The government does not seem to know what it is doing or indeed should do about YouTube. It may be recalled that the government blocked YouTube some time ago on the grounds that the blasphemous material on YouTube was not being removed by the hosts, Google Inc. The material in question was the trailer of a blasphemous film posted in the US. The government approached Google to have the material removed or blocked but Google indicated its inability to do so as it had no agreement with Pakistan, unlike some other countries, allowing it to accede to such requests. Thus the ‘ban’ on YouTube came to acquire a semi-permanent character. Lo and behold then, joy broke out in the ranks of YouTube-starved Pakistanis when Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced on Friday that the government was about to unblock YouTube within 24 hours. True to its word, the government did — for one hour! According to media reports the ‘ban’ was reimposed on the orders of the prime minister. A case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing?
What the government has to do is update its knowledge of the internet. The ‘ban’ on YouTube did not work completely, since YouTube fans could circumvent the block and gain access through other hosting sites. This is the ubiquitous nature of the internet. Many countries have tried to deprive their citizens of access to this or that website considered unacceptable, only to find that their ‘firewalls’ could be, and were, breached. Google now requires the Pakistan government, in the absence of an agreement on blocking offensive material, to approach it through the US government since it is not bound by Pakistani law or wishes. We await with bated breath the next scene in this suspense drama.
Admittedly, blasphemous material is liable to evoke an emotive, even violent reaction from people of deep faith. However, a tendency has been observed in recent years that the violence manifests itself in mindless fashion on ourselves and our own country. Who that damages surely does not need to be spelt out, except to say that we only harm ourselves and reinforce stereotypes so common about Muslims as illogical, emotional people who cannot think straight. In the brave new world of instant communication globally, we need to take a mature and considered attitude to such provocations, because that is all they are, attempts to get our goat and see us riled up. The more mature and cool we are in dismissing such rubbish in the manner it deserves, the better we will end up serving ourselves, our faith, and the values that make that faith great, based on the example of tolerance and forbearance in the face of provocation set by none other than Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). *