Pakistan’s Flawed Digital Media Strategy

With the recent formation of the PML (N) government the issue of banned social media websites specifically YouTube has once again came to the lime-light. YouTube was banned back in September, 2012 when a blasphemous video titled “Innocents of Muslims” was uploaded on it, and whole Muslim world showed strong reaction towards it. Protests were held around the world, some of the protests also resulted in violent incidents. In Karachi alone 23 people ended up dead when the situation went out of hand. Whereas, in Peshawar, five people including a policeman were killed. Eight cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar, many banks and shops and a church in Mardan were attacked by the protestors resulting in closure of main cities and losses of business and property worth billions of Rupees.

Although some of us were saddened but no one probably cried except for the mothers, fathers, daughters and sisters of the poor people whose name didn’t make it to the headlines but they were brushed of as dead by violence-no one was held responsible for the carnage. If you Google, not even the names of people who died will show up today nor it did on the day it happened-it was just a number.

Across the continent in Libya where the law of the land was as weak, the protestors attacked American Consulate and beat US Ambassador to death- a father, husband and a son. His father said on CNN a few days after “A few dozen fanatics penetrated his compound but more than 30,000 people in Benghazi demonstrated in protest over his death”. While, his death may have made it to the headlines being a US citizen and he may have been from a different religion & sect but that day one thing happened that was common to both deaths that humanity got buried which all religion so dearly preaches. Their also seems to be a good nexus between the two i.e. those who commit henious crime of uploading such blasphemous content and those who kill in the name of religon. These actions serves both sides well whereas we all sit & suffer.

Google is said to be working in 49 countries under their laws. In India, Egypt, Indonesia and these countries all the objectionable content has been blocked by Google but in Pakistan YouTube was straight away banned and even after 10 months nothing much has been achieved by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of IT & Telecom to address this issue.
Another serious problem that has raised due to the blockage of YouTube now is that many of us have found ways to unblock YouTube and other thousands of blocked porn sites using different proxies that are causing data breach and identity theft. It is a common knowledge that proxy usage is one of the major reasons behind all cybercrimes.
Newly elected Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Anushay Rehman has said that “we are looking for a solution”. The Minister while talking to a press conference said that government will do all its efforts to bring YouTube but only after the blasphemous content is removed. She also hinted that government can consider banning Google in the country if Pakistan’s requests aren’t entertained by the Google- well thinking it is not there doesn’t make it disappear.
The important point to consider is that whether this is the only way to solve this issue..?? Perhaps, we need to rethink, specially our political leaders who have a very heavy responsibility to act and show us the right direction. They should rather lead us to a more balance and concentrated approach and instead of turning away from the problem should face the challenge and lead us all the way.
The first lesson is if you want others to respect your religion let them know what it really means instead

of engaging in violent activities or turning away completely. Killing your own people and burning down the houses of your fellow country mates did no favor to our religious cause. Someone has uploaded Part-2 of the same movie on the site, which is more derogatory and blasphemous in nature.
The West claims to be the upholder of fundamental rights and respect for others’ faith but in reality do things that undermine the basic concept of respect and tolerance. Protesting against the unfair acts is the right of every person but killing people specially your own Muslim brothers, destroying government property and taking livelihood from people is not the way. This has not done any good to the cause, in fact it has further worsen the situation. Muslims around the world are now dubbed as extremists and terrorists.

Non- Muslims don’t know the true spirit of Islam but we Muslims do, so in reality it is us who are violating the sanctity of our religion by engaging in violent and un- Islamic activities. What we need today is not to show our back to the western propaganda but to stand our grounds and fight back using the same weapon of social media they are using against us. West is using electronic media to demonize Islam, Muslims can also use it to preach Islam to the masses and answer the accusations of non-Muslims in a sensible way, the way our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) has urged us to use. He the Sardar of the Prophets in his lifetime showed us the right path by practicing things that now are followed as Sunnah. All of us do know how the Holy Prophet (PBUH) during his life was subjected to worst abuse; while he was praying near the Kaaba, Abu Lahab threw the entrails of a sacrificed camel over him, and Abu Lahab’s wife Umm Jamil would regularly dump filth outside his door. His reaction to all this was a great lesson for us:
Our great prophet did not cut their throats, damaged or burnt their property or did anything else even when he conquered Mecca- instead he would prey to his Allah for showing them the right path and always would try to convey the message of Islam.

No amount of filth could harm what you believe in. No amount of filthy language, audio or video can damage the great religion of Islam as it resides inside us. When, Salman Rushdi wrote a cheap piece of article against Islam it never was able to damage Islam (nor anyone should have any doubts), but when our own men slaughtered their Muslim brothers, looted their properties and burned down their businesses they not only committed the biggest sin in Islam but put the great religion of Islam at risk- as the world saw us the Muslims as barbarians in the eyes of the civilized world. It also made a sinner like Salman Rushdi, a hero in the eyes of the west.

The enemies of Islam has now seen that this is the weakest point for us and every now and then someone comes up with sinister idea of something against the Holy prophet, the Quran and the religion. Digital Media now seems to be the favorite destination and breeding ground for these type of sinister ideas. So the important question is how should we react and what is the way for us to follow. I suppose our people at large and especially our leadership should take some lessons from the great Prophet in this regard- we must control our feelings and instead of taking an irrational or ostrich like approach go head-on with this menace. The following are just a few points to ponder.

In Pakistan, we have over 30 Million internet users. Now, that is strength. In the world there are around 50% countries that do not even have population beyond 15 Million. So just think, if even half of the internet population in Pakistan i.e. 15 million gets onto YouTube, it may even collapse.

What if our learned scholars start putting their videos spreading the message of Islam, the true meaning and picture of the religion- it will drown all sinister massages you find now and then. There is a good chance that YouTube may come to the MoITT/PTA for blocking accounts.

According to YouTube, Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year. If only 01 Million Pakistanis start generating content depicting the true spirit of our great religion that has the capacity to reach across contents, does it not serve the religion more and is an effective platform for tableegh?

So the bottom line, do we shy off by shutting our head in the sand like an Ostrich or fight it out on all fronts whether it is Google, YouTube, Facebook, twitter and all existing and coming digital media? It is time to make a rational and sensible decision and hold the bull by the horn. The previous government did not tackle the issue seriously and pulled a political stunt to get the public’s pressure off of their back by banning the YouTube and taking the easy way out. Threatening Google to block it is also not the answer, as there will be other such social media sights coming.

There are more than 40 countries that have their own filtrations laws and domestic versions of YouTube. We should in parallel also work on these as well to at least have capacity and capability if we want to have some sights with objectionable material blocked. But the most important thing to do is make the people ready to stand up against these evil designs and fight this war. We have the strength and number to fight this Jihad even on their turf and shall surely win, if the leadership stand to lead from the front.

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