When is a cartoon not "just" a cartoon? Well, perhaps when an entire nation decides to ban its citizens' access to Facebook over a page spawned by an illustration. An illustration that, in turn, was created to support an animated cartoon show.
A Pakistani court has ordered authorities to temporarily block the social-networking service over the Facebook-ignited campaign "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day," according to Agence France Presse.
The campaign encouraging people to caricature Muhammad is scheduled for May 20. The primary Facebook page that arose in recent weeks to promote "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" now has more than 40,000 "fans." The page's status updates, however, have been a frequent stream of vitriol -- a hate-laced war of words and images.
According to AFP, a group of Islamic lawyers petitioned a court Wednesday for "a blanket ban" on Facebook in Pakistan. Justice Ejaz Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block Facebook until a May 31 hearing, AFP says.
"We have already blocked the URL link and issued instruction to Internet service providers," said PTA representative Khurram Mehran, according to al-Jazeera. But Facebook users in Pakistan told AFP they could still access the site after the ban was imposed Wednesday.
About 2,000 women protested against Facebook on Wednesday in the southern city of Karachi, as did several dozen men nearby at a separate rally, the AP reports. The women, many of them students, reportedly demanded that Facebook be banned.
The person who created the primary page, Jon Wellington, reportedly has withdrawn his support of the campaign, Last month, Wellington told Comic Riffs: "I created a Facebook event because that's an easy way to remind myself of upcoming events. ... I am not a cartoonist, and I loved [Molly Norris's] creative approach to the whole thing -- whimsical and nonjudgmental."
Molly Norris is the Seattle cartoonist who last month created the posterlike illustration "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" to support what she termed the censorship of the creators of the Comedy Central animated show "South Park." In April, "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker said Comedy Central censored their attempts to depict Muhammad and edited a speech within the show about responding to fear and intimidation.
Comedy Central's editing of the show followed talk of violence toward Stone and Parker on the website RevolutionMuslim.com. The website posted an image of the fatal stabbing of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, a noted critic of Islam, with a caption that asked whether Stone and Parker had forgotten what happened to Van Gogh.
News reports said the Revolution Muslim posts were by Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee -- a.k.a. Zachary Adam Chesser of Virginia, a recent George Mason University student, according to a FoxNews.com report.
Some Muslims consider any depiction of Muhammad to be blasphemous.
Within days of drawing her illustration, Norris told Comic Riffs that she was distancing herself from the viral campaign that had risen around it.
This morning, Norris told Comic Riffs: "I will not be drawing Mohammed on May 20."
Norris continued: "I joined 'Against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' [on Facebook] and folks from there write to me. I never even set up a place where people could send images to. Other people started Facebook pages for this day but I never did. ... My cartoon was the beginning and end of expressing my personal views about Comedy Central's South Park censorship."
The primary "AGAINST 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day' " page on Facebook now has nearly 60,000 supporters who "like" the page.
"If I had wanted my one-off cartoon to be the basis for a worldwide movement to draw Mohammed, then at this moment I should be thrilled," Norris tells Comic Riffs today. "But instead I am horrified! My one-off cartoon that was specifically about Comedy Central's behaviour vs. Revolution Muslim's threat leading to a slippery slope of censorship in America is not good for a long-term plan.
"The results have shown to be vitriolic and worse, offensive to Muslims who had nothing to do with the censorship issue I was inspired to draw about in the first place."
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