Pakistan sinks under a sea of blasphemy

Pakistan has revealed why it is jolly difficult for religious based cultures to take advantage of technology.

Last year it banned users from seeing YouTube because it ran a single flick which insulted the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). It gave YouTube time to mount a crusade to purge all its blasphemous videos and then allowed people access to it.

This week the site was running for three minutes before someone found something blasphemous and YouTube was pulled again.

While you might not think that any culture could be seriously damaged by not having videos of cats playing the piano, or a baby racoon eating a toffee, lots of self-help and training videos are run through YouTube. If you want to know how to get your webcam working, draw a potato, build a weapon of mass destruction, or bake a Yorkshire pudding chances are there is going to be a YouTube video on it.  And these are the things that Pakistan is missing.

According to the New York Times, the government has been under pressure to lift the ban, but it also ordered all telecommunications companies to block internet material deemed offensive to Muslims and urged people to report such material.

This meant that the means were in place for blasphemy complaints to be heard quickly. In this case three minutes.

While many in Pakistan like the idea of returning the country to a bearded dark age, a large chunk of the country does not want this.

An editorial by the Express Tribune in Karachi, Pakistan, claimed that the government was using blasphemy laws to control behaviour and denying access to the Internet.

“We need to make it clear that we do not wish to regress to a dark age when a centralised authority controlled all access to information,” the editorial said.

Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister said firewalls by government technicians were being installed to block pornographic and blasphemous material however it rapidly turned out that these did not work.

Many in Pakistan could not work out why, considering the length of time the government had to put up its filters. The fact that these rarely work has nothing to do with anything. Arguing that the government’s filter did not work is missing the point. It is wrong to censor people’s daily lives and throttle information from them.

Then this morning the orders came down from Prime Minister Raja Pervez to block access to YouTube and the country was cut off again. He wants to make sure that no one stones anyone until he blows a whistle, even if they do say Mohammed.