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News » International

Pakistan, Bangladesh block YouTube

Fears that 'blasphemous' clip will cause more unrest

Pakistan, Bangladesh block YouTube reporters, Lahore and Dhaka International

September 18, 2012

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Access to video-sharing website YouTube has been blocked in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. Leaders of both countries have taken the action to prevent further viewings of the anti-Islamic film The Innocence of Muslims which has sparked violent protests throughout the Muslim world. Google, the owner of YouTube, says the offending clip is within its community guidelines but it has voluntarily blocked access to it in Egypt and Libya, due to the sensitive situations there. The governments of Afghanistan, India, Indonesia and Malaysia have joined in the ban by either asking Google to suspend the service or by blocking it of their own accord. In Pakistan, a statement from Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the service would remain suspended pending the removal of the "blasphemous" material, which it said “would not be tolerated." Clerics have hailed the move. “It was the right response. Such sites are contributing to communal disharmony,” said Moulana Abdul Khabeer Azad of Badshahi Mosque, the fifth largest mosque in the world. However, human rights defenders are urging a prompt restoration of access to the site. “It is unfortunate that government has become a hostage to the demands of clerics," said Saeeda Deep, founder of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies. "We condemn the sacrilegious movie but disagree with blockage of information which can hurt students as well as educated segments of society. This will only result in a bad name for a country already facing loneliness in the international community." Deep expressed the view that “top religious leaderships should make reforms to teach more tolerance in society," and added that  "God can handle His honor." Mehboob Ahmad Khan, coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's Punjab province, predicted that “this ban will not last more than a week; they will remove the objectionable content.” Earlier this year, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority barred access to Twitter for 12 hours after the micro-blogging site refused to remove posts promoting a competition seen as anti-Islamic. In 2010, the government blocked Facebook for hosting an Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. In Bangladesh the ban was imposed late yesterday after a government order was issued to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.  A director of the Commission told that a letter was sent to Google on Sunday, asking for the clip to be withdrawn, but there had been no response. The director added that “the restriction is a precautionary measure to stop any possible unrest and violence.” He declined to comment on how long it would remain in force. The decision was prompted by demonstrations in Dhaka and elsewhere, with protesters rallying, trying to block entry to the US embassy and burning US flags. Reactions to the ban have been mixed. “It’s a good decision,” said one university student. However, a fellow student pointed out that “if Muslims get furious about the film, they are in fact making the ill-motivated film maker successful. Moreover, by blocking YouTube, the government has surrendered to the will of the extreme forces of Islam.” Mokbul Ahmed, acting chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic theocratic party, said: “the filmmaker ... has tried to destroy inter-faith harmony and peace in the world.” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also condemned Innocence of Muslims and called on the US government to take punitive measures against its makers. “No Muslim can tolerate the insults. We don’t tolerate them either,” she said. Related reports Mohammed film protests turn violent Church condemns 'blasphemous' movie
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