‘Blasphemous’ Facebook post kills Pakistan family

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

September 11, 2014

While many of us in the West use VPN and similar privacy enhancing technologies to pirate the odd movie and do a bit of one handed web surfing, in many parts of the world privacy is a matter of life and death.

This is something that was tragically illustrated a couple of weeks ago in the town of Gujranwala, 220 km southeast of the Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, when a woman and her two granddaughters (a baby and a seven year old) where burned to death in their home by a mob, following comments made by a member of their minority Ahmadiyya religious community on Facebook.

Ahmadiyya is an Islamic religious movement which believes in a prophet after Mohammed. Most Muslim Pakistanis consider this to a heretical belief, and in 1984 Ahmadi’s were declared non-Muslim in Pakistan, and are forbidden by law from saying the Muslim greeting, or referring to their places of worship as ‘mosques’.

On Sunday July 24 an ‘altercation’ occurred between young Ahmadi men and conventional Muslim youths over a Facebook post by made by one of the Ahmadi’s, which allegedly contained ‘objectionable material’, and which lead mobs to attack the houses of Ahmadi community members.

Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused. As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis.

One Ahmadi described the scene,

The attackers were looting and plundering, taking away fans and whatever valuables they could get hold of and dragging furniture into the road and setting fire to it… Some were continuously firing into the air. A lot of policemen arrived but they stayed on the sidelines and didn’t intervene.

The youth originally accused of blasphemy on Facebook was unharmed, which serves as a sobering reminder that comments made on the internet can not only harm those making the comments, but those around them.

We strongly urge anyone living in repressive countries where their political and religious view can cause harm to themselves, their loved ones, and their community at large, to be guarded about what they say in public (which includes posts made on social media websites such as Facebook), and to learn how to make their online lives private through the use of technologies such as VPN.

As we discuss in this article, however (and VPN would not have prevented this tragedy from happening), protecting privacy on the internet requires more than simply technological tools – it requires common sense, a certain amount of deviousness, and a general awareness all factors that may be used to unmask an individual’s identity.

Please be careful out there.

Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

3 responses to “‘Blasphemous’ Facebook post kills Pakistan family

  1. Seriously? You are encouraging self-censorship to appease murderers and people who choose any reason for hate. Sorry, but it is up to the Pakistan government to protect its citizens, and to ensure radical Islamic cultures do not flourish. It is currently failing dismally in both of these tasks, and Pakistan is a huge base of support for Islamic hate – as evidenced by the banning of this group’s religious activities.

    There will almost certainly be some form of retaliation, and thus a new murderous cycle begins – one that the West went through centuries ago when its own church split. We should understand these problems and be helping to deal with them – not just telling abused minorities to “watch what you say”.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      In a world where posting certain views on Facebook can get random members of your community murdered, I was going more for be careful, and use common sense and privacy technologies so you can express yourself safely. I did not mean to advocate self-censorship (in fact the intention was the opposite)… If this is unclear then I apologise, and would like to make it clear here.

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