Facebook saga: Dilemma of Urban Middle Class

We are posting this piece in the ongoing debate on Facebook ban. PTH does not necessarily agree with the views expressed here. Raza Rumi

On Wednesday 19th May 2010, the Lahore High Court, famous for acting as a “moral brigade” rather than judiciary, once again passed a strange order to ban Facebook across Pakistan on a petition of Muslim Lawyers Forum. The demand for blocking of the social media site came after it refused to remove certain pages displaying Prophet Muhammad’s cartoons.

This order was passed against the request of the government and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority that controversial pages of Facebook were already being blocked and there was no reason to block entire social media website which has over 2 million Pakistani users.

Few months back Lahore High Court took suo-moto notice of album of a popular female singer and declared her songs to be ‘vulgar’. This was followed by Chief Justice Lahore High Court’s remarks that Hindus were financing the terrorism in Pakistan which attracted protests from Hindu minority of Pakistan. This mixing of religion in to matters of state is opposite to the judgment of the Bangladesh’s Supreme Court which imposed ban on religious parties to take part in politics.

The court order to ban entire social media site is not only unreasonable but amounts to restrict the freedom of expression of which judiciary is a guardian. It also reflects the mindset and strong inclination of present superior judiciary towards right wing religious fundamentalist groups which can easily get ‘desired justice’.

JI, a religious fanatic group which is strong supporter of present judiciary and was successful to get its members recruited in superior judiciary after restoration of Chief Justice is organizing the protests to ban all ‘Western Infidel’ websites including Facebook,Google, YouTube and Twitter etc. The wish for a ‘stone age’ as termed by Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, a youth leader. The Islamic Lawyer forum which filed the petition to block Facebook itself is a lawyers wing of JI fanatics.

The most interesting fall out of the court order is the strong reaction of Pakistani urban middle class youth, which widely uses Facebook for social interaction. The same youth was the most active supporter of movement for restoration of present judiciary. They are demanding from the government to immediately lift the blockage of Facebook website.

One of the protesters and an active blogger/civil society activist Dr. Awab Alvi writes ; “As members of civil society and professionals who depend on social media networks for our daily communications, we demand the immediate restoration of Facebook and an end to Internet censorship by the Government of Pakistan”.

But if government does lifts the ban on this demands, it will be disobeying the court orders.

Should not it be a protest against judiciary instead which has allied itself with religious fanatics and is acting as ‘Moral Brigade’ rather than an institution to dispense justice?

Historically religious groups in Pakistan have been providing support to military dictators and been associated with intelligence agencies to bring down the elected governments. After removal of Pervez Musharaf, the military establishment decided not to interfere directly in political issues. Certain sections of establishment and religious groups which are eager to remove present regime have associated themselves with judiciary.

Many critics blame that Lawyers movement which was initiated by lawyers and civil society was later hijacked by PMLN, PTI and JI and judiciary is under strong influence of right wing fundamentalist groups. The recent recruitments in superior judiciary are also being criticized as being from a certain ‘mind set’ and comprise of judges from certain political and religious parties.

As the conflict between PPP government and Judiciary is becoming intense, the judiciary is gathering the support of religious groups. Recently Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the former head of JI announced to get SC judgments implemented through ‘street power’. Yeah, now judiciary needs religious goons to get its orders implemented – though no suo-moto by good Chief Justice asking Mr. Qazi that who appointed him the ‘bailiff’ of SC!

In order to retain the support of religious fundamentalist groups, judiciary would have to deliver more judgments like ban on Facebook as per fanatics demands. This seems to be just the beaning as the demands of religious fanatics would not anything less than turning Pakistani society in to Taliban style Emirates.

As Supreme Court declared in its recent judgment to be custodian of imaginary ‘basic features’ of constitution of Pakistan and judging the righteousness of elected representatives, closer cooperation between fundamentalist and judiciary is inevitable. The top leaders of lawyer’s movement like Ali Ahmad Kurd are openly confessing that this is not the judiciary for what we struggled.

But where do the Urban middle class youth, which worked tirelessly for restoration of judiciary fits in this whole set up? Would they be able to digest the fanatic’s demands? They do not want to loose the freedom of expression and reject the ban on Facebook. They do not want court of Qazi to ban their favorite singer but they are demanding from government to lift the blockage of social media site.

Protesting against government while the ban is ordered by a ‘holly lordship’ of Lahore High Court is sign of their confusion.

In fact they are still unable to accept the fact that Lawyers movement was hijacked by right wing fundamentalist groups and present judiciary is composed of and an ally of religious fanatics. The fact they should have been realized when Supreme Court slept over the so called ‘Missing Persons’ issue, 12th May probe and countless other slogans raised during lawyers movements.

The only hope which still keeps them away from straight away protesting against ‘moral policing’ of judiciary and its partial judgments and instead make the government a scapegoat is that one day judiciary will boot “evil” Zardari out from his office. But what they are unable to understand is that it wont be possible unless a strong alliance of religious fanatics is there to support judiciary. As has been a custom when we underwent the military dictatorship – judicial dictatorship wont work differently.

What will be the cost of that alliance doesn’t need Einstein to figure out – and that is civil society itself. More influence of religious fanatics will hurt these urban middle class youth, who are not willing to compromise on their liberties but confused and unable to face the reality.

Can the civil society and urban middle class youth be part of the Mullah-Judiciary alliance against PPP government? They must ask themselves. It is up to them to decide whether they want an other repeat of notorious Ziaist era when general associated religious fanatics in power game. The Mullah-Judiciary alliance is going to be much more disastrous for civil society than what we have experienced in past.

14 Comments

Filed under Islam, Islamism, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, liberal Pakistan, Pakistan, Politics, Religion, Rights, violence

14 responses to “Facebook saga: Dilemma of Urban Middle Class

  1. Mustafa Shaban

    I understand the anger. We should condemn the drawin of Prophet Muhammed SAWW. But this is not the way. In the pre islamic age the Quraish would boycott a tribe when they had a fight between them. They did this to the Prophet SAWW as well. The Prophet SAWW condemned this practise and said that trade should never stop with the enemy. There are other ways to fight.

    By the way, not everybody who is offended and is boycotting facebook is an islamic fanatic. Some people are just offended and hurt. We cant talk about the holocaust in the West, doesnt mean they are Christian or Jewish fanatics. But again boycotting is not the right way to protest. Facebook and Youtube are important for networking and coordination and can be used to promote peace and understanding and help avoid such problems in future. So we shouldnt ban facebook and youtube.

  2. Hayyer

    Everyone has some sort of hangup, not excluding their lordships.One of the dangers of untrammeled judiciary power is arbitrary assertions of executive authority. The three branches of government must keep to their assigned spheres or there will be chaos. These suo moto interventions by the judiciary (or on the request of unelected citizens) must be avoided. I am sure Pakistan’s constitution provides for the executive to refer complex issues to the courts for pronouncement. Why should the judiciary seek to preempt the executive in routine administrative tasks?

  3. kashifiat

    Totally Disagree.

    Since last one weak Muslims, protesting in peaceful way by using “Report” Option on FB, but FB administration criminally ignored & violet their own terms & conditions & policies. Its deliberate effort, so its our responsibility to raise voice & reflects our sentiments in peaceful manner, which we done by convincing other Muslims for boycott , which is very much welcome across the board. This is not at all the issue of one URL, whole FB administration is culprit.

    Lahore High Court verdict is landmark achievement in this struggle, I fully support this decision. It should be ban in Pakistan for certain time, this action will convey the message to all devilish mindsets that Muslims can’t tolerate any insult of any Prophet including Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH).

    Sorry Sir ! I can’t buy the idea of “civil liberties and the free and unfettered exchange of ideas and information. “. Blasphemy can’t be a civil liberty.& Blasphemy can’t be consider as exchange of idea

    I have around 700 close contacts at FB & after shutting down of FB, I am missing nothing in my life. These all are illusions, hallucinations & delusions of our narrow approach.You Liberal fascist and fanatic vocal minority can’t have capability to hijack Pakistani Islamic Identity and Ideology. You liberal fanatics belongs to 2% elite class which are not the true representative of Pakistan. You don’t consider Islam as system, as a way of life but unfortunately people like u and other extremist fascists liberals are sitting on media nerves and misguiding people but be clear u will face an absolute strong resistance from Muslim youth of Pakistan.

    Since, yesterday I didn’t met a single person who has any objection on court verdict. These issues raised in Pakistaniat by Adil Najam (who has liberal mindset).Awab Alvi, Miss Saba Imtiaz of Express Tribune & some like these folks of so called Liberal Clan.

    Be Clear – This is not the Urban Phenomenon of middle class, this phenomenon of upper class and upper middle highly educated class also, who love Islam and Pakistan and can’t tolerate attack on our belief systems.

    I am proud of Islamic Lawyers forums petition. They took the correct step in right direction and took the proper initiative to blocked that culprit service in a peaceful legal way.

    Mustafa, Meray bhai ! there is no if and buts in Islam, You need to read about Nabi’s action against Kaab Bin Ashraf. Islam is running like a blood in this nation veins. No liberal mindset can change this blood. Alhamdullilah Pakistani Youth proved themselves as a leader of Muslim Ummah.

    Ishq needs sacrifices, don’t use Logic here, Ishq is above than any logic. & Isq-e-Mohammad (PBUH) is above them all.

  4. yasserlatifhamdani

    Well written …

    I think the Urban Middle Class is shooting itself in the foot.

  5. Zia Ahmad

    Mohtaram Maulana Kashifiaat Saab!
    “Since, yesterday I didn’t met a single person who has any objection on court verdict.”

    Pardon me for being cheeky, but let me get this straight. You havnt gotten out of your room since yesterday?

    Btw, it’s didn’t meet, not didn’t met. I know I know, English is not our language so save that line of argument.

    Another thing. “You liberal fanatics belongs to 2% elite class which are not the true representative of Pakistan.”
    Hazrat, let me assure you the “liberal fanatics” may number less than your regiment of religious fanatics but are certainly and considerably more than 2%. And I hate to break this to you your ilk also fails to be true representative of Pakistan and just so you know there are way more “liberal fanatics” from the middle classes. A significant chunk of the elites, as you may have heard, was hijacked by senor Zaid Hamid

  6. Laila Isphandyar

    I am glad the LHC has taken this decision. Other countries in the past 2 years have repeatedly banned the FB & YouTUbe include China,Turkey,Pakistan (Feb 2008),Syria,Vietnam to name a few.
    Every country has a right to its religous sensitivities . Those who support this have forgotton that sketches of NO Prophets are allowed by Islam.
    Laila

  7. msm

    Freedom of expression is respectable and must be respected. But then nobody has the right of hurting other peoples feelings. I invite the opponents of ban on face book to just try to express their view on holocaust in westren countries and see the reaction. I many countries to express doubts about holocaust is punishable with prison term. Where goes the freedom of expression there?

  8. zeenix

    I don’t see whats the fuss about. Banning a website because its posting stuff which is hurting the feelings of a billion plus people around the globe. Aren’t many European countries having Nazi laws. There is no doubting the fact that this competition is held to deliberately inflame the feelings of the muslim community. It is meant for this. Were it some work of academic value, it could be argued that there should be an academic response, however one fails to see its academic worth.

  9. Anonymous

    The problem with the protest and the protesters is that they are imposing their views on others. If you do not want to draw your prophet, then just don’t draw. You have no right to ask others to not to draw. Going by your argument, if I am a vegetarian, then looks like I should ask everyone else to stop eating meat.

    Banning black berries and networking sites is in no way going to help you or your prophet. It will only help others realize how ridiculous your views are. If you want to go back to stone age, the world is more than happy to let you do that. But, I don’t see any reason for why you would want to do that.

    [PS: By “you”, I refer to the people who support the ban]

  10. Ishq leads to Demagogues not to practice…

  11. zeenix

    @Anonymous

    If it is perfectly all right for some people to go ahead with the exercise, by the same yardstick shouldn’t people be allowed to protest against it. Why would the world have a problem if people are protesting (peacefully) against an act of a group of individuals on an issue effecting them deeply.

  12. Anonymous

    @zeenix

    I have no issues with people protesting. (At least here people are resorting to peaceful legal measures instead of resorting to violence like the ones in Denmark and Netherlands.) My main point is people will have different opinions. Just because you (NOT necessarily you, I mean the protesters) believe in something does NOT mean that others will also follow it. Learn to live with this fact.

    By the way, you haven’t replied to my question. If I am a vegetarian, should I expect everyone else to stop eating meat ? By the way, no one is forcing you to see your prophet’s picture. If you don’t like it, just walk away.