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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Censorship or not

see the whole discussion:

Censorship or not

also see:

Sex, now

9 From: a sane voice -

In reality, we have not achieved much yet. The blogspot ban has not been lifted. The government has not said a word to those it has muzzled in this fashion. It has not occurred to the government that it needs to listen and say something, for the simple reason that so far no one powerful enough has jpoined in. We do not want any politicians here, but we do need behind the scenes support of those the government will listen to. The number 102 as members may seem large to us in Pakistan, but it is nowhere near enough to bring about a change in government policy. It is just beginning to get noticed, and that too overwhelmingly by the writings of the members of this group.

I can see that censorship is unworkable on the net, and the efforts to curb it are hugely expensive. For these reasons I would not ask for censorship, but the freedom of speech thing cannot be absolute. It never is. Would a recipe on the net for bomb-making be freedom of speech? Can a crime such as incest be extolled on the net under the freedom of speech? It isn't that one has to go searching for indecent things to find them. They come onscreen all the time, and the time and energy to keep them off is quite tiring. As for the expense, we are spending huge amounts already for the benefit of the US.

The other day I was looking to learn about the grasslands called savanna or savannah. The search turned up a pornstar. Look, it is porn, and the actresses in it are called stars - surely a great abuse of language. It cannot be censored, but do we want all that goes by the name of freedom in the West here, too? In the US, there was a talk show where this family came onscreen. They are involved in incest - father, mother, son, daughter, all of them. They were quite open about it, and not only open, they were inviting others to join in. The porn sites adverise and invite people in group and pervert sex. It is sickening.

What is tolerated may become the norm. What is available in abundance, begins to get used. Have alcohol in abundance, and people will use it, and think nothing of it. Let pre- or ex-marital sex onscreen, and gradually people will see nothing wrong with it in real life.

Maybe I am in the minority here. I believe in what Allah (swt) says in the Quran. When He says that the nation of Lut (as) was destroyed for overt homosexual behavior, I believe it. When He says the people of Madyan was destroyed for unethical business transactions, I believe it. When He says the people of Ibrahim (as) and Nuh (as) were destroyed for idol worship, I believe it. I see these things being repeated in the world, and in our people, and I get a fright.

And I believe in the authentic sayings of the last Prophet (saaw). When he foretold the signs of the Qiyamah, I believe it. I see what he foretold coming true, and I am frightened, for my family, my friends, and for this greater humanity that in my belief, comes from the same father and mother - Adam and Eve.

And Allah has condemned those who spread indecency, or support its spreading, among other things.

10 From: -

Sane voice,

I think even the most liberal and open of societies recognise that absolute freedom of speech is not an ideal to apsire towards. This would undoubtably lead to hate-mongering extremists fanning violence and mistrust, and any healthy society would shut these people up, which is why Nazis are outlawed. I think the line is automatically drawn when 'free speech' is used to incite violence and hatred. There's nothing wrong with that. It's not 'absolute freedom' that we're discussing or aspiring to here and so your point, being rooted in semantics, is not really relevant.

We should be aiming for much greater freedom of expression that we are used to in this country. Unfortunately, our entire society is rooted in a mindset of subservient obedience, not just to government, but to our mullahs. This has prevented us from evolving and improving ourselves as a society. How many people do you know who would publically challenge and castigate an "islamic scholar" on some ridiculous 'fatwa' that he announced. For the most part, muslims believe that they have no authority to question these 'imams' in religious matters, because supposedly these 'imams' have far greater knowledge in such matters. If we lived in a more open society, we would be to engage in more critical self-appraisal. This is fundamental to the evolution of a healthy society. Freedom of speech is tool that a society uses to correct itself.

There may be many detractors of the US these days, but just take a look at how much heat Bush is getting these days. He's a president under fire. Given the experiences the US has had over Iraq, you can be sure a future American government will do everything it can to avoid getting itself in such a situation again. The immense criticism Bush is recieving these days will work one day towards creating an America that is more likely to pursue the diplomatic track to resolve it's conflicts in the future. This is how an open society operates. Before Bush, Americans thought it was okay to pre-emptively attack another ountry. Before Bush, Americans trusted their government when it told them an attack on another country was necessary for national security. Not anymore. Why? Because their open society worked to correct itself and instill a political climate that would make an unjust war very unlikely to occur again.

We need that self-correcting mechanism in our own society. How many Pakistani's will openly say "to hell with Kashmir, let's just make the LOC a border and end this 55 year old nightmare"? Can we say Pakistani society as a collectivity has done anything to positively influence our governments? If we had an open society, there would not be a media blackout in Balochistan. The press would raise hell to get there and find out what is really going on.

To say that we want 'freedom of speech' on our own terms is an contradiction in itself.

11 From: a sane voice -


:) I don't think it is semantics on my part.

You agree that "absolute freedom of speech is not an ideal to apsire towards" and yet you accuse me of contradiction with this statement: "we want 'freedom of speech' on our own terms is an contradiction in itself."

I do agree that we need to be able to discuss openly many things that this traditionally conservative society has kept locked up. We do need to stop those in authority from perpetuating their their hold on power and its benefits by branding all dissent as anti-state or anti-Islam. I do agree with having a more open, participative and socially responsible society.

My emphasis would be equally on these, not just freedom of speech, but social responsibilty as well.

I disagree with "to hell with Kashmir" attitude, but I accept that you (and others, including the much derided Mullah) have a right to discuss this (and all possibilities) as an alternative without fear of being intimidated.

As for the US, and the UK, etc. well, I really do not know how to put my views across, but I will give it a try. Many years ago, there was a war being fought by the US. There were atrocities - carpet bombings, Napalm, defoliating agents.

And there was opposition to war - much opposition, throughout the world, in the US itself. More than a million (maybe two million) VietNamese died in the war. 58,000 Americans died too, before the US called it quits. Some of us naively thought that the US would no longer engage in such wars.

What we thought came out to be wrong.

Some years ago, a US President was caught lying. He decided to resign so as to escape being impeached. We thought US Presidents would no longer lie to their electorate.

What we thought came out to be wrong.

The self-correcting mechanisms of the established democracies have not stopped them from exploiting the third world and waging wars on us.

12 From: stabani -

Look, I for one completely disagree with your analysis, a sane voice, yet the comments that you made here could have been censored as well. I am more than happy to debate that with you in email, but currently using thiis as a group to discuss freedom of speech is quite useless.

I actually talked about started a new group before. I actually suggest doing just that. Look, people in this group are quite against the whole blogspot ban, but yet they are pro-censorship.

I suggest opening up a "freedom of speech in Pakistan" (get a better name though) group and asking people who believe in that to join. People should be more than welcome to post things contrary to the point, like a sane voice just did.

As for freedom of speech and the argument that if you let it be available people will do it, It's quite a useless argument.

If you have faith in your religion, you wouldn't. I'm sorry, but you can't block people's rights just because you don't have the faith and don't want to spread that faith forward. Look, when I have kids, I will tell them that porn is wrong, I'll tell them that violence is wrong. The internet or no internet, it depends on how strong you foster your children. Claiming that the internet helps to spread this and make it available is quite wrong. It's like claiming that EVERY single person living in the U.S with free acess to everything is corrupt. It simply is not like that.

As for the whole America/UK analogy, it's quite useless really. Atrocities like the ones in Iraq are reported on the net, so are atrocities Musharraf commits. Really, blocking of speech and websites will not even cause the fire that it did before. It will completely remove the whole threat that media posses and causes people to be better, to keep a clean record. Simply do a google search for any name, you'll come out with the history and geography of everyone, including, in some cases, websites that they visit or frequently visit.

"The self-correcting mechanisms of the established democracies have not stopped them from exploiting the third world and waging wars on us. " Aren't third world countires exploiting themselves? Haven't you looked at the history of Pakistan? One corrupt official after another! Do you really worry about other countires when our own country is so damn corrupt?

As for the self-correcting mechanisms, no government method is perfect. None come close. Whether be authoritarian, millitary, or democratic, government simply is not perfect. What do you think, that millitary rule will save us all? Haven't you looked at the rap sheet of our millitary? It's people who are corrupt, It's people who are not perfect. This is a materialistic world. Deal with it. Trying to stop the information will not end the problem.

And why is the West at war with people of Iraq, Iran and such? Because their own governemnts have not been able to be powerful enough. We have not fostered the things that are necessary for success. they tried to fly down civil liberties, tried to be cruel. You live in a world, you have a moral responsibility.. And all this coming from a guy who is generally anti-West.

13 From: a sane voice -

I am not sure whether it is I who does not understand, or who is unable to make his point across, or is it you stabani. I will take it to be myself. :)

Since you do not want to debate this here, I won't, but I will try to summarise where I think I have not been able to make myself clear.

drpak agrees with me that absolute freedom of speech does not exist. My point is that this implies limits on the freedom of speech. Do you agree? If you do, who will set those limits? The standards for these limits vary, from culture to culture.

Should we set our own, or should we copy the US or Europe?

As for your statement (my rephrase) that people won't be corrupted if corruption is available, I disagree. The more something is available, the more normal it seems to engage in it. If it is a matter of choice only, why are hard drugs prohibited. Why is there such a hue and cry over the heroin trade? To take your argument forward, let freedom of choice be available in this sphere as well.

You talk of people's rights. I guess you mean individual rights. A society has rights, too. My neighbour considers it his right to dump his garbage wherever he deems fit. Let us assume you are a strong fosterer of children, but many are not as lucky or as strong as you are.

I have not claimed, nor will ever claim, that everyone in the US is corrupt but since you brought it up, FYI, the porn business in the US is estimated to be of the order of $14 billion, and it is going to Wall Street. Can you have a guess at the number of "stars" in this industry? Add to this the number in the sex trade: call girls, pros, escorts, asseurs, and you will be amazed. This does not include those who engage in consensual sex without any payment. Have you any idea of the number of single mothers in the US, in Europe?

Have you looked at how attitudes to extra-marital sex have changed over the years?

I agree that many leaders of the third world countries are corrupt. I was responding to the view of drpak that since the US is a democtracy, the people will learn from what has been reported, and will not have such a war again. He has overlooked the fact that the US elected Mr Bush again, with an increased majority to boot. Then I outlined that history (and not too distant a history) should have taught these democracies about not electing those type of people again. I am not against democracy, but here again I am not taken in. Plus, as a Muslim, I think that Muslim democracies should make their laws within the framework of Islam.

There are a lot of freedoms we lack. There are some freedoms we can do without.

Finally, I am not anti-West at all, but in the debacle of the third world, there is considerable contribution from the West (and the USSR in the past). Hvae you read the book: "Confessions of an Economic Hitman"? It is worth reading.

I am sorry if this has come out to be a debate. You didn't want it here.

14 From: KO -

Dear sane voice,

One does not need the internet for perversions and access to porn.

As evidence, I give you every video store in Karachi. Might not be every store, but certainly the majority. Including those run by mullahs, families, and otherwise respectable people. The rupee is very powerfull.

I also point out, it is much easier for the govt. to stop the manufacturing and sale of porn in video stores then it is on the internet. The govt. will never succeed in the first, so it stands to reason they will also not succeed in the second.

You point out that the US spends 14 billion dollars on porn. The number is meaningless. It is a 11 trillion dollar economy.

The US spends more money than that on just about anything you might care to name, from donating to charity to pet care.

Corruption is relative. Here in Pakistan we spend more on porn and less on health care.

By your corruption yardstick of measuring the amount spent on porn, the US is full of walking talking saints.

15 From: a sane voice -

good post, KO

I agree that there is plenty wrong with our society, and we need to work on those. There is something wrong in the West, too, and since the West's economy (and military might with the hidden urge to use it) is so large, we are affected by it. And the distinction between our cultures is getting blurred. After all, the world is fast going global. :)

How did porn come to Pakistan?

It was during the rule of Zia. He had throttled every means of peaceful protest and expression. I don't know who, but someone for some people suggetsed to him that the introduction of Indian movies would make the masses docile.

The same introduction of docility happened in the UK (also in Europe) when the unemployment rate became too much for the government to handle. The creation of jobs just wasn't enough. In fact, the jobs were shrinking. That was in the sixties, (called the swinging, liberal, emancipated sixties). So, healthy unemployment benefits were doled out. The dole was previously considered a shameful thing to be on. It was advertised that this is a social responsibilty and right of the unemployed individual. Beer was made cheap. Sexy adverts appeared everwhere. The previously prudish British were maneuvred into becoming more liberal. X-rated films beagn to be shown on the BBC. A BBC female News anchor, previously the epitome of the posh British lady, showed a lot of leg in a new TV business. The older lot were shocked, but soon the new order took over.

Point is that these "entertainment" things are introduced to take the mind of the population off its real problems.

The size of the economic slice and numbers in the sex trade are far, far more than the porn section indicates. 14 billion dollars are not insignificant. Add the rest as I said in my previous post, and you will get an idea of the problem. Maybe you don't see it as a problem. I do.

I do not have the relevant data for Pakistan. Would be interesting to compare.

For me, what Allah says in the Quran about those who spread or try to spread such indecency is sufficient. I agree that technologically and costwise the ban on anything produced abroad on the net is very difficult to block. Note that child porn is illegal in many Western countries.

When I look at the growth of such activities, I see a gradual increase in perversion as the availablity increases.

You have not responded to the rest of my post.

16 From: KO -

> When I look at the growth of such activities, I see a gradual increase
> in perversion as the availablity increases.

Welcome to the future.

You have not responded to the rest of my post.

You already have a definite viewpoint of the world - I don't see how I can add further to it.

You talk of single mothers and how they are the signs of a depraved soceity - need I point out that here in Pakistan we kill women about to become 'single mothers' in the name of honor? And that makes Pakistan society less depraved? What about women trapped in marriages which they cannot leave out of fear? That also makes this society less depraved, I assume.

As for your statement (my rephrase) that people won't be corrupted if ... corruption is avaiable, I disagree.

And I disgree with your statement. Hell, I think it is flat out wrong. If you go back to the Koran, it also disagrees with you. So does the Bible for that matter. Hell, Allah granted Satan a worldwide agency on promoting corruption. And the Koran
goes on to say that the pure of heart will not be corrupted.

There is this city called Amsterdam, which legalized a few drugs some years back. It has now the lowest usage of those drugs in Europe, and shrinking.

You ask How did porn come to Pakistan?

Take a look at the Kama Sutra, and the history books dating back a few thousand years. Now I guess you'll say that those are Hindu, and hence not Pakistani. Well, then float down the Indus River, which is very much in Pakistan, and you'll see a couple of massive whorehouses dating back to Moghul times, frequented by the Moghuls.

Pakistan has a long tradition of porn, dating back many centuries. You can see some of those ancient porn shows being put on today, in any city, any night: what is a mujra but a soft-porn show?

17 From: Danial -

What is wrong with porn? I mean people who regularly visit porn websites are any less civilized than the people who don't enjoy porn at all? Is this state's responsibility to make sure that I am a good Muslim?

What if I am a non-Muslim?

What if I am an atheist?

Is this state's responsibility to make sure that I think in the given boudaries of Holy Book even when I do not believe in the sacred text?

If some people think that state is responsible for restricting access to porn which is something dirty that people like me enjoy in our privacy. How about banning masturbation and making laws against it? how about censoring the clothes? Lets outlaw skinfits and the display of undergarments at the packaging of mercury underwear and banyan.


18 From: a sane voice -

look at this article in the guardian, published on Saturday April 15, 2006:,,1753327,00.html

20 From: a sane voice -

الســـلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
assalamu alaykum wa rematullahi wa barakatuhu

KO, yes I do have a worldview, based on what I have seen or read or experienced in the East and the West, and what I have learnt from the Quran and the Sunnah. Perhaps you have a worldview, too, and the point of this interaction is to learn where we are coming from, if not to convince. :)

I have already agreed with you that Pakistani society has a lot of flaws that need to be corrected. Most of the things you have pointed out (mujras, exploitation of women and others who are "weak", etc.) are the result of our society's feudal background. You won't find me defending Pak society, but there are pitfalls too in aping the West, so you won't find me rooting for everything Western, either.

All societies have problems. Third world societies, particularly Muslim ones, are passing through a transformation from feudalism to capitalism, and that is an added difficult adjustment for them to make. If we have lots of things to be ashamed of and to correct, should we add to our society the things that are wrong in other societies as well?

What I would like is that we should take what is beneficial, and reject what is harmful; not copy the West without thinking.

I believe the Quran and Sunnah give us the yardstick with which to judge what to take, and what to reject.

You are right in our having a Hindu past, and why would I deny it. My ancestors were Hindu. I have the shajra to prove it.

I was very happy to see your bit about the Quran telling us that Satan will try to lead us astray. I agree wholeheartedly, and have argued with others that this will happen in all societies. Only our job is not to make it easy for Satan but to keep trying so as not to let Satan have his way. I had just explained how the video thing came to Pakistan. Sorry, but the Quran agrees with me; it lays down that when Ibaadur Rehman come into power, they enjoin good and forbid evil, (the evil includes Fawahish).

Did you look at the Guardian article I gave a link to?

The effect of legalisation of drug usage needs looking into, but does this argument mean the usage will go down if only we legalise what we know to be wrong. So perhaps we should legalise everything - bribery, theft, dacoity, ...

Friend Danial,

what are states or societies? Why do they have laws? What are these laws to be based on?

There are societies which have (in theory) a complete separation of "church" and state. They have constitutions, and lawmakers make laws within these. When the electorate or the lawmakers think that the constitution is "behind" times, these lawmakers can modify the constitution, or the electorate may be asked directly for a revision.

It so happens that the majority of Muslims in this country (and that includes me) regard the Quran and the Prophet's Sunnah (related in authentic Hadith) as our constitution, and that this constitution is perfect, we cannot modify it.

That constitution does lay down some rules for society. However, for a pretty long time, the people who have implemented this or are trying to have it implemented, have not been able to see that in many cases the constitution allows for a great width in making judgements. (This was just an aside).

Isn't it a crime for bribes to be passed, even when it is in the privacy of one's house?

By and large, Islam does not allow invasion of privacy. So what one does in the privacy of one's home (watching porn, even extra-marital or illegal sex) is not something for which mutawa (religious police) should peep into one's house. Porn, however, does have harmful effects, particularly on society. Even if it didn't, the fact that it falls under "Fawahish" makes it forbidden in Islam. So while the religious police shoouldn't raid any house to see if someone is watching porn, the sale and distribution is prohibited, and that ban would be implemented in an Islamic state.

What you think (and believe) is not the issue. We all should have complete freedom in belief and thoughts. You may be (and probably are) a better Muslim than me; but that is for Allah (swt) to decide on Judgement Day. I have no desire to have a relative judgement on who is a better Muslim and who isn't.