I’m a Facebook friend, and I’m not ashamed to say so. Especially when I’m not letting my addictions get in the way of my daily duties.
And obviously I’m not the only one who believes that a day without checking my Facebook is a day gone to waste because it’s one of the three most popular websites in the world along with Google and Yahoo.
The interactivity of the website is probably its main selling point; it lets people get their messages across without barely any censorship.
In fact, the one time I heard that the Facebook Company attempted to censor some of the content, it caused a humongous ruckus. What had they attempted to censor that had caused some a media furore? Pictures of breastfeeding women.
According to the Company, some members on Facebook had complained that these innocent pictures caused them discomfort. And from then on Facebook went about deleting any picture that showed a mother breastfeeding her infant.
Personally, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was. A woman breastfeeding her child is a very natural sight (especially in Africa) and I couldn’t understand why some people could call the sight titillating and unsavoury. However, that was their right.
Recently, Facebook was the subject of yet another controversy. It begun quite innocently. Molly Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist, was upset when U.S. cable network Comedy Central decided to censor a re-run of a “South Park” episode that depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
Drawing the Prophet Muhammad is not allowed in Islam; in fact, to do so can bring about a charge of blasphemy and an immediate death sentence according to Sharia Law.
After the show was originally aired, an Islamic extremist website called RevolutionMuslim.com posted menacing remarks suggesting that “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone could suffer the same fate as Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 after producing a film about the mistreatment of women in Islamic society.
Well, the network decided that airing a re-run without a little censorship would be a silly move.
Instead of moaning privately about it, Molly Norris did what self-respecting technophile did. She begun on online petition on Facebook and invited her friends to join.
Very soon it had gone viral and thousands joined in. And in response, another group of Facebook wonks started an ‘anti’ group to combat the first one. Exciting stuff.
What was the petition called? ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!’ According to Molly Norris, this anti-censorship event, which took place on May 20, was meant to celebrate the right to free speech.
However, when I looked at some of the so-called ‘drawings’, I didn’t see an embodiments of free speech. What I saw were pictures that were racist, anti-Moslem and terribly offensive.
Norris, who has since distanced herself from the Facebook campaign she created, said she was glad her endeavor has gone viral. “I just thought that Viacom or Comedy Central had overreacted to a veiled threat from a tiny blog or website that not many people even belong to, and I think it just set a precedent for a slippery slope in censorship,” she told Fox News.
As a result of this on Wednesday a court in Pakistan ordered the government to force that nation’s Internet service providers to block access to Facebook.
Free speech is a human right and I certainly am all for it. But do rights trample all else? No. Very often those rights are regulated in some form. For example, in Germany you can call the Chancellor Angela Merkel anything you like but if you dare say something good about Adolf Hitler, or even wear a shirt with a swastika, you’ll be hounded and possibly thrown into jail.
That’s because sprouting Nazi ideology is a crime. This in a ‘modern’ European nation that has free speech among its constitutional tenets.
While anti-Semitism isn’t a crime in the United States, if someone started a Facebook petition that called for the Jews to go back where they came from, I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t get the kind of media attention that this petition got.
No news organization would have possibly made that person a hero of the ‘free speech’ campaign.
So, while some people will look at this incident as an example of the culture clash between the tenets of Islam and the Western philosophy of free speech, I don’t think this is so.
Because while those in the West like to think that they have ‘free speech’ either the law, or custom makes ‘free speech’ impossible to enjoy without consequence.
Here is my thesis: I believe that there is a certain amount of Islamophobia at play here. Not only that, but also a certain amount of bullying as well.
Looking at the distasteful depictions of Prophet Mohammed, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why would anyone draw something like that, knowing fully well that they insulted millions through that very act”?
Where were their good manners? I mean, where was their common humanity? While they might have had the ‘right to free speech’, where was their ‘responsibility’ to their fellow man?