The cartoon South Park frequently depicted Mohammed (center, right) in its early days, but parent station Comedy Central now censors the depiction after growing pressure from radical Muslims.  (Source: South Park Studios/Comedy Central)

Now Pakistan has teamed up against Facebook, banning the site for user-generated depictions of Mohammed.  (Source: C News World)
Pakistanis aren't going to be getting Facebook messages anytime soon

In the internet censorship war, major internet firms like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook constantly struggle with the at-time seemingly irrational demands of volatile foreign nations.  Lately China has been getting the lion's share of the censorship criticism for kicking Google out of the country.  However, another major hot-bed of internet censorship is the Middle East.

Middle East news network 
Al Jazeera reports that this week Pakistan banned Facebook after a group was formed called "Draw Mohammed Day". The group encouraged a "contest" of drawing caricatures of Mohammed, the highest prophet in the religion Islam.  

The ruling was handed down directly from Pakistan's Lahore High Court and instructed thePakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA) which controls the nation's internet traffic to cut off the blasphemous social networking site.  On Thursday Khurram Mehran, a spokesperson for the PTA, commented, "We have already blocked the URL link and issued instruction to internet service providers."

The ban is temporary and will be followed by a full hearing on May 31, at which time the PTA will share its viewpoint on the ban.  It looks, though, like the prevailing sentiment among government officials may be to push for a permanent ban.

Lawyers in Pakistan have been among the most vehement anti-Facebook groups after the news broke.  Lawyer Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali comments, "The [Facebook] competition has hurt the sentiments of the Muslims."

Facebook has 45 million users in Pakistan.  As of yesterday users could still reach the page, according to the 
AFP.  Apparently the Mohammed-themed group had been blocked, but PTA officials were still working to block the site as a whole.

The group "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" received 40,000 fans on Facebook, while an opposition group "Against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" had 53,000 fans at last count.

The incident reckons back to the recent South Park scuffle in which the censored depiction of the Mohammed dressed in a bear costume, still offended radical Muslims so much that the site issued a death threat against the show's creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.  The site wrote, "We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show.  This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

The radical interpretation of Islam that prevails in much of the Middle East considers it blasphemy and a crime to depict Mohammed in images.  Pakistan has previously blocked YouTube over similar concerns.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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