As if Mark Zuckerberg didn't have his hands full with privacy issues, congressional probes, a controversial cult insignia and a a not-so-flattering-movie soon to be released - this week he was hit with accusations his network offended a supreme power?
Religious splinter groups have been around since the dawn of time. Social network niches, not so long. Under normal circumstance, imitation is the highest form of flattery. However, that was not the impetus that led a 25-year old Pakistani man to break rank with Facebook to form his own 'Muslim' splinter group of Facebook called 'Millatfacebook.'
Resulting as a form of protest, founder Omer Zaheer Meer says "his" Facebook was developed to combat offensive behavior shown toward the Prophet Mohammed. Millatfacebook was spawned after a Pakistani court banned Facebook in the country for not removing a Facebook fan page, entitled "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!"
The fan page, as of this posting has attracted 3,589 friends and its profile indicates it was founded in 7000 BC. However with over 430 varied and a sundry images of Mohammed, this type of humor was lost on Meer and the sovereign state of Pakistan.
How Meer was able to react so quickly in building a 'new' Facebook site is still a mystery? Perhaps divine intervention came into play? After all, God did create the world in 7 days. According to a Hindustan Times report, Millatfacebook has added over 2.5 million members in its short 11-day lifespan. Again a feat that seems like a supernatural accomplishment.
Beyond that, the slogan on the homepage has high aspirations of building their user-base to billions: "Millatfacebook helps you connect and share with more than 1.57 billion muslims and sweet people from other religions."
Aside from its green versus blue banner, the site even has the look-and-feel of Facebook - the Web site it seeks to condemn. Also when questioned by Guatam Chikermane of the Hindustan Times, why the name "Facebook" was included in the Pakistani version, Meer said, “This name, without speaking a word, says what we’re all about.” Okay, but I thought you wanted to distance yourself from this social networking infidel?
While Meer maintains his site's neutrality, the site according to a NY Daily News report is not without anti-West propaganda. One post reads, "We easily can remove Bloody Israel from the map of the World!" Another urges members to unite and defeat the "Zionist-owned" Facebook.
Yet Meer assures the world his site is meant "to provide a platform to decent people of different faiths to come together in harmony." The "About" page of the social network goes on further to say, "(members) should interact in a way that is socially responsible by providing them all the freedom of expression, however respecting each others’ sentiments, sensitivities and beliefs.
So, while I'm sure that Mr. Zuckerberg does not wish to touch this lightening rod of an issue with a ten foot pole, it does add another log to the beleaguered social network fire, that can't seem to cut a break. Praise Allah!
UPDATE - June 17 - BBC
Urdu reports — according to a Google Translation — that
Pakistan's Deputy Attorney General has launched a criminal investigation
against Zuckerberg and others in response to Facebook hosting a "Draw
Muhammad" contest on its site late last month. On May 19, Pakistani
access to Facebook over the contest, and this ban was lifted on May
31 after Facebook removed the page in Pakistan and other countries.