So in case you don’t know today is Everyone Draw Mohammed Day, a day one which everyone is encouraged to draw a picture of the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a way of calling the bluff of the extremists that threaten violence against those that do just that. Now I have to admit that I am still in two minds about this. On the one hand I do think it is important to stand up to these people and show that threatening violence against people for drawing a picture will not be accepted and will not stop us from doing so. Freedom of expression baby. On the other hand I find the whole thing slightly off putting for reasons I can’t really put into words. I’m generally not a confrontational person and this all seems a bit too much like getting up in someone’s face for my liking.
But that aside I still think that something like this needed to happen and as if to prove the point Pakistan has decided to ban access to facebook and much of youtube and flickr in order to stop its countrymen from being offended by stick figures labelled Mohammed.
“Before shutting down (YouTube), we did try just to block particular URLs or links, and access to 450 links on the internet were stopped,” said PTA spokesman Khurram Ali Mehran.
“But the blasphemous content kept appearing so we ordered a total shut down.”
But why on earth would they need to do this? I mean what is so bad about people being offended? Well though I disagree with their actions I can’t help but think that they had a point, it’s just that their reasoning behind the site blocking just proves the very point the whole event was trying to make.
Government officials say they are acting pre-emptively to prevent a repeat of the 2006 cartoon riots that caused destruction of property and caused five deaths. But it was unclear whether the measures would satisfy the court or prevent disturbances.
Even after Facebook was banned yesterday, Islamist groups took to the streets, mounting minor protests. More are feared following weekly prayers tomorrow.
Yup, they decided to block the sites because they had reason to believe that looking at a few pictures of some bearded guy called Mohammed would result in rioting and possible death. Though I have no doubt that this is just an excuse to limit free speech and freedom of expression it is hard not to wonder what I would have done if I had been in the same situation, knowing that people would probably die because a percentage of the population would react to the cartoons in a completely over the top and out of proportion way. I’m not defending them, far from it, I just wonder what their alternative could have been?
Of course not everyone has such altruistic motivations. Some were more worried about hurt feelings.
“Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and cannot be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression,” Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said about the page.
I’m sorry but this is exactly what freedom of expression is all about and do you not think that when people are threatened with death for drawing cartoons that that constitutes “malicious and insulting attacks” to a much higher degree than this does? So if it is something you feel comfortable with then get out your pen and draw yourself a picture of Mohammed. Yes it will insult people, but maybe it will show them that they are foolish for getting insulted in the first place and that it is their reactions that are ultimately responsible for ours.
Ps. Apologies for this post having no real sense of direction and for not making much sense. I wanted to comment on this issue but it has been a very long day and clearly my brain is not functioning correctly. I can’t even work out what point I was trying to make here.