Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani court ordered the government Wednesday to block the popular social networking website Facebook temporarily because of a page that encourages users to submit images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, an official said.

The page has generated criticism in Pakistan and elsewhere because many Muslims consider images of the prophet, even favorable ones, to be blasphemous. A series of cartoons of the prophet published in a Danish newspaper in 2005 sparked violent protests and death threats against the cartoonists.

The Facebook page “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” encourages users to submit images of the prophet on May 20 to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group against the creators of “South Park” for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year.

“We are not trying to slander the average Muslim,” said the information section of the Facebook page, which was still accessible Wednesday morning. “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 into silence.”

The Pakistani government ordered Internet service providers in the country to block the page Tuesday, said Khurram Ali, a spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

But a group of Islamic lawyers asked the Lahore High Court on Wednesday to order the government to fully block Facebook because it had allowed the page to be posted, said the deputy attorney general of Punjab province, Naveed Inayat Malik.

The court complied with the request by the Islamic Lawyers’ Forum and ordered the government to block Facebook until May 31, Mr. Malik said. Lawyers outside the courtroom hailed the ruling, chanting “Down with Facebook.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Facebook page had been blocked, but the site itself was still functioning.

Naguib Malik, secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology, said he has instructed the telecommunications authority to implement the court ruling. It will now order Internet service providers to block the site, he said.

Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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