Tuesday, 26 February 2008

YouTube versus Islam - Between discernment and ignorance

Mosque smarts and technical dunces

When I wrote Temple smarts and street dunces as the subtitle to my write-up Earth-queers quaking in Israel on the 21st of February, I was not anticipating writing Mosque smarts and technical dunces 5 days on.

On Sunday, the Pakistani government had ordered ISPs to block all access to YouTube because of content deemed offensive to Islam and they all complied.

The smarts at Pakistan Telecom hijacked the IP address of the YouTube web server and in conjunction with PCCW an ISP sent seekers of that site down a rabbit hole.

In fact, it sent the global user community of YouTube down the rabbit hole for two hours.

The jury is out as to whether this act was deliberate or just a case of ignorance about how Internet protocols work, because Morocco, Thailand and Turkey have successfully implemented bans to YouTube without bringing the whole house down.

Accountability or ridicule

Did I not say, “The sooner adherents and followers call their leaders to account the less their beliefs and dogma are subjected to ridicule”, to leaders we now have to add technical people.

This also extends however tenuously to the use and abuse of knowledge, when Pakistan acquired knowledge of nuclear weaponry the smarts involved opened an illegal market of nuclear proliferation threatening global peace.

Fostering an intellectual environment

Sadly, the real problem is the fact that the Pakistani government has failed to foster an intellectual environment amongst its people.

In the weekend, a friend sent me a few links from YouTube to do with a grandmother doing some “commendably” shocking things like kicking a toddler out of the path of an oncoming train – I found the material utterly offensive and definitely not funny, I did not bother to view the other link but deleted the email and was ungentlemanly enough not send acknowledgments or thanks.

What I am saying here is I made the decision to view the content and once I found it was not to my liking, I refused to create more revulsion by viewing the rest of the material.

If the email had come with a clearer idea of the content, I would not have opened the links at all.

Give the people more credit of discernment

Surely, the people of Pakistan should be able to make informed decisions like that; as refusing to view YouTube videos with refer to the Mohammedan cartoons (Warning: Links to the cartoons, you exercise a personal prerogative in clicking on the link) or Geert Wilders’ Islamic ruse called Fitna to be released in March and still be about to seek out videos that glorify Islam or teach Internet protocols properly.

Censorship is a very blunt and unwieldy hammer to hit the nail where the government has lost the persuasion of ideas that they have to use the coercion of tyranny by resorting to blanket bans.

Very typical of ordering everyone to wall off the windows in their homes because the wind is blowing and it might carry bad odours when people should have the choice to open or close their windows at will to let air in or keep it out as they will.

In the process, technical ignorance on the one part and government policy failure on the other have combined to depict proud, independent and intelligent Pakistanis as ignorant, incapable of making informed decisions and brought Islam to unnecessary ridicule in the name of protecting the self-same religion.

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