Islam v. Internets II: Fundamentalists Strike Back

Posted by Emory Kale

No good can come of censoring the Web, but it doesn't seem to bother Pakistan. iPhone 4 not sufficiently blasphemous to get banned, but hipsters may be lashed.

What is up with the Pakistan government? The powers that be have decided that the best way to fight internal fundamentalism and terrorists is by, wait for it, pandering to fundamentalists. First, the country is going to monitor seven major sites for "content it deems offensive to Muslims," according to the BBC. Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail, and Bing will be monitored the links considered unsuitable will be blocked.

Judge Mashar Iqbal of the Pakistan judiciary order the Pakistan Telecommunications Agency, not your granny's PTA, to block access to sites offending the fundamental principles of Islam. Although the PTA has said it has yet to receive such an order, it was issued by the Bahawalpur Bench of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday. The judge also asked the chairman of the PTA to appear in court on June 28. The Pakistan Internet Service Providers Association has both said that it has yet to receive any notice, either, and blames it on media hype, but also goes on to say that any such ban could deprive millions of access to the Internet.

Salman Latif of the The Express Tribune in Pakistan writes against the ban on his blog and says:

"The upcoming court hearing and the potential ban of major websites has triggered an aggressive backlash among Pakistan’s web-populace. Whereas internet has come to bear considerably on the national economy, apparently it remains at the whim of courts’ moral alienations. Decisions like these mean that websites could be made available or unavailable any time at the tiniest proof of questionable content on their pages. Questionable content, again, is a highly subjective term and a court may interpret it differently at different times. This only means one thing: uncertainty. And in a country where freelancing is becoming a dominant trend among technical professionals, this uncertainty melts down to professional and monetary losses."

Pakistan has to balance conflicting agendas as a pro-western ally, and a state swimming in a sea of hostility with drug runners into Iran, terrorist in and out of Afghanistan, and constant tension with India. There's nukes in them thar hills, too.

So, are you still crying because you couldn't get an iPhone 4 yesterday, or because you got one, and you have to hold it with your pinky and thumb to avoid getting bad reception?