05/31/2010, 00.00
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Facebook blocked following call by Islamic parties

by William Gomes
Street protests are organised against Facebook and YouTube, accused of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. The government blocks Facebook in response to threats from Islamic parties.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Government of Bangladesh has responded positively to demands made by Islamic parties to block Facebook. Last Friday, more than a thousand people took to the streets following Friday (Jum’ah) prayers to protest against Facebook and YouTube in response to an appeal by Islamic parties to have the two social networking sites blocked for blasphemy.

The decision was taken because the offence “hurt the religious sentiments of the country's majority Muslim population,” said Mahmud Delwar, acting chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. “Facebook will be re-opened once we erase the pages that contain the obnoxious images”.

Protesters said Bangladesh is world’s second largest Muslim country and the government should bring the issue to the next session of parliament.

Facebook is accused of blasphemy because some users organised an “Everyone draw Mohammed Day”, urging people to draw the prophet. Muslims view any graphic representation of Muhammad as blasphemy.

Islamic Andolon, the group that organised the protest, said that Catholics and Jews want to defame the prophet of Islam by means of a cartoon competition.

Andolon leader Hemayet Uddin warned that if the government did not block these websites, his group would take to the streets, and force it to do it.

In addition, protesters are saying that Pakistan banned the blasphemous sites. In fact, Pakistan ordered both sites be unblocked as soon as the blasphemous material is removed.

The situation is so tense that leftwing political leaders tried to reassure AsiaNews that there is no wish to destroy Christian properties.

In the meantime, police remains on high alert.

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