According to the BBC, although you'll need to understand Urdu to read it (here is a rough translation using Google for your convenience if you don't), Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stands accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a Pakistani court filing under something known as 'Messenger Law' for which the punishment can be death.
The case stems from a competition that a Facebook user started which invited users to 'Draw Muhammad' and led to Facebook access being blocked in Pakistan back in May. A competition which proved quite popular with the Facebook 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' group attracting over 40,000 members before it was pulled. That said, the 'Against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' group which was not pulled managed to attract more than 60,000 members, so make of that what you will.
Boxcrack informs us that on May 31st "a High Court judge, Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, ordered the government to take action in respect to alleged blasphemy on Facebook. On June 11th in consequence of this order, the Deputy Attorney General authorised and initiated the first stage of investigation and prosecution of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook". Now reports are emerging that a Pakistani lawyer, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, has filed a "First Information Report" (FIR) alleging that Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for the distribution of blasphemous Islamic content.
Zuckerberg is not the only person facing this police investigation as the FIR also names Facebook co-founders and, according to Muhammad Azhar Siddique at least, co-conspirators Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Oh, and let's not forget the Facebook user who kick-started the whole thing by starting the competition in the first place, a mysterious German women known only as Andy.
So was this, as the competition organisers claimed, a demonstration of the right to free speech and a stand against religiously inspired intimidation or was it just an attempt to inflame an already highly flammable situation following the death threats against South Park cartoon creators who dared to feature Muhammad inside a teddy bear outfit in an episode of the popular TV show earlier in the year?
Whatever your opinion, unless you happen to be on the extremes of religion in which case I'd humbly suggest that your views on the subject are perhaps a little too biased to be taken seriously in this particular debate, looking for a death sentence for the owner of an Internet service under such circumstances does seem, well, a little absurd.
Look, I'm all for religious freedom, it's a central part of any truly free society. However, when a religion attempts to force its own moral code upon the wider world outside of its own followers then I stop being so accommodating. That episode of South Park, for example, which so offended Islamic extremists that it has even been suggested it was the motivation behind the recent New York car bombing attempt also included images of Jesus Christ watching pornography and depicted Buddha as a cocaine snorting drug user. Yet I don't recall Christians or Buddhists planting bombs or calling for the death of the cartoonists.
At some point, surely, there has to come a realisation that 'old world' religious fervour and new world technological freedoms do not mix. The solution, then, is surely not to kill the people behind the new technology but for those who despise it so much not to use it. There's a relatively new saying which has become popular in my household "if you hate online porn so much, stop searching for it" and that seems to make a lot of sense. We've stopped burning witches, thank goodness, so isn't time we also stopped demonising technology and the people who use it?
Disclaimer: my own spiritual faith is Pagan, so I'm well used to religious intolerance but have never called for anyone to die as a result of them mocking my beliefs.