Pakistan's Facebook dilemma

By Jahanzaib Haque

As of August 2014, there are 15.4 million Pakistanis on Facebook, representing approximately 8.5 per cent of the country’s total population; a virtual city set to rival Karachi in terms of sheer numbers.

According to Jakarta Post, Facebook is Pakistan’s largest social network, and — unlike when it was banned over ‘Draw Prophet Muhammad Day’ in 2010 — few would now argue that the site is simply ‘a waste of time’ or only for the ‘elite’ in society.

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A country where liberal journalists risk death

According to BBC, the life of a liberal journalist in Pakistan is not an easy one. Write about someone fighting a blasphemy case, or someone whose faith is considered heresy, and you may very soon find yourself in deep trouble.

Shoaib Adil, a 49-year-old magazine editor and publisher in Lahore, has many well-wishers and they all want him to disappear from public life or, even better, leave the country.

Since blasphemy charges were filed against him last month, the police have told him that he can't return home, he can't even be seen in the city where he grew up and worked all his life. It wouldn't be safe.

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Pakistani Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

Photo: AP

According to VOA, a court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death on blasphemy charges.

Lawyers say a judge in the eastern city of Lahore rejected Mohammad Zulfiqar's defense of mental illness and convicted him for violating the country's blasphemy laws of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Zulfiqar was arrested for reportedly writing derogatory language against the Prophet on the walls of a public park in the Islampura area of Lahore in April of 2008.

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Pakistan: Islamabad High Court also orders FIR against ARY TV for blasphemy against Ahl-e-Bait

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Kasi has ordered the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) about the commission of a cognizable offence against ARY TV for blaspheming Ahl-e-Bait, turning down a decision of the subordinate court.

According to The News, the District Bar Association, Islamabad, has challenged dismissal of their application against the TV channel for blasphemy in the IHC. On Monday, CJ Anwar Kasi accepted the Bar’s application.

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India hangings: Fourth woman dies in Uttar Pradesh

According to BBC, a teenager has been found hanging from a tree in a village in northern India, the fourth woman to die in such a way in recent weeks in Uttar Pradesh state.

A post-mortem confirmed death by hanging, but did not find she was raped as the 19-year-old's family alleged.

A day earlier, another woman's body was found hanging from a tree in the state.

The gang rape and murder of two girls found in similar circumstances last month sparked outrage. Correspondents say more cases are now being reported.

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Vigilante mobs abduct young men in push to identify online secular and atheist activists in Maldives

According to Minivan News, Vigilante mobs have abducted and interrogated several young men in Malé City in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism.

Eyewitnesses told Minivan News the young men were taken to isolated locations in Malé City in separate incidents in recent days.

A vigilante mob interrogated them on the identities of administrators of Facebook groups advocating secularism and atheism in the Maldives.

This incidents are also related to the hijacking of a Facebook group called ‘Colorless’ on Sunday.

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Campaign against #TwitterTheocracy on June 10th 2014

 Twitter has agreed to use its ‘Country Withheld Tool’ to block “blasphemous tweets” in Pakistan, thus becoming complicit in suppressing free speech, and in aiding Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Over the past month, Twitter accounts have been suspended and tweets have been blocked in Pakistan; a Twitter user has recently been jailed in Turkey for a “blasphemous” tweet. In Pakistan and other theocracy-based states, blasphemy laws are key tools used by those in power to actively persecute minorities. We urge Twitter and all other international companies and organizations to uphold human rights-based standards of conduct, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression.

We at Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) are committed to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, pertaining to freedom of expression. Alongside AA, AHA, Black Non-Believers, Camp Quest, CFI, SHJ and other secular allies, we are organizing a day of protest on June 10th to highlight the role Twitter is playing in aiding and promoting anti-freedom, anti-human-rights, theocratic policies.

On June 10th, tweet hashtag #TwitterTheocracy and speak up about how Twitter has chosen to side with theocratic regimes instead of those who are trying to resist those regimes.

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Pregnant Woman Stoned by Family

25-year-old pregnant woman has been stoned to death by her own family members, with her father dubbing the atrocity an “honor killing.”

Farzana Parveen was killed in broad daylight by nearly 20 members of her family before a crowd of onlookers outside the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan.

As she walked up to the court’s main gate with her husband Mohammad Iqbal, relatives waiting for the couple’s arrival fired shots in the air and attempted to snatch her away. When she resisted, the attackers, who included her father, two brothers and her former fiancé, started beating her and her husband, before escalating the attack with bricks obtained from a nearby construction site.

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Twitter Agrees to Block ‘Blasphemous’ Tweets in Pakistan

At least five times this month, a Pakistani bureaucrat who works from a colonial-era barracks in Karachi, just down the street from the former home of his country’s secularist founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, asked Twitter to shield his compatriots from exposure to accounts, tweets or searches of the social network that he described as “blasphemous” or “unethical.”

All five of those requests were honored by the company, meaning that Twitter users in Pakistan can no longer see the content that so disturbed the bureaucrat, Abdul Batin of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority: crude drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, photographs of burning Qurans, and messages from a handful of anti-Islam bloggers and an American porn star who now attends Duke University.

The blocking of these tweets in Pakistan — in line with the country-specific censorship policy Twitter unveiled in 2012 — is the first time the social network has agreed to withhold content there. A number of the accounts seemed to have been blocked in anticipation of the fourth annual “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” on May 20.

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Dismantling an open letter from an American Muslim to Bill Maher

Opinion piece: Dismantling an open letter from an American Muslim to Bill Maher

WRITTEN BY FARAN J, AAI NEWS TEAM

It is no longer a surprise that after a horrible act is committed by violent Muslims, Muslim apologists and their friends on the left deny any link between Islam and the people who hold extremist or violent ideas and who justify their beliefs and actions by quoting Islam and Koran. Even some progressive Muslims are sick of it. Even after almost two decades of global terrorism by Islamic terrorists, we are still arguing whether the cause has anything to do with Islam or not! I came across one such piece in TIME magazine, written by an American Muslim who is addressing Bill Maher and his so called recent "Islamophobic rant" against Islam.

Frankly, Rabia Chaudry's letter to Bill Maher is so absurd that I decided to dismantle it completely. So here goes.

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Uphold secularism, says Catholic Bishops body to National Democratic Alliance

MANGALORE: Congratulating National Democratic Alliance, led by BJP, on its thumping win in the general elections, the top body of Catholic bishops in India hoped that the new government will uphold values and secularism in making India a great nation.

Let the new government led by BJP enable the India of Mahatma Gandhi stand tall among the world nations ensuring protection, security, welfare and sustained development of the people of all sections," Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), said in a statement.

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