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Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:01:36 AM, Fatima Sidiya

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Jeddah: Muslims across the world have expressed their outrage at a Facebook group and website marking May 20 as “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”

The Facebook page encourages users to post images of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on Thursday to protest threats against the creators of “South Park” for an offensive depiction of the Last Prophet during an episode earlier this year.

A US cartoonist, Molly Norris, designated the day to show support to the animated American sitcom. Norris, however, later regretted her action and said in an interview that she is against it “becoming a reality.”

Her idea has also created conflict between Facebook users who stand on two extremes: One defending the right to freedom of speech against others, mainly Muslims, calling for the page to be closed and the drawings stopped. The group has over 43,000 members who share offending cartoons and videos. Muslims on the other hand have created counter groups in which they are calling for the anti-Islamic group’s closure. One Facebook group, “Against ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,’” has already attracted over 60,000 members. There are also other groups with fewer members, which have called on members to boycott Facebook on Thursday and asked the site’s owners to remove all anti-Islamic material.

Several Facebook users contacted by Arab News said they would not use Facebook on Thursday. “Facebook always blocks groups or pages that hurt a religion or a section of people. But over the issue of offensive drawings, the website has chosen to encourage it. Therefore my friends and I have decided to boycott the website on Thursday and later deactivate our accounts. This is the least we can do to safeguard the honor of our beloved Prophet,” said Shuja-ul-Haq Siddiqui, a resident of Jeddah.

Saudi scholar Ghasssam Al-Ghain said Muslims should ignore such issues and focus on showing the world Islam in its true spirit, something that he said is not happening nowadays. “To market Islam we should apply the ethics we have learned and keep everything clean and pure,” he said, adding that young Muslims should fight back by presenting a positive image of their countries, religion and Prophet. “Let the youth at least invest in and invent products that can keep us away from relying on their societies. Rather than focusing on wearing low-cut pants and showing their underwear in public, be men and useful members of society,” he said. Al-Ghain said boycotts are useless as they could lead Western countries to stop selling important products, such as medicine and hospital equipment, to Muslim countries. “People who call for boycotts think childishly,” he said.

Al-Ghain said cartoons depicting the Prophet in an offending manner cannot harm him. He added that a person who defames the Prophet is “just like a man who throws a handful of sand toward the sun just to find the sand falling over his own head.”

The Kingdom’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) failed to respond to an Arab News’ query whether they would block Facebook or the website marking the day.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s government ordered the country’s Internet service providers to block Facebook temporarily amid anger over the page. The government took action after a group of lawyers won a court order on Wednesday requiring officials to block Facebook until May 31. By Wednesday evening, access to the site was sporadic, apparently because Internet providers were implementing the order. In the southern city of Karachi, about 2,000 female students held a rally demanding Facebook be banned for tolerating the page. Several dozen students held a rally nearby.

“We are not trying to slander the average Muslim,” said the information section of the Facebook page, which was still accessible on Wednesday morning. “We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions that we’re not afraid of them. That they can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us into silence.”


Courtesy: Arab News



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