ISLAMABAD - The Pakistani government blocked the social networking site Twitter on Sunday, May 20, over a contest to draw cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
"The website has been banned by Ministry of Information Technology and the decision was conveyed to us, Mohammad Younis Khan, spokesman for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
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The move was taken over a competition on Twitter to draw caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
Pakistani officials say the blasphemous material was promoting a competition on Facebook on the prophet's cartoons.
Officials say Facebook agreed to remove the competition, but Twitter declined to comply with the Pakistani request.
We have been negotiating with them until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it, said PTA chairman Mohammad Yaseen.
Twitter has become increasingly popular in Pakistan in recent years.
In 2010, Pakistan blocked Facebook over a similar competition organized by an anonymous user to draw cartoons of the prophet on claims of promoting freedom of expression.
The Pakistani government also banned Twitter, YouTube and other websites in the same year over blasphemous content.
Pakistani officials said that the ban will be lifted once the Prophet's contest is removed.
"The ministry officials are still trying to make them agree, and once they remove that stuff, the site will be unblocked," Yaseen said.
Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.
Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad sparked an international crisis in 2005, when a Danish daily published 12 drawings of a man said to be the prophet.
The drawings included one showing the prophet wearing a tomb-shaped turban and another showing him as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by shrouded women.
The cartoons, considered blasphemous under Islam, were later reprinted by European newspapers, including Charlie Hebdo, on claims of freedom of expression.
The abusive cartoons have strained Muslim-West ties and triggered massive and sometimes violent demonstrations across the Muslim world.Following the cartoons crisis, Muslims in Denmark and worldwide took many initiatives to remove widely circulated stereotypes about Islam in the West.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net