(May 21, 2010) Based on a petition lodged by the Islamic Lawyers' Movement (ILM), Judge Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court in Pakistan issued a court order mandating that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) block access to the Facebook website until May 31, 2010, the date on which a hearing is scheduled, and that the PTA submit a written reply to the petition by that date. The petition was filed in response to a competition – Everybody Draw Mohammad Day, set to last from April 20 through May 20 – held by Facebook to create caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. (Pakistani Court Orders Facebook Blocked in Prophet Row, BBC NEWS, May 19, 2010, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8691406.stm.) The court deemed the contest “blasphemous.” (Pakistan Court Orders Blocking of Facebook over Muhammad Cartoon, TIMES ONLINE, May 20, 2010, available at http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article7130527
The lawyer-petitioner representing the ILM stated that “[a]rticle 2-A of the Constitution restricted any practice against the religion in the country,” that websites “having various features against the injunctions of Islam had already been banned in various Islamic countries,” and that “China, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Saudi Arabia had already imposed a ban on the website [Facebook].” (Notice to PTA in Facebook Ban Case, DAWN.COM, May 19, 2010, available at http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspa
per/local/lahore/notice-to-pta-in-facebook-ban-case-950 .) Article 2A, which incorporates “The Objectives Resolution” into the Constitution, states, among other stipulations:
Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed;
Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah; … . (Annex [Article 2(A)], The Objectives Resolution, Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/annex_objres.html (last visited May 20, 2010) (unofficial source).)
Article 2 of the Constitution states that “Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan.” (Id.)
In accordance with the court order, the PTA “directed all concerned operators in Pakistan” to block the website www.facebook.com until further notice. It also gave out a toll-free number and email address by means of which the public was requested to notify the PTA of “all similar URLs where such objectionable material is found.” (Waqar Hussain, Pakistan Blocks Facebook over Mohammed Cartoon, YAHOO! NEWS, May 19, 2010, available at http://news.
The Facebook page advertising the contest was purportedly started by a Seattle cartoonist, who had drawn a cartoon in April 2010 and satirically proposed May 20 as an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” in protest against a U.S. television channel's decision to cancel an episode of the show “South Park” because of its controversial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the cartoonist's proposal apparently inspired a separate group to create the Facebook competition page, containing drawings and cartoons of the Prophet (any depictions of whom are forbidden in Islam) as well as of figures from other religions. The cartoonist has stated that even though her name was posted on the contest page, now no longer viewable, she had nothing to do with it. Apologizing for the role she played in the controversy, she called the page's content “offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place.” (US Cartoonist Apologises over Facebook Muhammad Row, BBC NEWS, May 21, 2010, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/south_asia/10136576.stm.)