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Pakistani troops stand guard after the murder of Punjab's governor Salman Taseer, who criticised the country's blasphemy laws image www.socialselect.net

Pakistani troops stand guard after the murder of Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer, who criticised the country’s blasphemy laws. Photo: AP

​LAHORE, Pakistan: Late one night, the imam Shabir Ahmad looked up from prayers at his mosque to see a 15-year-old boy approaching with a plate in his outstretched left hand. On it was the boy’s freshly severed right hand.

Ahmad did not hesitate. He fled the mosque and left the village, in eastern Punjab province.

Earlier that night, January 10, he had denounced the boy as a blasphemer, an accusation that in Pakistan can get a person killed – even when the accusation is false, as it was in this case.

The boy, Anwar Ali, the devout son of a poor labourer, had been attending an evening prayer gathering at the mosque in the village of Khanqah when Ahmad asked for a show of hands of those who did not love the Prophet Muhammad. Thinking the cleric had asked for those who did love the prophet, Anwar’s hand shot up, according to witnesses and the boy’s family.

He realised his mistake when he saw that his was the only hand up, and he quickly put it down. But by then Ahmad was screaming “Blasphemer!” at him, along with many others in the crowd. “Don’t you love your prophet?” they called, as the boy fled in disgrace.

Anwar went home, found a sharp scythe and chopped off his right hand that same night. When he showed it to the cleric, he made clear it was an offering to absolve his perceived sin.

The police quickly caught the mullah and locked him up, but local religious leaders protested, and the authorities backed down and released him. After the international news media began picking up on the story over the weekend, the authorities rearrested Ahmad on Sunday, holding him on terrorism and other charges.

“There is no physical evidence against the cleric of involvement, but he has been charged for inciting and arousing the emotions of people to such a level that the boy did this act,” the district police chief, Faisal Rana, said.

The boy’s family, however, argues that the cleric did nothing wrong and should not be punished.

“We are lucky that we have this son who loves Prophet Muhammad that much,” Muhammad Ghafoor, Anwar’s father, said in a telephone interview. “We will be rewarded by God for this in the eternal world.”

Anwar, too, declined to make any charge against the mullah. “What I did was for love of the Prophet Muhammad,” he said.

Blasphemy is a toxic subject in Pakistan, where a confusing body of laws has enshrined it as a potentially capital offence but also makes it nearly impossible for the accused to defend themselves in court. Even publicly repeating details of the accusation is tantamount to blasphemy in its own right.

Such cases almost never make it to court, however. The merest accusation that blasphemy has occurred has the power to arouse lynching or mob violence.

The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard in 2011, after Taseer criticised the country’s blasphemy laws and defended a Christian woman who had been falsely accused under them. The assassin is a national hero to many devout Pakistanis: His jail cell has become a pilgrimage site, and a mosque was renamed to honour him.

On Monday, Pakistan lifted a three-year-old ban on YouTube, which it had shut down because of accusations of airing anti-Islamic videos. The government announced that Google, which owns YouTube, had agreed to give it the right to block objectionable content. The Pakistani government blocks thousands of web pages it considers offensive.

“We have become a society so intoxicated by negative things in the name of religion that parents feel proud of sending their children to jihad and to die in the name of such activities,” said I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “The government needs to do more to educate people and to speak out against extremism.”

Anwar Ali did not even go to a hospital after his amputation, but had his right arm’s stump bandaged at a village clinic and went home. Family members buried his hand in the village graveyard.

The New York Times

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Henry Sapiecha

INDIAN GOVERNMENT TAKES STAND AGAINST IT GIANTS

IT IS SENSITIVE ABOUT POSTINGS ON SITES.

GET A GRIP MATE-JOIN THE REAL WORLD

India’s government has authorised the prosecution of 21 internet firms, including Facebook, Yahoo! and Google, in a case over obscene content posted online, sources say.

The approval could lead to company directors being called to a trial court in New Delhi to answer serious charges such as fomenting religious hatred and spreading social discord, an official and a lawyer said.

A criminal case against the web titans was first filed in a lower court by local journalist Vinay Rai, who complained that the sites were responsible for obscene and offensive material posted by users.

He also claimed they had broken laws designed to maintain religious harmony and “national integration” in India.

Rai’s lawyer, Sashi Prakash Tripathi, said: “We had applied for the government’s sanction and the ministry of communication and IT has filed it directly in the metropolitan magistrate’s court.”

The companies targeted have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking to have the lower court’s case against them stayed. The hearing of the petition is to resume on Monday.

The lower court yesterday ordered that summons be served on the 10 foreign-based companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and YouTube.

The government’s sanction to prosecute represents an escalation of a recent tussle between social networks and the government.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal last month pledged a crackdown on “unacceptable” online content and urged social networks to exert more control over their platforms.

He provided examples of religiously-sensitive images and obscene photoshopped pictures of Indian politicians.

Mukul Rohatgi, a lawyer for Google India, told the High Court on Thursday: “No human interference is possible and, moreover, it can’t be feasible to check such incidents.”

The companies will now hope the High Court stays the prosecution, but they received some hostile comments from a presiding judge.

“You must have a stringent check. Otherwise, like in China, we may pass orders banning all such websites,” the Delhi High Court said.

Companies should “develop a mechanism to keep a check and remove offensive and objectionable material from their web pages”, Justice Suresh Kait was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Pope warns of alienation risk

in social networks & virtual friends

Pope Benedict XVI waves to a crowd gathered in Saint Peter's square during his Sunday Angelus blessing at the Vatican January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict XVI waves to a crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s square during his Sunday Angelus blessing at the Vatican January 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY | Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:32am EST

(Reuters) – Pope Benedict gave a qualified blessing to social networking Monday, praising its potential but warning that online friendships are no substitute for actual human contact.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who does not have his own Facebook account, set out his views in a message with a weighty title that would easily fit into a tweet: “Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age.”

He said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered “a great opportunity,” but warned of the risks of depersonalization, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones.

“It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives,” Benedict said in the message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Communications.

He urged users of social networks to ask themselves “Who is my ‘neighbor’ in this new world?” and avoid the danger of always being available online but being “less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life.”

The vast horizons of new media “urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age,” he said.

The pope did not mention any specific social networking site or application by name, but sprinkled his message with terms such as “sharing,” “friends,” and “profiles.”

He said social networking can help “dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations” but he also offered a list of warnings.

“Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world,” he said.

“In the search for sharing, for ‘friends’, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.”

The pope is known to write most of his speeches by hand while his aides manage his forays into cyberspace. In 2009, a new Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, went live, offering an application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the Pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

The Vatican famously got egg on its face in 2009 when it was forced to admit that, if it had surfed the web more, it might have known that a traditionalist bishop whose excommunication was lifted had for years been a Holocaust denier.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha