Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pakistani court lifted a ban on Facebook on Monday

By: Babar Dogar, The Associated Press

LAHORE, Pakistan – A Pakistani court lifted a ban on Facebook on  Monday after officials from the social networking site apologized for a  page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents, said a top  information technology official.

The Lahore High Court imposed the ban almost two weeks  ago amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of  Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet,  even favourable ones, as blasphemous.

“In response to our protest, Facebook has tendered their  apology and informed us that all the sacrilegious material has been  removed from the URL,” said Najibullah Malik, secretary of Pakistan’s  information technology ministry, referring to the technical term for a  Web page.

Facebook assured the Pakistani government that “nothing  of this sort will happen in the future,” said Malik.

Officials from the website could not immediately be  reached for comment. They said earlier the contents of the “Everybody  Draw Mohammed Day!” page did not violate Facebook’s terms.

The page encouraged users to post images of the prophet  to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group against the creators  of the American TV series “South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear  suit during an episode earlier this year.

The controversy sparked a handful of protests across  Pakistan, many by student members of radical Islamic groups. Some of the  protesters carried signs advocating holy war against Facebook for  allowing the page.

Bangladesh also decided to block Facebook on Sunday but  said it would restore access to the site if the offensive material was  removed.

It is not the first time that images of the prophet have  sparked anger. Pakistan and other Muslim countries saw large and  sometimes violent protests in 2006 when a Danish newspaper published  cartoons of Muhammad, and again in 2008 when they were reprinted. Later  the same year, a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber attacked the Danish  Embassy in Islamabad, killing six people.

As of midmorning Monday, access to Facebook inside  Pakistan was still restricted. But users outside the country confirmed  the page that sparked the recent uproar was no longer accessible.

Pakistani government officials are waiting for a written  court order lifting the ban before they advise Internet service  providers to restore access to the site, said Malik.

Anger over the incident also prompted the government to  block access to YouTube, saying there was growing sacrilegious content  on the video sharing website. The government restored access to YouTube  last week but said it would continue to block videos offensive to  Muslims that are posted on the site.

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