My Jesus and Mo posts blocked in Pakistan for “hurting the sentiments of many Muslims”

I suppose it was only a matter of time before my weekly postings of Jesus and Mo, which I’ve been putting up for years, were flagged as offensive. Someone in Pakistan filed a complaint (in bold below) that they were BLASPHEMOUS, and so WordPress contacted me with the following message (I’ve put the complaint in bold below). This is ridiculous, of course, but I have no control over it and will continue to post Jesus and Mo cartoons, which I suppose are also blocked in Pakistan on the artist’s original site. It’s just that the folks in Pakistan won’t be able to see them.

As for “hurting the sentiments of many Muslims,” it’s sad that the government of Pakistan can’t take criticism about their country’s main faith. But we already knew that. Although I have no hope that Pakistan will enter the Enlightenment during my lifetime, accepting freedom of the press and freedom of religion (which includes freedom to reject and criticism religion), I’ll just adopt the attitude, “Well, too bad for you. You may be offended by criticism of Islam, but that’s your problem, not mine.”

Here’s what I got from WordPress:

A Pakistan authority has issued a demand to block a file on your WordPress.com site:

https://whyevolutionistrue.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/2013-12-181.png?w=500&h=500

Unfortunately, we must comply to keep WordPress.com accessible for everyone in Pakistan. We will not be challenging this demand, but if you wish to discuss what the legal avenues of appeal may be, please get in touch as soon as possible. There is usually a very short period of time in which objections can be lodged.

As a result of this demand, the file (below) [JAC: also above: it’s this week’s Jesus and Mo post] on your site is now inaccessible for Internet visitors originating from Pakistan. They will instead see a message explaining why the content was blocked.

Visitors from outside of Pakistan are not affected.

You and your readers may be interested in the following document for suggestions on bypassing Internet restrictions:

https://beatcensorship.wordpress.com/

For your reference, we have included a copy of the complaint. No reply is necessary, but please let us know if you have any questions.

— BEGIN NOTICE —
Dear WordPress Team,

I am writing on behalf of Web Analysis Team of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) which has been designated for taking appropriate measures for regulating Internet Content in line with the prevailing laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

In lieu of above it is highlighted that few of the webpages hosted on your platform are extremely Blasphemous and are hurting the sentiments of many Muslims around Pakistan. The URL’s mentioned are clearly in violation of Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and Section 19 of Constitution of Pakistan.

The below mentioned websites can be found on following URL’s:-

S.No

URL

[…]

17

https://whyevolutionistrue.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/2013-12-181.png?w=500&h=500

[…]

You are requested to contribute towards maintaining peace and harmony in the world by discontinuation of hosting of these websites for viewership in Pakistan with immediate effect. We will be happy to entertain any query if deemed necessary and looking forward for your favorable response at your earliest.

Regards

Web Analysis Team

When Grania saw this, she made the following comment:

I am disappointed to see that WordPress is rushing to do their censorship for them.

It is a US company (part of Automattic) and they are carrying out censorship against an American citizen in the USA for writing an article in the USA that was posted on a blog hosted in the USA on demand of jumped up little tyrants in Pakistan.

81 Comments

  1. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    ”You are requested to contribute towards maintaining peace and harmony in the world by discontinuation of hosting of these websites for viewership in Pakistan with immediate effect.”

    You are requested to contribute towards maintaining peace and harmony in this dark alley by giving me your wallet and not provoking me to shoot you.

  2. E.A. Blair
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    What’s somewhat surprising to me is that since two of the principal topics on this site are evolution and atheism that Pakistan wouldn’t ban WEIT altogether. Are there any other countries, Islamic or otherwise, that ban WEIT?

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      North Korea, of course, but they ban everything. I have had two views from North Korea over the years, and I assume those are high government officials who do have access to the Internet.

      • BJ
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        WordPress offers stats by country? I’m curious if it tells you what percentage and/or the raw number of readers comes from Pakistan. I think it would make for an interesting post if you wanted to give us all of those stats. I’d love to see the raw numbers and percentages for readers from Islamic theocracies.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          They tell you raw numbers by country. It’s a while since I looked at mine and I can’t remember if it gives percentages, but they’d be easy enough to work out.

          • BJ
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            Ah, so you could figure it out the percentages by some simple number crunching, but that’s still more work than it’s worth unless you have a real interest in it.

            By the way, check out the Thomas Crown Affair remake! It’s a lot of fun.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted June 15, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

              I will if I get the chance. Thanks!

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Or the geolocation is wrong.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Critical texts are better tolerated than cartoons.

      “Boss Tweed, who presided over New York in the 19th [century]… suffered boils and warts at the hand of the great newspaper cartoonist, Thomas Nast. “Stop them damn pictures,” the old Tammany tiger told his hit men. “I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But they can see the pictures.” ”

      http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0206/pruden020706.php3

  3. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I’d be surprised if any deeply religious Muslims in Pakistan even follow your page in the first place — unless they did so for the sole purpose of being offended; which, sadly, is all too common nowadays.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      I’d agree. Most deeply religious Muslims wouldn’t look at WEIT in the first place.

      I wonder if the original complaint came from a parent checking a child’s browsing history?

      Porn, especially beastiality, is the #1 search in Muslim-majority countries. You’d think a parent would be pleased the animal-loving site their child found has nothing to do with abusing said animals.

      • Gordon
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        Now that last para is something I didn’t know but very interesting it is.

    • Simon
      Posted June 15, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      Very common behaviour for people of all stripes. There are, for instance, a whole host of atheist/science/skeptic blogs which specialise in finding content to be offended by.

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        And do they ask for that content to be removed? …

  4. GBJames
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I suppose PCC[E] will be receiving one of these complaints from Pakistan every month now (at least).

  5. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I do wonder about all this banning business – why are the authorities so intent on keeping their citizens minds so firmly closed?

    • darrelle
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      It’s for their own good. The authorities are kindly looking out for their citizens sanctity.

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Are you saying that with sarcasm or without?

        • darrelle
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

          Dripping with sarcasm!

  6. Geoff Toscano
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Can’t say I’m surprised, though it is disappointing.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      I agree. The only appropriate response to these demands is “Fuck you. We will not participate in censorship.” (I don’t usually drop f-bombs, but this is a special case.) If more companies would stand up to these anti-enlightenment regimes, we’d all be better off.

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Too bad companies care more about money. Even Google’s much-touted resistance to Chinese censorship demands lasted all of a week or two before they gave in. Oddly enough, Google didn’t have a press release to announce the new censorship like they did when they said they’d refuse to cooperate…

      • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately the end result of that is likely WordPress as a whole being banned in such places, and then they lose business. Competing values are hard!

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I guess the idea of simply not looking if it offends does not cross the mind. I cannot stand this posting but cannot stop reading it. About as snowflake as it gets.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Matthew 18:9

      /@

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      The real reason is because it may be seen by someone who will be persuaded by it, like a commenter said in the image of Jesus post yesterday — that observing others being moved by such stuff made them realize what a bunch of hooey it all is (my words).

  8. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I take it there is a certain amount of pride in having risen to sufficient prominence to attract the attention of the Pakistani “Authorities”.
    Do the various censorship authorities of the world share their blacklists? I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, and you’d get a lot more bans in the near future. Keep an eye on the visitor statistics! (Which I’m sure you do already.)

  9. Craw
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I suggest a new tag, “Banned in Pakistan”.

  10. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    We have a blashpemy law here in Ireland (theres a referendum about it in November,I think). If you fancy doing something blasphemous then I’m sure we can alert the local authorities…

    • Simon
      Posted June 15, 2018 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      The UK has many security forces devoted to the enforcement of blasphemy laws. The Metropolitan Police for example.

      • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

        Which “blasphemy laws” do you think the Metropolitan police are enforcing, Simon?

        There’s been no crime of blasphemy in the law of England and Wales since the passing of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

        /@

  11. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t think their analytics are very sophisticated. I’m sure many of your non-J&M posts would “hurt the sentiments of many Muslims”.

    Maybe if you used Author’s censor-busting link in your posts it wouldn’t trigger this response … ?

    /@

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      If you go to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority contact page https://www.pta.gov.pk/en/contact-us you will see that there is a special email address for reporting blasphemous content, so though the objection came from the Web Analysis Team, some private individual viewing the WEIT website may have been offended and sent in a report to the Web Analysis Team, which then took action.

      It is, though, curious, as others have remarked, that just that cartoon caused offense, not anything else on the site.

  12. Joe Hahn
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Oh, isn’t religion wonderful? Idiots, idiots everywhere.

  13. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I guess it wouldn’t contribute to peace and harmony to respond with a F U .

  14. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I had a cartoon blocked my WordPress (blocked from showing up in Pakistan). Similar reason.

  15. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I like the way WP offer advice how to get round the problem. Why is that page not banned, I wonder.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’m pleased that WP is so in favor of free speech.

    • Taz
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      It appears they’re also ignoring the request to discontinue hosting the site.

  16. Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    That’s an admission that Islam makes people weak.

  17. Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    My cursory interpretation is that the Web Analysis Team requested blocking the entire site and WP responded by blocking a single image file.

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Well, I can’t generalize about Muslims, but a problem in this country with conservative Christians is they often take offense at stuff which is simply not intended offensively.

    The obvious examples are Christians being offended by “Last Temptation of Christ”, “Life of Brian”, and even “The Godfather” for which there is really no particular reason to be offended.

    I recall in 1999 taking a look at the Catholic League’s website and they had a listing of recent examples of “anti-Catholic bigotry”. The list included BOTH a crude anti-Catholic joke by a sportscaster AND….Garry Will’s recent book “Papal Sin”. Really?????

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      I can’t comment about the Last Temptation, but fanatical religionists of all stripes ought to be offended by Life of Brian. It’s a biting satire on religious values.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Monty Python does not agree with you.

        They decided that Jesus was cool, but his disciples and other a bit thick, and that was what they were satirizing.

        There’s a long live debate between Python alumnus John Cleese and chief offendee of the movie, Malcolm Muggeridge (chief promoter of Mother Teresa) over this. Cleese is pretty articulate on why Christians should not find the film offensive.

  19. Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Pakistanis who want to avoid the censorship have lots of options. My guess is that any WEIT readers in Pakistan already use them. See http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/2006/03/internet_censorship_the_pakistani_way/

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Thanks for that link. The first few paragraphs had me feeling a bit smug about what I “know already” – then it quickly lit up my intrigue sensors .

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        As the article says, it is very hard for web censors to block the determined web surfer. China goes the farthest but my understanding is that it is really expensive for them to maintain and leaks anyway. Web surfers are as tenacious as life itself.

  20. Pliny the in Between
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Blasphemy laws remind me of a line from an otherwise lousy Star Trek movie – “What does god need with a starship?” – Why would a real god need the protection of earthly minions?

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      That bad movie also has McCoy expressing doubt that god would be cruel, which is also important.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Pakistan’s loss. Screw ’em if they can’t take a joke.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      +1

  22. Liz
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    How is it a violation of section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016?
    I don’t see how it is a violation of section 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan either. What about the “friendly relations with foreign States…”?

    Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016

    “37. Forensic laboratory. – The Federal Government shall establish or designate a forensic laboratory, independent of the investigation agency, to provide expert opinion before the Court or for the benefit of the investigation agency in relation to electronic evidence collected for purposes of investigation and prosecution of the offenses under this Act.”
    http://www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1470910659_707.pdf

    Article: 19 Freedom of Speech

    “19. Freedom of speech, etc.-Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, 1[commission of] or incitement to an offence.”
    https://pakistanconstitutionlaw.com/article-19-freedom-of-speech-etc/

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Your pdf is out of date – it’s the original 2016 version. In May 2017 the Lahore High Court directed the federal government to introduce necessary amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) in order to empower the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block information systems or social media websites if service providers do not remove blasphemous content on them. SOURCE

      The significance of article 19 from the blasphemy POV is that anything that works against “the glory of Islam” [the phrase is in the article] – is not protected speech.

      • Liz
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

        Did anyone challenge that in May of 2017? I understand that from article 19 but was making the point anyway that I made. The original section 37 from 2016 has nothing.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted June 15, 2018 at 3:01 am | Permalink

          I have no idea if it was challenged

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Jerry isn not a citizen of Pakistan. Article 19 of the constitution does not apply to him.

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      “reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam”

      Now there’s a loophole a lightyear wide.

  23. mirandaga
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “it’s sad that the government of Pakistan can’t take criticism about their country’s main faith.”

    Sad indeed, but “criticism” is a bit of a stretch for Jesus and Mo. “Ridicule” would be more accurate. That said, keep it up.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Ridicule is the sincerest form of criticism.

  24. CAS
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    The “peace and harmony” is for Government officials afraid of violent Salafi Muslims produced by the many Saudi funded madrases. In January of 2011, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by one of his security guards because he spoke out against the blasphemy law. On May 7, 2018 Pakistani Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot by a radical Islamist apparently protesting lax enforcement of the blasphemy law.

  25. Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised it took this long, given that a portrait, drawings of Mo are a punishable offence and acts as he doesn’t know his arse froma hole in the ground.

  26. Mark
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately US based companies censor international content all the time. For example Youtube and instagram have a blindingly obvious anti-gay bias. Its sad but not unexpected in the land of the “easily offended”.

  27. Ashley
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    The link in the PTA message is just the link to the image file, not the post itself.
    I don’t know what that means for Pakistanis trying to view the post.

  28. J Cook
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Maybe there should be an effort to drown the PTA ( Pakistan Telecommunications Authority) with messages of offense. Both offensive messages and from the perpetually offended.

  29. Hassan Ali
    Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I am from Pakistan and I am a regular reader of this website. But I can still see the Jesus and Mo posts you put up. Even this week’s post (‘Qur’anic Exegesis’) is currently visible. Maybe the ban hasn’t been put into place yet?

    Moreover, I cannot view the Jesus and Mo website (jesusandmo.net) from my PC, but the funny thing is I can still access it from my cell phone! No idea why that is. PTA has some loopholes in its censorship machinery probably.

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Do you have a different ISP for your PC vs. your phone? Could be that.

      • Hassan Ali
        Posted June 19, 2018 at 3:51 am | Permalink

        No, it is the same ISP!

  30. Posted June 15, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I would like to send an email to WEIT because my contribution contains images (hand drawn). Is this possible? I don’t see an email address anywhere on the site, but perhaps one could be sent to me. I promise to treat it respectfully.

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Click on the “Research Interests” link, top right, for an email address.

    • Posted June 18, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Sad not to get any feedback from my email. I dimly gave it the subject line “survey”, so it probably went straight into the spam folder. 😦 I think it’s worth a read though. I worked hard on those drawings!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 18, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        You could post them here. Your writing & drawings are already in some form of image format since you emailed them…

        So upload to your account on flickr, photobucket or etc – making sure the album they’re in is viewable to the public

        Then post the links in a comment here
        One link per line
        Nothing but the link on a line

        Like this for each image, but without the space I’ve added after the “:”
        https: //flic.kr/p/KTg3vj

        By posting the above link without the space it looks like this here:
        agnetha

        • Posted June 19, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Thanks. I’m actually a little nervous of being too closely identified with the drawings in too public a way, if you can forgive me, since they could be taken to be portraits of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). One of them is of Him in a large box, for example. (With breathing holes.) I was hoping that Professor Coyne could perhaps get some slight amusement from them himself, not necessarily share them more widely — but if so, in the hope it could be done without drawing much attention to the author’s identity.

          • Diane G
            Posted June 20, 2018 at 2:44 am | Permalink

            Have you thought of simply re-sending them to Jerry, this time with a subject line that won’t lead to deletion?

            • Posted June 20, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, I have tried that now. I’m very grateful to everyone for all your suggestions, thank you.

  31. Andrea Saunderes
    Posted June 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Benighted thought-police, a sad reality that is getting more common as people are no longer taught to think…

  32. Posted June 15, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Click on the “Research Interests” link, top right, for an email address.

    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      OOps, that’s a reply to blakethomasandrew. I’ll try again.

  33. Diane G
    Posted June 17, 2018 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    sub


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