Sunday, March 12, 2006

ANATOMY OF A PROTEST

I think I have delayed writing about this subject long enough; even procrastination is beginning to think I am over doing it with the 'laziness' bit. So here is how it all happened….

Flashback (Swirly visual effects accompanied by 'doo roo roo roo' sound-fxs)

It was the winter of my discontent, and I was enjoying my evening constitution of sulking about the house, playing with my favourite piece of string, when I was interrupted by an email from the South Asia Editor of Global Voices Online. It said, " Pay attention, I shall write this only once. Are you aware that blogspot.com blogs cannot be viewed in Pakistan? I want you to contact your sources in Pakistan, and find out why. Now drop your piece of string and get to work! This email will self destruct in 2 seconds." No, wait! I am still in the middle of reading your ema..BANG!

I quickly sprung in to action; took a shower, made myself a sandwich, went shopping and trimmed the hedges. Then I realized I forgot to email my contacts. "Oh fudge!" I expeditiously sent out a message to my blogger group: "BLOGSPOT.COM BLOGS NOT VIEWABLE IN PAKISTAN [STOP] CAN YOU CONFIRM [STOP] MUST FIND OUT THE REAL REASON FOR THE BLOCK SO DON’T [STOP] UNTIL YOU FIND OUT THE CAUSE [STOP]"

Over the next 24 hours, I received several reasons for the blockade, which are listed as follows:
-Bush visit to Pakistan
-Blogger.com suffering from technical glitch
-Martians taking over cyber space
-Controversial cartoons considered blasphemous are being blocked by the Pakistan authorities and a blanket ban has been applied to the blogspot.com domain by the ISPs who are in fear of being prosecuted by the government for not abiding by the regulations set by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).

Needless to say, all were likely possibilities for the ban except for one. The 'cartoon controversy' sounded totally ridiculous!

The news finally hit a few news sites (and the Martians were lambasted for the screw up). I was deeply upset by this unfair ban. The massively large number of Pakistani fans of my blog were inconsolable, as they could not view my site. Yes, both of them were grief-stricken (and still remain in mourning).

I had to do something and quick, to protest this injustice. So I went out for dinner with my wife. Upon my return, I contacted an old blogger compadre, Dr. Awab (of the Teeth Maestro fame) and we mutually, synchronistically and surreptitiously decided to launch the DON’T BLOCK THE BLOG campaign.

With our campaign page propped up within nano-seconds, we (Awab and I) hit the internet highway in my trusted rickhaw (with a nameplate that says, 'BLOCK THIS!').

Within a course of the next 48 hours, 23 minutes and 8.6 seconds we had spread the word about the ban far and wide (within a cyber parameter of an eight mile radius). As a result, our efforts were covered by main, alternative and obscure stream news sites (the links to those news items can be found on the campaign page – plug, plug).

So far the blanket ban on blogspot.com web logs has not been lifted but I continue to fight for the cause I believe in – the freedom of blogs from Martian attacks.

-------------
(On a serious) Note:

So far, I've kept silent about my own personal opinions about the free speech issue and have let the DONT BLOCK THE BLOG campaign speak for itself. But I believe it is time to set the record straight as to my point of view.

The controversial cartoons in questions are offensive. In Pakistan, as in many other (Muslim) countries they qualify as blasphemous, so no big surprise there.

These cartoons to me as a Muslim are offensive and various other disagreeable adjectives but I never asked for them to be banned. It would be extremely naïve and juvenile to believe that purpose of the re-printing of these cartoons was only an exercise in the 'freedom of speech'. These distasteful caricatures were meant to incite hatred, fear or derision of a specific religion and were specifically printed and re-printed for that purpose, considering the current global political climate.

I also believe that the resulting protests against these cartoons went way beyond insanity. It became a field day for nutters and political party morons to exploit the issue, and go on rampage; burning effigies and breaking windows which inturn led to riots that resulted in the burning of buildings and the murder of innocent people.

The recent ban on blogspot.com blogs is unfair because it is a blanket ban. Because of a few offensive sites, the authorities in Pakistan have blocked out so many other blogs that were actually protesting the cartoons. By that logic, the authorities could block the entire net because they are blasphemous writings and illustration on multiple web sites through out the internet.

I am a realist, and I realize that it is very unlikely that the government is going to lift the ban on the offensive sites that are considered blasphemous. And let me be honest here, I don't give a jot about the banned sites (listed on the PTA letter)…just couldn't be buggered because they serve no other purpose than highlighting a racist point of view. I qualify them in the same group as a KKK web site, no matter how much they cover themselves under the 'freedom of speech' blanket. Any web site or blog that ridicules a religion or a race of people gets my vote for 'lower than bug excrement'.

For those who believe that I should be fighting for the 12 banned sites listed on the PTA letter I say I would rather concentrate my efforts towards unblocking the millions of blogspot.com blogs that aren't on the list. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you start your own campaign to fight for the 12 banned sites, and please be sure to include the freedom of speech of all holocaust revisionists , all KKK/white supremacist web sites, along with all the sites promoting Al Qaeda drivel. Got that?!

(The views expressed above are my own and do not reflect those of my co-founder of DON’T BLOCK THE BLOG campaign, Dr. Awab Alvi).

6 Comments:

Blogger EXSENO said...

Ah yes, Martians, now why didn't I think of that.lol

Good for you,very nice post.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Teeth Maestro said...

Omer - I too would push for free speech, but at the same time would like poeple to respect other peoples religion. Free Speech is a slogan that should be governed by gentlmanly conduct. It should not be used as a license to trample on normal human principles

2:56 PM  
Blogger EXSENO said...

I agree with that totally, but free speech and religion should be able to co-exsist if people would only consider each others feelings and respect them.
I don't think that people should argue or make fun of what other people believe in. I think every individual has a right to their own beliefs without ridicule.
Religion is a very personal thing for each person, I don't think a person needs to understand another persons religion, (but I think it would help) but I do think a little respect goes a long way. To bad there are some people that don't feel that way, it would be a much better world for us all.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omer wrote:

“the 'freedom of speech' blanket”

“I suggest you start your own campaign to fight for the 12 banned sites, and please be sure to include the freedom of speech of all holocaust revisionists , all KKK/white supremacist web sites, along with all the sites promoting Al Qaeda drivel. Got that?!”

Okay- now for my thoughts on this subject, which of course are going to include more than just blocking blogs in pakistan.

Nic wrote back:

Political freedom is the absence of political restraints, particularly with respect to speech, religious practice, and the press
Freedom of choice, i.e. is free will.
Freedom of speech is similar to freedom of information, but refers to a general lack of such restrictions (on the creation, use, modification and dissemination of ideas) in a society by the government or those that hold power in that society
Freedom of thought is also known as freedom of conscience and refers to the right of an individual to hold a particular thought, belief or viewpoint regardless of those held by others.

I am not speaking with sheltered eyes- I lived in the Middle East as a freelance Journalist for about 15 years- as well as Russia- Germany- and England. I currently reside in Southern California. Censorship in my own personal book:

“Those Who Forget the Lessons of History Are Doomed To Repeat It”
Take for instance “Mein Kampf makes clear Hitler's racist worldview, dividing up humans based on ancestry. Hitler stated that German "Aryans" were at the top of the hierarchy, and assigned the bottom of the order to Jews and Gypsies. Hitler went on to say that dominated peoples benefit by learning from the superior Aryans. Hitler further claimed that the Jews were conspiring to keep this "master race" from rightfully ruling the world, by diluting its racial and cultural purity and by convincing the Aryans to believe in equality rather than superiority and inferiority. He described the struggle for world domination as an ongoing racial, cultural, and political battle between Aryans and Jews.”
I am Jewish and I do NOT think this book should be censored or forbin from anyone- because it can also be used a tool to teach history. OR we “Are Doomed To Repeat It”
As far as the KKK goes I too feel that they should have their right to own and operate their web sites- spread their words- and if those words should touch someone in an offensive way- then freedom has done its job. If they want to run around wearing little white pointy hats and spread their ignorant rants let’em. -freedom only provokes communication between the masses.

As for the 12 banned sites that have been halted on the Pakistani information highway- personally I feel that that is a shame.

Unfortunately the American media has caved and we as Americans who consider ourselves well educated and with open eyes- have to search out the truth these days. FOX, MSNBC and yes- even CNN have become the puppets for the current administration. We must be our own political pundits.

Nic

12:13 AM  
Blogger the olive ream said...

EXSENO, Teeth Maestro and Nic,
Thank you for your comments and I am in agreement with all of you.

I have never encouraged or preferred a ban on any site, no matter how revolting or useless. But what I cannot pretend to do is to care for sites that promote hatred or biases towards another race or religion. If that makes me politically incorrect or uncool with the 'free speech' enthusiasts, I couldn't be buggered.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Zakintosh said...

Heinrich Heine said it all, when commenting on a similar context: "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings."

3:09 PM  

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