The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has orderd ISPs in the country to indefinitely block access to social networking giant Facebook because of an online contest set up to draw images of the prophet Muhammad. In Islam, any representation of Muhammad is considered blasphemy and un-Islamic. According to reports the PTA had initially planed to order ISPs to block only access to the particular Facebook page showing the cartoons and drawings, but the Lahore High Court ruled that the entire Facebook site be blocked and an investigation be conducted into why the competition was being allowed to take place.
Although use of Facebook and other social networking services is not as widespread in the Islamic world as in Western Europe and (particularly) the United States, millions of young Muslims use the services. Some sources have speculated the court’s move may lead to backlash against the court or the Pakistani government, particularly among young Muslims and technology professionals.
The Facebook contest was created in response to Muslim bloggers who recently threatened the creators of the long-running Comedy Central program South Park over a depiction of Muhammad in a bear suit.
In 2005 a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Muhammad, sparking protests in Muslim countries in which roughly 50 people were killed.
[Updated 20-May-2010: Removed name of a cartoonist who claims not to be associated with the Facebook contest.]
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