A New Delhi website on Islam that deals with issues of gender justice and propagating peace sees its pages blocked by Pakistan

A New Delhi-based website NewAgeIslam.com has alleged censorship after its several pages, including some with columns by Indian Muslims, were blocked in Pakistan. The site talks about modern interpretation of Islam and emphasises the need for rethinking and reviving the idea of ‘Ijtihad’ (debate and discussion) in every aspect of Muslim society.

Most of the 10 pages that were blocked talked about gender justice, power of peace being greater than that of violence and the need for opposing subservience of Muslim women and instilling confidence in them.

If the concerned pages are opened by Pakistani viewers of the website, who constitute over 20 per cent of its viewership, the screen goes blank.

“The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan,” flashes on the screen.

The editor of the website and a senior journalist Sultan Shahin told The Hindu that he was informed about the blockade by some of its columnists from Pakistan who sent him screen shots of the blocked pages a week ago.

“What is very interesting is that most of the blocked pages, apparently by the Pakistani authorities, talk about basic ideas of gender equality, Islam’s emphasis against terrorism and violence and its tolerance of dissent. How can these ideas be in any way against the welfare of any society or Islam? In fact, these ideas need to be talked about in order to create awareness about the essence of Islam,” said Mr. Shahin, who is planning to raise the issue with concerned authorities in India as well as Pakistan.

One of the banned articles is an Urdu translation of an article titled ‘Towards a Progressive Interpretation of Islam’ earlier published in The Hindu and written by Chennai-based Faizur Rahman who is associated with the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought. The piece argues with references from the Quran that Islam did not advocate polygamy and it puts conditions on more than one marriage.

“Quran mentions polygamy only once but Muslim men took this exception as a rule and made it a dominant practice whereas actually Quran disapproves of multiple marriages and therefore the practice of Muslims marrying more than once was against the ideals of Islam, which is what the article highlighted,” Mr. Shahin added.   

Another banned article, ‘The Power Of Peace Is Greater Than The Power Of Violence’, has been written by well known scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. “One wonders how such an article that stresses on the power and importance of peace can affect the peace and harmony of a country that boasts of its Islamic identity and legacy. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s article only emphasised the message of peace brought by Islam as it argued that peaceful methods are far more effective than violent methods. Now, such an article or message can only be disturbing the peace of mind of the group that believes in the ideology of violence and bloodshed,” Mr. Shahin said.  

Pointing out a ban on the article, ‘Why Self-Confidence Is Necessary for Today’s Women’, he asked with regret and anguish, “Is it an article that deserved to be blocked in a so-called progressive State like Pakistan? One can only cry at the tragic plunge of the intellectual fall of the people in control of Pakistan’s policy. The article only stresses the need for self-confidence in Muslim women so that they can contribute to their family and society in a better way.”

The banned articles include a humorous piece on Shah Rukh Khan written by a Pakistani journalist and blogger Mohammad Izhar ul Haque. Elaborating on the article’s content, Mr. Shahin said, “The satiric piece highlighted the issue of extortion, kidnapping and killing of minorities like Sikhs and Hazara Shias and the sectarian politics and violence in Pakistan. Mr. Haque also underscored the hypocrisy of the Pakistani leaders and the social ills of the conflict-ridden city of Karachi in particular and of Pakistan in general.”  

Giving a context to the trend of banning websites in the neighbouring country, he said, “The ‘objectionable’ websites or its selected pages are blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). It has become aggressive following last year’s release of the blasphemous film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ which sparked widespread protests by Muslims in Pakistan. Even the head of PTA was dragged to court for not being able to block such blasphemous and pornographic sites. This prompted the government to form a committee and a sub-committee to track and block offensive websites in Pakistan. The PTA also set up a crisis cell to receive complaints from the public about any offensive or objectionable site.”

It is a fact that all the articles go against extremist ideology of Taliban – the ideology of violence, subservient status of women, suicide bombing, persecution of minorities, he concluded.

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