Why ban just a Facebook page when you can erase a holy book or two (or more)?

Following in the wake of the declarations of the well known Internet idiot, who doubles as the honorable minister of telecommunications of the Union of India, an esteemed additional civil judge of a Delhi court has also decided to issue an ex-parte order commanding Social Media networks, Facebook and Youtube to remove 21 (or is it 22?) ‘objectionable’ websites that ‘offend religious sentiments’.

This has been done in response to please entered by a ‘journalist’, a certain Mr. Vinay Rai, and a certain Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, who also delivers online fatwas on a variety of subjects, ranging from the very intimate to the magnificently cosmic. It is wonderful to behold the learned court acting with such sensitivity to the joint plea of two honorable Hindu-Muslim worthies. Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai – busybodies of every stripe seem to have little other work to do than police and control what can and cannot be said online, shown in a film, performed in a play or depicted in an art work. And our ‘secular’ civil society, and the lower ranks of the judiciary faithfully acquiesce to their every demand.

Of course there is a glorious judicial precedent, just a few months ago, a court in our neighboring country, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, ordered the government to remove several Facebook pages, on the same grounds. The Delhi court’s prompt order has an impeccable pedigree.

But it is unfortunate that the censorious zeal that this decision represents is never carried through to what should be its logical conclusion. Someone should enter a plea asking some court somewhere to ban the religious scriptures of all the major religions – because they are all, without exception, along with wise, lofty and humane thoughts, also full of instances of undisguised and explicit contempt for other faiths and for people deemed impure, and full of content that can be deemed ‘objectionable’ by some body or the other, because they hurt some sentiment or other.

Perhaps there is a reason why this is never done. Perhaps, no one, let alone the people who are constantly entering petitions to remove this or that kind of content ever takes their scriptures seriously. Perhaps they do not even read them. Because if they did, all believers (not just the few zealots who take piety to be a sanction for hatred) would be constantly rioting against each other. Clearly this does not seem to be the case.

All right, maybe they (and millions of others) do read them. And in our part of the world, they often read them out aloud, not just in the privacy of their rooms, but with loudspeakers, in public places, with great fanfare in ‘Akhand (unbroken reading) Paths, Quran-khwanis, Shabad-kirtans and Gospel-Witness meetings.  But if they do, and if those that read them, and those that listen, take the words that rain damnation and abuse on other faiths and other ways of life seriously, and we still remain relatively insulated from apocalyptic religious wars or random acts of pious violence,  then clearly, mere exposure to hateful or contemptuous or abusive speech is not sufficient cause for mayhem. If this is so, then why would a few Facebook sites and Youtube videos (that you can’t access if you don’t want to in the first place) be such grave provocation ?

So, when the learned and esteemed judges, and their wise petitioners, examine the matter at hand, we should remind them, that if we are to take their ruminations seriously, they should ban, not just 21 Facebook pages, but a few (may be all) holy books as well. Then we would have a just solution to the vexing problem of hurt sentiments and objectionable content floating about for thousands of years in the public domain.

The only sane response to the presence of objectionable material (be it online or in physical space) is to make more efforts to create grounds for dialogue and understanding, to undertake vigorous criticism, even in the face of what may seem to be irreconciliable differences. Banning such material only only drives it underground, where it usually circulates with much greater velocity. Those that call for bans on objectionable material hardly ever realize that they act as the best publicists for the material that so offends them.

22 thoughts on “Why ban just a Facebook page when you can erase a holy book or two (or more)?”

  1. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – we should be campaigning for US First Amendment style free speech protections in our constitution, without a ‘conditions apply’ in fine print. Otherwise this jackassery will only continue.


  2. There are some good reasons why the government should get these pages deleted from Facebook.

    We need to understand that such pages and cyber localities are the actual hotbeds for fundamentalism,hatred, lies and manipulation to thrive. The seeds of hatred and misunderstandings sown in these forums go a long way in the conciousness of our young nation. It is these entities that act as mediums of communication and especially confirmation among hate mongers.

    Freedom of speech is relevant only when it has a character. The writer has been unable to express why these pages should be retained. Is there is a single reasonable argument that could be put up in favour of retaining these pages? Other than a numb understanding of ‘The freedom of speech’ that the writer hopes to practice in a rather rigid and fundamentalist fashion.

    The writer has compared the policing of these pages to the policing of arts and cinema. Is there no difference between these pages and art? Are we blind? Can we not distinguish between art and ‘propaganda of hatred’?

    I am happy for the two people who had submitted pleas to the government. By doing so, they have shown us that we can live up to the challenge and not let communal and political features muck up our world on the internet, the way they have mucked up the real world.

    The timing of Sibal’s declaration may well be influenced by the minority votes from UP. However, a nature of appeasement itself shown the one sided victimization done in these pages. Then, timing has little to do with relevance here. In fact, it is a shame for the civil society, that it took politicians to act against communal warmongering being conducted among the masses, through systematic channelisation and manipulation of knowledge and facts.


    1. That is not true at all. The issue of freedom of speech has been settled in the U.S. The Supreme court has held that freedom of speech includes freedom to offend religious and other “sentiment.” This Judge knows nothing about the First Amendment. You certainly cannot cry out loud, “fire, fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. Meaning thereby the only time such freedom is restricted is where public safety is involved.
      It is very easy for those who are offended. Just do not go and read these pages. Why are you reading them it offends?

      The good think is that neither Facebook nor any other site is going to comply with this “judgement.” because they are not bound to obey such stupidity coming from foreign courts.


      1. Why should we be considering a ruling from the U.S supreme court? Why should commonlity in constituition with a republic strike out the immediate needs of our own environment. Are we incapable of drafting bills for a personnel situation? Does our marijuana prohibtion law also come from their drafts??

        Then there is a lot of fire too. Will you see fire as fire only when people are butchering each other? is deception of intellect not enough for ‘fire’?

        “Why are you reading them it offends?” Sentinnel duty is a natural outcome. Groups and individuals are carved out for the service and defense of the whole group. We are defending our individual, society, nation and world against ‘deception and lies’ and discourses whose only ‘purpose’ is to mislead. Tell me, why are you so defending (if nt promoting) hateful deception? Why wont you polish your idea of ‘freedom of speech’ and make it a little real?

        If they dont obey, it would be a matter of shame for a nation the size of our presence.


  3. And what about the sentiments of the ‘atheists’ and ‘free-speakers’? These sentiments get seriously hurt by the these continuous religious bombardment and attempts to curb free speech.


  4. Dear Shuddho,

    Banning in an age of Consumerism- rather an extreme level of the same, where one sells one’s ‘self’, appears to be a marketing act. The focus of the ‘big banner’ seems to lie on the act of protesting almost in a form of performance rather than on the keen interest in the results of the protest.


  5. Are the sentiments of ‘atheists’ and ‘free-speakers’ satisfied if they abuse, pervert, and contaminate the cyber world with lies and hate. Wont anything less do? How does it help with religious bombardments if you allow and encourage inter communal hate-dialogue?


    1. You don’t answer the most important point raised by the author: if we were to go around censoring text if went against one religion, we would have to ban ban all religious texts. Almost all of them (including teh Quran, the Bible and the Vedas) prescribe hard punishments and vilification for atheists and those not believing in them.

      For example, as an atheist, I find it specially offending that all these books are held in high esteem by a large number of people, even though they (the books) describe me and other atheists as “traitors” and “criminals” and what not for no particularly strong reason, and ask for us to be converted, murdered or burnt at the stake or in hell. So accepting your argument, does that give me the right to ask for the Quran, the Bible and the Vedas to be banned?


  6. there should be a ban on political speeches outside parliament. and everybody please start wearing an armband that says KABIL SIBAL IS NOT ONLY AN IDIOT HE IS A @#$%&* !


  7. Brilliant post! And completely true! Whatever happened to tolerance and democratic rights??? Freedom of speech? Thought? Its amazing why those that condemn everything around them, even subscribe to the”cyber world”! You all have freedom of choice too, guys. As do the rest!

    Making a mockery of the judicial system does not solve anything!


  8. Ali Kirmani, you seem to decry the immaturity of the ‘young nation’, all the time forgetting, the ‘young nation’ is a 5,000 year old syncretic culture that has absorbed and modified and churned all sorts and kinds of cultures and religions and allowed every colour of political, social and philosophical thought to flourish, most of them coming out the better and more rejuvenated for the churning!

    The judiciary is drawn from the same stock all of us come from and to find an Ali Kirmani and an additional civil judge of the same colour is no surprise. One silly judgement is not enough to overturn 5,000 years of order amidst the most chaotic and anarchic culture of freedom and free-speech mankind has ever seen. Bravo judge sahib! You too shall be heard! But we shall be the people we have been for 5,000 years – contemptuous of those who wish to shackle our minds and thoughts, contemptuous of the politics of mind control and the terror of the state and its organs…

    Rex, I completely support your suggestion that we support a US First Amendment style law for India – it is the need of the hour, before a whole lot of other ‘saviours’ of society drive us into a Taliban society…


  9. People should worry about corrupted government than religions anymore. What religion made us… ? Blind. And these bloody fuckers, the political leaders; they don’t worry Hinduism, Sikh, Islam, Christian. Even when Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai fight with each other’s; brothers they survived taking protections and securities. The political leaders say religious sentiment in mouth and they actually want people become blind on their own faith that we, the political leaders will easily increase our Swiss bank balance when Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai will fight one against the other. Forget religious fatwa’s think about political fatwa. It will at least bring a stable future full with peace. Hindu, Islam, Sikh, Christian, non of you are immortal. The holy truth is that you will die, and Ishwar, Allah, God no one will make you immortal. If your religion says to fight against the evil then fight against Yellow Journalism, Fake History Books, and Bustard Son of a Bitch Politicians and Bollywood Heros who together are showing your son’s and daughter’s the dark path of hell. Think about the major causes, religious thinking is very minor!


    1. VIkram Roy I agree with you. Religion should be 100% personnel and we shoud stop the hollering over religion, and stop letting it in politics and general society.

      For this, we should ban all the sites and sources that have been promoting religious flammation and provocations through ‘deception’ and consistent ‘flammation’. Once we manage to do this, we should hope for and divert the freed public conciuosness and discourse towards the more radical issues such as corruption and governance.

      Also, you have well said that we should fight against ‘Yellow Journalism, Fake History Books, and Bustard Son of a Bitch Politicians :p ‘.


  10. “Religious sentiments” are an easy excuse, hard to defend. Note that this is also ‘ex parte’ which means there is no concerned party to defend the plea.

    Ultimately other internet publishing bans like http://www.legallyindia.com/201106232179/Bar-Bench-Litigation/institute-injuncts-magazine-penguin-google-from-publishing-criticism and others fall into the same broad category, fundamentally no different !

    In Spain you could also use copyright claims now since 31 Dec, see this

    Trademark has also been abused by our Indian counterparts over parts of a domain name:


    and that is similar to ‘domain bullying’ to shut free speech:


    All different faces of the same thing, whether India, Pakistan, Spain, or the USA. But the minimum decency is giving notice to a party and allowing them to defend themselves. Our Indian methods seem to be particularly perverse in that regard.


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