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Citing Sacrilegious Content, Pakistan Bans YouTube

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By Achal Narayanan
Religion News Service

CHENNAI, India (RNS) For the second time in two days, Pakistani officials have restricted access to a popular Internet site that it deems offensive to the country's majority Muslim population.

The government Thursday (May 20) blocked access to YouTube because of what it considers sacrilegious content on the video-sharing website. The country's Telecommunications Authority did not specify which YouTube videos prompted the move, citing only "growing sacrilegious contents."

On Wednesday, Pakistan had ordered Internet service providers to block access to Facebook because of a page that invited users to submit drawings of Prophet Muhammad, which is forbidden in traditional Islam.

In both cases, the government took action after it failed to persuade the websites to remove the "derogatory material" voluntarily, the agency said in a statement. It encouraged the two websites to contact the Pakistan government to resolve the dispute in a way that ensured "religious harmony and respect."

The government blocked Facebook after a group of Muslim lawyers won an order from the provincial High Court in Lahore requiring officials to restrict access to the site until May 31.

The Facebook page at the center of the dispute--"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!"--asked users to post images of the prophet on May 20 to protest threats made by a U.S.-based Muslim group against the creators of "South Park" for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year.

In Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, some 2,000 female students rallied, demanding that Facebook be banned. Several dozen male students held a rally nearby, with some holding signs that urged an Islamic "holy war" against those who blaspheme Muhammad.