As of this writing, the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" Facebook page has nearly 83,000 likes and is rising steadily. Presumably, none of those fans are in the government of Pakistan, as the page prompted the conservative Muslim country to block first Facebook, but then also YouTube, parts of Wikipedia, and other Web sites—more than 450 in all. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) keeps itself busy scanning the Internet for material that it says would offend its population, the second-largest Muslim population of any country. Two years ago it temporarily banned YouTube until the site removed cartoons of Mohammed. Typically the PTA bans particular links, but this week it complained that the amount of objectionable material on Web was increasing and decided to cut off it citizens from some of the biggest sites on the Web. The ban is said to run through the end of May, giving Web sites the chance to remove offending materials if they choose.
Social networking sites are extremely popular in Pakistan, a country of 170 million, where more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Pakistan has about 25 million Internet users, almost all of them young, according to Adnan Rehmat, a media analyst in Islamabad [The New York Times].
The Facebook page in question, which itself was prompted by the South Park controversy
in which Comedy Central censored an episode that would have depicted the Muslim prophet, encourages people to draw Mohammed today in a show of free speech.
Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and Muslims all over the world staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006 [AFP].
Also, extremists threatened South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone over the episode. From the description on the "Everybody Draw Mohammad" Facebook page:
We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammed depictions, that we're not afraid of them. That they can't take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us to silence.
If you're over at Facebook today, check out Discover Magazine's page.
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Image: flickr / benstein