Posts Tagged ‘ Twitter ’

Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over Cartoon Contest

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

The Pakistani government blocked access to the social networking service Twitter on Sunday, after publicly holding Twitter responsible for promoting a blasphemous cartoon contest taking place on Facebook, officials said.

A government spokesman was quoted by local news media as saying that the government had been in talks with Twitter to remove “objectionable” material but that there had been no results.

“The material was promoting a competition on Facebook to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad,” said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority, was quoted as saying. He was also quoted as saying that Facebook had agreed to allay the concerns of the Pakistani government.

Blasphemy is an issue that roils sentiment easily in Pakistan. Blasphemy allegations have often resulted in violent riots, and religious minorities in Pakistan have long maintained that the country’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores.

Facebook was banned for two weeks in 2010 after protests erupted in the country over a similar cartoon contest on Facebook to draw the Prophet Muhammad. After a high court ordered the government to ban Facebook, the government was quick to ban YouTube and hundreds of other Web sites and services.

Speculation that the government intended to suspended Facebook and Twitter again had been swirling around for the past couple of days. However, this time around there have been no major public protests over the contest that Pakistani officials have expressed concerns about.

The ban has caught Twitter users by surprise.

“I never heard of any caricatures on Twitter,” said Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at Middle East Institute and a commentator on Pakistani politics, who has a Twitter following of more than 10,000 users. “Now this ban will be promoting whatever caricatures were posted on it.”

Responding to a question last night, Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, had denied that ban on social networking sites was in the offing.

“The government of Pakistan’s ban on Twitter is ill advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, in a press statement. “The right to free speech is nonnegotiable, and if Pakistan is the rights-respecting democracy it claims to be, this ban must be lifted forthwith. Free speech can and should only be countered with free speech.”

Critics said that the blocking of the micro-blogging site could actually be a part of longstanding government plan to muzzle media freedom and could be related to the vociferous opposition and criticism that is heaped on the country’s security apparatus in Twitter debates.

“Twitter is a place where fierce opposition to Pakistan’s security agencies is expressed,” said Raza Rumi, a widely read columnist and an adviser at the Jinnah Institute, a public policy center based in Islamabad.

“There is a clear trend,” Mr. Rumi said, “that the Pakistani military and spy agency get a strong critique from Pakistanis themselves, something that does not happen in mainstream media where people are generally shy to express such views.”

Activists supporting minority rights have established a strong voice on Twitter, and advocates for the Baluch people, who are demanding greater rights and a share of the natural-resources wealth in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, have also used it to spread their message.

Anthony Weiner: Sex, Lies, and the Pakistan Connection

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

On Monday night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the host, a former roommate of the congressman, confessed that Weinergate and the entire episode involving pictures of his friend Rep. Anthony Weiner of NY, was “killing” him.

Jon Stewart was clearly not sure how to react to his friend’s confession that he had indeed himself been responsible for sending sexually suggestive photos of himself via Twitter.“I don’t know what to do anymore! It’s killing me, “he said on last night’s “Daily Show”, which was taped in New York after the congressman had already given his press conference earlier in the day admitting to the indiscretions after having denied them for a week.

I must admit, I am also deeply saddened by this story as it too is killing me. No I didn’t room with Anthony Weiner in a summer house in Delaware in the 1980s as did Stewart. However I was a fan of the representative from New York who was the first Democrat in a long time that seemed to have balls in Congress when it came to speaking his mind and standing up to the other guys across the aisle. He didn’t have to go and practically show them to prove it though.

Sending salacious pictures of yourself to strange women across the country while being married, in itself, is not a crime. But had he fessed up to his martial indiscretions and not gone about for a whole week giving interviews to the national media denying everything and claiming to have had his twitter account hacked, might have been enough for him to be forgiven by many of his constituents. Perhaps he would not have been so easily forgiven by his American born Pakistani wife, Huma Abedin. Needless to say, the congressman would surely have saved himself a great amount of grief and further humiliation.

Instead after a week of denials, and as new pictures and allegations surfaced regarding other women, Rep. Weiner finally came clean and called a press conference on Monday afternoon and confessed to having sent the pictures himself.

Congressman Weiner is not the first politician to have been involved in a sex scandal and God knows he certainly will not be the last. And yet, of all the politicians I have followed over the years, Anthony Weiner of New York seemed like the only Democrat who had the wits to match the guts when it came to fighting for his party’s principles in Washington. A few months ago when he showed great anger on the House floor arguing for healthcare benefits and a fund for the 911 First Responders, he further cemented my belief in him as an outstanding up and coming member of the House of Representatives.

Weiner’s chutzpah and boldness in many interviews and House sessions had indeed endeared many Democrats across the country of all faiths and backgrounds who have been clamoring for a Democrat with a backbone. Rep. Weiner seemed to fit the bill. His recent marriage to long time top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, a Muslim American of Pakistani decent, only further solidified him in my eyes as one of “our own”. The marriage of an up and coming Jewish Congressman from NY and a Muslim American top aid to, arguably one of the most powerful women in the world, in Hillary Clinton, certainly seemed like an odd pairing.

By all accounts the couple was in love and a long happy union seemed destined for them as President Bill Clinton officiated their wedding almost a year ago last July. Now one of the brightest stars of the Democratic party is facing a House investigation into ethical violations as well as a tremendous fallout from his lies and infidelity.

To many people, including myself, I am not only upset that we have lost one of the stars of the Democratic party to this scandal, but I am also upset for Huma, as she is the one who is suffering the worst end of the entire situation. For her to be dragged into this mess like this will surely test their nascent marriage. As a one time supporter of Rep Weiner, I hope that his career, and more importantly, his marriage survive this entire ordeal.

However, as has been the case with other scandals, there is usually more information that will come out that will be damning to Rep. Weiner. I only hope that at some point the representative from the great state of New York realizes that it is foolish to further humiliate his spouse and all his former supporters by resigning from his office immediately.

Manzer Munira proud American of Pakistani descent, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

NYC Mosque Should Be Seen As a Reconciliation Not a Provocation

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

A New York City panel cleared the way Tuesday for an Islamic Center and mosque to be built several blocks from Ground Zero and the tragedy of September 11, 2001. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny historic status to a 19th century building near Ground Zero. By doing so, it paves the way for the old building’s demolition and the construction of a 15 story Muslim community center, a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site. The controversy has brewed for months over the creation of a mosque and an Islamic center so close to the site of the World Trade Centers where nearly 3,000 Americans died in terrorist attacks blamed on Muslim terrorists affiliated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

Opponents of the mosque have argued that the creation of it so close to the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks disrespects the memory of those killed. They also question who is behind the funding and bankrolling of the proposed structure, Cordoba House, which is estimated to cost nearly $100 million. Many prominent members of the Republican Party such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have come out strongly against the building of the mosque and Muslim center so close to the site of the attacks. Gingrich argued that “that the Ground Zero mosque is all about conquest and thus an assertion of Islamist triumphalism which we should not tolerate.”

Seemingly directed at peace seekers such as myself, Sarah Palin posted the following message on her Twitter page “Peace-seeking Muslims, please understand. Ground Zero Mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Please reject it in the interest of healing.”

Some of the relatives of the victims of the 9/11 attacks have come out and said that the mosque and Islamic center would amount to a monument for terrorists as the extremists would see it as a celebration of their destruction of an American monument and lives lost. According to them, the building of the Muslim structure gives an impression that the Islamic extremists won and we Americans lost, not just in terms of lives lost but also in terms of lost and lowered morale.

The proponents of the Cordoba House have advocated the building of the structure especially since they see the center as an organization that promoted tolerance and inter faith dialogue, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City. They say that the “center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.”

Their website further states that the Cordoba House project is “about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.”

In fact the name Cordoba House, takes its name from the medieval Spanish city where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in peace and harmony under the Moors of Spain for over 800 years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was right in supporting the construction of the Cordoba House not just on the basis that religious freedom is enshrined in our constitution, but because it was the right thing to do. Denying the building of this structure would have been a blatant admission on the part of the city and indeed the entire country that there is absolutely no difference in the twisted misinterpretation of Islam practiced by the hijackers and the Taliban and the one practiced by the rest of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. As if a mere 19 deranged, misguided, yet determined adolescent men could change the fact that the vast majority of the adherents of Islam are peaceful, hardworking, average people like you and me who want nothing more than to live a good life, raise their kids, and worship their creator.

No, the opponents of the Cordoba House and their hate wagering backers and right wing politicians like Palin and Gingrich want nothing more than to incite people into believing that Islam in general is bad and evil and to suspect anything that goes on in a mosque. Oddly enough, it seems that much like their enemy, the Taliban and Muslim fundamentalists, the right wing politicians in the GOP want nothing more than “Clash of Civilizations” to come about between Islam and the West. Preachers like the Pastor Terry Jones in Gainesville, Florida who is organizing an “Everybody burn a Quran Day” as well as mainstream evangelicals like Pat Robertson also condone this view and treatment of Islam and Muslims.

Little do these so called “leaders” realize that scores of Muslim Americans also perished that day on September 11, 2001. The hate and fear mongers will not want you to know the story of Salman Hamdani, a NYPD police cadet, who was a part time ambulance driver, an incoming medical student, and devout Muslim whose remains were found at the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him, presumably trying his best to help those at the site of the attacks. Or the Muslim waiter at the Windows of the World restaurant, who never got to see his wife give birth to their son two days after the attacks. I wonder if Gingrich, Palin or any of the others could look US Army Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan’s mother in the eye and tell her that although her son died in an American uniform fighting in Iraq under the American flag, his religion and his beliefs system are evil and have no place in American life. The deceased Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient would turn in his grave at Arlington National Cemetery if he knew how his faith was being disrespected and marginalized by politicians and right wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, individuals who never served this country or risked their life as had Specialist Khan.

It is heartening to see that good sense prevailed by the New York City panel that had the tough job of deciding on this issue and this heavily watched story. Although there promises to be a further fight and appeal by the opponents of the Islamic center, one hopes that the ruling would stand as denying it would clearly violate the freedom of religion that all faiths should get in America, regardless of the actions of some of their members. After all, one should not punish and ostracize the many for the actions of a few.

-Manzer Munir, founder of Pakistanis for Peace, is a freelance journalist who writes for PakistanisforPeace.com and other online journals.

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