YouTube was banned in Pakistan by the executive order of the then Prime Minster Raja Pervez Ashraf. This action was taken to prevent the public from accessing the video called the Innocence of Muslims. The idea was that the ethical and innocent Muslims of Pakistan might become offended by this video mocking the holy prophet. The video is clearly offensive, or might be, but I didn’t bother to check it out as I have better things to do in life. The bad video out of millions of other videos was the sole reason for just one person to disallow access to an entire universe of other videos, of which a lot of them are educational.
So what do most think about this ban? It seems the majority of those with internet disagree with the government deciding what they can and cannot see. There might not be compulsion in religion but there certainly appears to be compulsion by the state to force people to behave as it deems fit. No one is given the right to choose. The state has become a business of protecting people from themselves. But we aren’t here to discuss what people think and don’t think. We are here to discuss what the rights of people are and how the state is infringing and encroaching upon those rights, instead of letting people decide for themselves what is suitable and what is not suitable for them.
The government puts all its faith in people to decide what party and which candidate to choose when forming a government. It’s considered and touted to be a moral obligation to exercise one’s judgement in picking the right leaders of this country. The same citizen who is considered so indispensable in choosing the right elected officials of the country isn’t considered worthy enough to decide for himself what he can or cannot watch on YouTube! What are we to make of this disparity? Does the YouTube ban seem civilized in this case?
Why is it that the state is so worried about controlling this medium of exchange? What does it fear will happen if everyone in the country watched an offensive video? Do they fear we might turn into unethical and immoral zombies overnight? What is the state trying to protect us from? Is one person’s dissenting opinion so powerful and so shaking that the Muslims of Pakistan are going to go crazy if they were to hear the arguments? What about the right of the person who actually wants to see this video? Yes, many don’t like it and most likely the majority in Pakistan won’t like it, but does that mean to altogether ban the entire site? What if there were millions of videos that were offensive? Does a person get a right to say something not positive about someone else, be it even a prophet? What does our own prophet say about people mistreating and insulting him? Who has bothered to listen to the prophet’s own solution to this problem?
It’s widely known the abuse our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh) experienced while in Mecca. There is this incidence of Abu Lahab throwing the entrails of a sacrificed animal over him while he was praying. What behaviour did our prophet exhibit at that time? Did he get up and extract revenge? Did he malign or shun the offender? Or did he simply endure this abuse with patience and dignity? He (PBUH) is even credited with taking care of the old woman who used to regularly abuse him but got sick and couldn’t continue with the abuse. All this shows us Muslims what? Does it show that when our prophet is abused are we to take the path of violence or are we to take the path of patience? Is our belief in the hereafter so weak that we resort to banning all and everything that might be even slightly offense to our religion? Islam even has given the answer to what to do how to behave when someone says stuff about Islam that we disagree with: 109:6 Unto you, your religion, and unto me, mine.
So, it seems it is not recommended to attack them or kill them or to even stop trading with them. The idea is to be tolerant. But why is it that the state despite having access to many scholars and intelligent people continues to put all kinds of restrictions instead of letting people be? Could it be that the state is trying to control the medium of exchange and putting a break on what information is propagated to us?Just like governments across the globe beginning to clamp down on all kinds of media, the government in Pakistan is also trying to control its population. What is so fearful about people’s ability to make up their own minds? What could they do if they were able to see what actually is happening across the globe and within Pakistan? What if they realized the failures and the utter uselessness of the government and its parasitic hold on society? The ability to choose our path is what makes us free. When that ability is snatched from us using the pretext of moral righteousness, all we’re left with is the ability to follow the dictate, making us nothing more than mere serfs.