Facebook Politics

I was editing a story of one of my colleagues and telling him what the government might do on ‘Islamist’s demand to slap a ban on facebook and then the arrest of a youth who was nabbed for posting satiric cartoons of our political leaders. It was around 18.45 (29th May) when I was surfing on Facebook and looking on status updates by my friends. And it disappeared. Initially, I thought it was the speed that had obstructed me to access it. In another window, it was a story of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, on the News of the World and I moved to another story of the skynews that Police in Bradford recovered pieces of human body from a river. No, it was not the internet service, but was the government that blocked our access to Facebook.

A popular social networking site in Bangladesh as elsewhere in the world, Facebook fall prey to our government as the young guy uploaded satiric images of some politicians, including the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. Wait a minute! It might look like that simple. But it is not.

The government did not make any official statement, but newspapers reported quoting the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) that part of the reason is the posting of some anti-religious and porn links by users across the globe. “We have blocked all access to Facebook temporarily,” a high official of BTRC told the Daily Star newspaper adding, “It was done in line with a decision of government high-ups.”

On Friday after the Jumma prayer, a group named Islami Oikya Jote demonstrated in the city. Beside the Jote, Islami Andolan and Khelafat Andolan are also in the race. Their demand is to slap a ban on facebook by the government as some people found place on facebook to post their satiric cartoons on Prophet Hazraat Mohammad (Sm). They also called for hartal (strike) on June 28 across the country (coinciding with the hartal sponsored by the opposition BNP) if their demand is not met. Jote leader Fazlul Huq Aminee’s point is very clear: they are doing it to protect the prestige of the prophet, they will continue the movement and if the government does not ban the facebook, they will continue their movement. Smart enough!

Then the government found out Mahbub Alam Rodin, 30, who was arrested by elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on charges of uploading satiric images of some political leaders on Facebook. Commander Mohammad Sohail, director of Rab’s legal and media wing, said Rodin’s Facebook activity over the last one year was offensive. Rab quoted Rodin as saying he uploaded obscene images and did this as his pastime. Rab has so far blocked seven Facebook accounts of Rodin, which he opened with email addresses and fake particulars. Rodin also used several pseudonyms: Brigadier Mahadi, Sepahi Mahadi, Imam Hossain, Rodin Al, Mohammad Al Mahadi and Junaida Khandaker Zihan, according to the media reports.

This is what my childhood friends used to call “Khaape khap, Abdullah’r Baap”.

The facebook users were irked. Dhaka University students took to the streets to protest the government’s decision. They dubbed the move ‘radical’ and said the government should have blocked individual profiles rather than the entire site.

The government has hunt down two birds with one bullet. They will tell the West that it has been done because the young guy uploaded satiric cartoons of the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader (both are happy now). On the other hand, ‘Islamists’ are also happy because their demand for slapping a ban has been met as it has been met in Pakistan. The question is: who got the most out of it and who lost?

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