a short while had Google too. Apart from 450 other websites.

Some stats regarding Facebook are in need, I feel.

1) Facebooks ANNUAL revenue stream is around $1.1billion. This makes it logically IMPOSSIBLE for them to have suffered a €2billion loss in 2 days, that'd become €40billion in a week. €40billion is more than Pakistan's national debt. Therefore all the messages and/or news reports claiming so are one thing: FALSE.

2) Facebook has 400 million users. Pakistan has little more than 2 million. We hence represent less than 0.59% of Facebook and are therefore NEGLIGIBLE. Our boycotting/banning/quitting Facebook will have little to no effect on their lives/careers/business.

3) Till last weekend the controversial page over which this whole mess was created had around 4,000 fans. The night before the ban, our overhyped, insecure, overreactionary measures took that number upto 40,000. Also, this ban removes access to the many pages and groups SUPPORTING Islam and its related subjects like Islam, Salat, many pages devoted to celebrating the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBuH), the Ka'aba and many others. Also, The Guardian and Dawn News report that the page in question now has more than 100,000 fans. Can we, with a clear conscience, say that is not our fault in any way?

4) Finally, we are the only muslim nation in the world to have gone the extra mile and banned all these websites. Even the generally strict countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have only gone so far as blocking the webpages in question.

Now for some background information:

The page "Lets Draw Muhammad Day" came in response to a South Park episode where such a concept was introduced in response to what non-Muslim people view as irrational and overzealous reactions of Muslim people when such a concept is introduced and also as a reaction to the Danish cartoonist who's house was the victim of an arson attack recently.

It is completely justified to consider their actions a result of ignorance but do you really think violence and such banning of information and protesting is appropriate? When the Danish cartoons were published, there were protests throughout Pakistan that left 5 people dead. Why did Pakistanis die? Why were the protests so ugly? Is that what the Prophet(PBuH) himself would have done? Are we honoring his name, work and example by doing things he himself not have approved of? Have we even stopped to consider as much? Or did we just take everything that's been happening to and around Muslims and jump to the conclusion that this is part of a broader conspiracy against us, like we are so quick to do?

Also, why did the LHC/PTA/whoever ban all the other sites? Is there a source of knowledge as comprehensive as Wikipedia, online? Sure it's not always right and is open to malicious/incorrect editing but still. When was the last time you read a REAL encyclopedia when you really needed to get information? Update: As of last night I find that Wikipedia is accessible again but the page about "Lets draw Muhammad Day" is not.

And Youtube. How many videos are now inaccessible as a result of this ban? Youtube is 5 years old and is estimated to run 2billion videos A DAY. How many of those do you really think are anti-Islam? Really. How many of those will you come across on an average day, UNLESS you go out of your way to look for them? A negligible amount, surely. I've been on Youtube for a couple years now and have seen thousands of videos thus far. Literally thousands. Not one of them was anti-Islamic. Educational? Sure. Entertainment? Most definitely. Anti-Islamic? Not one. Sure I saw plenty of thumbnails but I didn't feel forced to go there and watch and hence be affected. Youtube and Facebook and such places aren't really forums where such discussions are taken seriously, anyway. Is is really so hard to ignore people we ourselves are so quick to deem "ignorant"? Should we ignore them at all? Should we not try to engage them in sincere debate? Did you do that? Chances are, no. Even if you did, you started and ended with anger and hate, leaving your point worthless.

Please do not take this email or any similar sentiments to mean people can't live without Facebook/Youtube etc. It's quite easy and more than possible. Arguably even better than living with them. Still, harbor no delusions. Leaving all of them WILL NOT make your life less filled with time-wasting. That's like saying there was no time-wasting before them. Youtube is just 5 years old. Facebook even less. Were you super efficient 5 years ago? Is your life a downward spiral since then? The truth is; no.

The real issue is not that all of this is unavailable. The real issue is the lack of choice in the matter. YOU didn't choose to boycott them. We were all given no other alternative. While we are so against their "freedom of speech" that allows them to say such things, our being blocked from it all is proof that our freedoms are limited. What happens if tomorrow you disagree with the government? Will you allow yourself to be silenced? Chances are, you won't have a choice. UPDATE2: Dawn reports that a total of around 800 websites have been blocked by the PTA on instructions from the government. Did you know of 800 websites that could have hurt your faith?

Wikipedia, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter have very little to do with the said page and its supporters. Blocking them does not achieve global Muslim harmony and respect. Blocking them means the government thinks it knows better than you what you should or should not see/hear/read. The possibility of the government covering up information they do not want the average Pakistani to read is not a new one nor one that is inconceivable as proven by this Wikipedia article and Dawn's reporting of what the chief of Google thought about this current scenario. This widespread banning is most probably a facade. An excuse to cover up all that they public may think is negative about the government while hiding behind the righteous curtain of defending the sanctitiy of Islam. That is a world I refuse to be a supporter of.

Thus, in conclusion; we learn that the ban HELPED those who made the page by swelling their ranks and proving their view of our being close minded and incapable of debate. We learn that the ban is probably not about the issue of Islam and the Prophets(PBuH) honor anyway. We learn that while freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan our government, the PTA and the LHC have somehow seen fit to take this pathetic step. Also we cut off our links to entertainment, communication and information leaving there no losers on the playing field but us. Just like when PAKISTANIs in PAKISTAN died over the Danish cartoon publication.

Good job oh ye 'faithful'. Pakistan's been screwed. Again."

My name is Ali Hasan Abbasi. I am a citizen of Pakistan, a believer of free speech and a possessor of common sense. I stand against this ban, and all other forms of censorship. I believe people are more than capable of knowing what is right and wrong and what they should or should not do. I consider this ban an insult to my intelligence, my status as a Muslim and my status a citizen of Pakistan.

You should too.

Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;

And whereas it is the will of the people of Pakistan to establish an order :-

Wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people;

Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed;

Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah;

Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures;

Wherein the territories now included in or in accession with Pakistan and such other territories as may hereafter be included in or accede to Pakistan shall form a Federation wherein the units will be autonomous with such boundaries and limitations on their powers and authority as may be prescribed;

Therein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;

Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes;

Wherein the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured;

Wherein the integrity of the territories of the Federation, its independence and all its rights, including its sovereign rights on land, sea and air, shall be safeguarded;

So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honoured place amongst the nations of the World and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity :

Now, therefore, we, the people of Pakistan,

Cognisant of our responsibility before Almighty Allah and men;

Cognisant of the sacrifices made by the people in the cause of Pakistan;

Faithful to the declaration made by the Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah], that Pakistan would be a democratic State based on Islamic principles of social justice;

Dedicated to the preservation of democracy achieved by the unremitting struggle of the people against oppression and tyranny;

Inspired by the resolve to protect our national and political unity and solidarity by creating an egalitarian society through a new order;

Do hereby, through our representatives in the National Assembly, adopt, enact and give to ourselves, this Constitution.

-Preamble to the Constitution of Pakistan.