A Pakistani court has blocked Facebook amid a growing row over a competition on the social networking website to design cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
By Rob Crilly in Islamabad
Plans for the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” contest drew an angry reaction, provoking street demonstrations in the Muslim majority country.
On Wednesday, Lahore High Court responded to a petition by the Muslim Lawyers Movement, ordering Pakistan’s internet regulator to block the entire site.
Users lost access to Facebook about two hours later.
Rai Bashir, a lawyer involved in the case, said the site was blasphemous.
“There are so many insults to the Prophet on the internet and that’s why we felt we had to bring this case,” he said.
“All Muslims in Pakistan and the world will be supporting us.”
It is widely considered offensive to visually depict the Muslim prophet. The Koran does not explicitly forbid images of Mohammed, but a number of hadith, or interpretations of the Islamic holy book, forbid figural representations.
The court in Lahore ordered Facebook to be blocked until May 31 – after the date of the contest – when a longer hearing is expected.
The contest was based on an idea by Seattle-based artist Molly Norris, who posted a cartoon on her website of a chair, cotton reel, cherry and other items each claiming to be Mohammed.
However, she said her idea was only ever a spoof. It was meant as a protest against censorship of the television show South Park, she said. The US cartoon recently featured the Muslim prophet dressed in a bear suit.
She added that she was horrified that her satire had been turned into a Facebook competition.
It is not the first time Pakistanis have reacted angrily to depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in 2006 when cartoons, which had originally been published in a Danish newspaper, were reprinted around the world.
Five people died when the demonstrations turned violent.
Lawyers for the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority had argued that only the offending page be removed, but Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry ordered the whole social networking site to be barred on Wednesday.