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Church welcomes walkback on SMS ban

Authorities agree to delay ban on 'obscene' words after criticism

The name Jesus Christ was among a list of words considered obscene by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority The name Jesus Christ was among a list of words considered obscene by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority
  • ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
  • Pakistan
  • November 25, 2011
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Church officials have expressed relief over a decision by the government not to include Jesus Christ among a list of obscene words to be banned from text messages.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) decided this week to delay a proposed ban on 1,695 English and Urdu words deemed to be obscene, a list of which words was issued last week, among them the name Jesus Christ.

“[The PTA] was under immense pressure and now denies any involvement in the selection [of the words]. The blow to religious freedom has now been averted,” said Bishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore archdiocese.

Christian politicians, clergy and some Muslim clerics had condemned the move as a blow to interfaith harmony.

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization, further issued letters of complaint to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, the communications minister and the PTA chairman.

“The list forwarded to cellular mobile telephony operators is tentative and under review. PTA has asked them for their suggestions as well. Your point is considered and rectified in the revised list,” Ahmed Shamim Pirzada, director of PTA, wrote in an email response to the CSF letter.

All mobile operators have already rejected orders to filter words out of fears the procedures would lead to a slow-down of data traffic, as the keywords are widely used in normal communication.

Father James Channan, regional coordinator of the United Religions Initiative, said he hoped the initiative to ban the name Jesus Christ and other suggested words would not be repeated.

“Christ is among four major prophets in Islam. I was surprised to see this mockery. The government should be more sensible in dealing with religious matters, which have serious implications for locals in our region [who are] starving for peace.”

He added: “Pulling out words from mobile [texts], dictionaries or cyberspace won’t help impose morality. It is largely linked to the intention behind using them.”

Pakistan ranks fifth in the world for the number of SMS messages sent within the country. Media reports have said that more than 800 million text messages are exchanged in Pakistan each day.
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