Mark Zuckerberg’s Post Mentioning Pakistan Ignites Fiery Debate On Freedom of Expression

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg shared a status update on Facebook condemning the terrorist attack in France. In the post, he mentions an extremist from Pakistan who tried to get him sentenced to death because Facebook refused to ban offensive content about the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

As expected, the post ignited a fiery debate on everything from his mention of Pakistan to silence on other atrocities to the Charlie Hebdo attacks themselves. At the time of writing, the post has over 394,000 likes, 40,000 shares and over 32,500 comments. Here is the post.

A few years ago, an extremist in Pakistan fought to have me sentenced to death because Facebook refused to ban content about Mohammed that offended him.

We stood up for this because different voices — even if they’re sometimes offensive — can make the world a better and more interesting place.

Facebook has always been a place where people across the world share their views and ideas. We follow the laws in each country, but we never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world.

Yet as I reflect on yesterday’s attack and my own experience with extremism, this is what we all need to reject — a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world.

I won’t let that happen on Facebook. I’m committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.

My thoughts are with the victims, their families, the people of France and the people all over the world who choose to share their views and ideas, even when that takes courage. ‪#‎JeSuisCharlie‬

There were plenty of replies to the post and Pakistanis were out in full force. Here are a few notable responses and exchanges.

Umar Khan said,

Mark, being a Pakistani I do appreciate your thoughts but I’d like to clear one thing here, not all the “Pakistani” possess similar mindset & you can’t just blame the whole nation on the basis of one person’s act.

In response, Zuckerberg replied,

You’re right. I am friends with several Pakistanis, and I know most Pakistanis are not like the person who tried to have me sentenced to death!

Warwick Mirzikinian said,

Zuck making fun of peoples religous [sic] beliefs is not content you should not condone or allow it to happen …even if they believe in the magical tea pot …there should be laws protecting religious beliefs this is not freedom of speech issue but an issue of respect for your fellow mans beliefs..what if people drew obscene pictures of jesus ???

A particularly well like post by Aftab Ahmed said,

What about all those people in Palestine , Iraq , Afghanistan , Syria died Never seen you condemned about those barbaric acts talk about standing for right Mr Zuckerberg.
Yet you ban countless pages for posting “offensive” things so how can you say t
hat you refuse to let one group silence everyone when facebook bans pages for posting humor? sounds like playing favorites to me….
Freedom of speech and hate speech is not the same.. Go educate yourself please…

Before we discuss Facebook’s hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of expression, let’s run through the events in France.

So…What Exactly Happened?

Three days ago, the Parisian offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, were attacked by three gunmen who were armed with kalashiknovs. The attack left 10 staff members including 2 police officers dead.

What is Charlie Hebdo?

Charlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical magazine based out of Paris, France. The magazine has made all religions a frequent target of satire, particularly extremist Islam. Over the years, cartoons and caricatures of holy figures from Jesus to the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) have been published. A lot of their work has been criticized as being too offensive.

Drawn to poke fun at radical Islamists, these cartoons were often offensive to the point of igniting riots across the Muslim world, which is precisely what happened in 2011 after they printed the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the cover as a ‘guest editor’. It culminated in their offices being firebombed although there were no injuries.

Double Standards: ‘Freedom of Expression’ or ‘Freedom for Some Expressions’?

With the freedom of expression concept central to the debate, we can’t help but feel that the West has double standards when it comes to Islam.

Before we go any further, we want to state for the record that we completely believe in freedom of speech. It is the bulwark of democracy and the right for any man to say what he wants without fear of retribution is what makes a society great.

Now let’s get started.

Charlie Hebdo’s Cartoons and JeSuisCharlie

There has been a lot of talk about how the cartoonists were heroes, how their work was exercising their right to free speech and how Muslims who ‘truly stand against extremism’ should repost their offensive cartoons. I’m going to argue otherwise but at the same time, I condemn the attack and maintain they didn’t deserve to die for their work. That is not the Islam I believe in.

A lot of the cartoons by the magazine were offensive for the sake of being offensive. That is precisely why they don’t generate any constructive debate.

Liberals and moderates from Muslims will ignore them and extremists will use them. So we must ask. If they aren’t contributing anything to discussion, what is the point of publishing them?

If the same magazine can fire a cartoonist for anti-Semitic cartoons, what gives them the right to denigrate a Holy figure of Islam and call it free speech? There is even a case in French courts right now in which a cartoonist is being charged with anti-Semitism for his work. If free speech exists, make it uniform or else you are just picking and choosing and that defeats the whole purpose and alienates Muslims.

Here is what Mohamed Vall Salem, a reporter for Al-Jazeera had to say:

“What Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them! It’s not about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I’M NOT CHARLIE.”

Facebook’s Hypocrisy: Selective Free Speech

Now let’s talk about Facebook. We have already discussed it before but it bears repeating.

We all know there is precedent for some speech to be limited or even banned because of its sensitive nature. For example, you cannot deny the Holocaust happened. Similarly you can’t make pages on Facebook that have Hitler, Nazi and similar words in the title. So clearly, there is precedent for sensitivity when it comes to some matters.

However, why does that sensitivity become freedom of expression when it comes to Muslims? You can ban anyone who is anti-Semitic but you refuse to ban anyone who is anti-Islamic and is promoting hate speech?

If it incites hatred or provokes violence, you don’t get to say it and hide behind the ”free speech’ moniker, as simple as that. There are 1.7 billion of us and our sentiments matter just as much as others.

These dual standards aren’t specific to Facebook only, in fact whole West has to understand that there are people who are using “Free Speech” as a tool to spread hatred, and religious racism.

Just moments ago the news popped in that France has banned any Anti-Israel protests. This pretty much tells everything that how truly the west exercises the freedom of expression.

Muslims Need a Good Reality Check As Well:

This might be a volatile statement but we also need to look at ourselves before we start condemning non-Muslims. Human rights violations in Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, massive human and drug trafficking in our own country are things that are happening in the Islamic world. The impression given is that only Muslims can treat other Muslims like animals.

There is also the fact that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the not the only one whose depictions are not allowed. Jesus is also a routinely denigrated figure. So are other prophets. Where is our outrage when cartoons depicting them are published?

The Quran teaches us to make no distinctions between prophets [1][2] so are we in fact picking and choosing, the same thing we are accusing non-Muslims of? We cannot decide which parts of the religion we want to follow, in this context. Consistency on our end is also needed.

Guns Against Pencils is WRONG!

What is unambiguous is that killing is wrong and killing in the name of Islam is one of the most horrendous things you can do. I would like to link this excellent piece by Mehdi Hasan in the Huffington Post about an open letter to the jihadists who kill in the name of Islam.

At the end, I would just like to say that talking about these issues is the only way to get past them. I do not understand the hesitation and no-no culture that surrounds topics like these. By shoving them under the rug, we are only promoting ignorance whereas the solution is education.

We need to foster open debate and talk. The world is becoming a darker place with extremist movements and xenophobia on the rise and it becomes the responsibility of each of us to make sure our religion isn’t hijacked by extremists.

In the wake of this terrorist act, it is important to realize that the the issues are far from simple, they are multi-faceted and the only solution is for both parties to look at the sequence of events that have led us here.

Both the Muslims and the West will have to look at their respective share in creating this mess. The time has come that we should understand each-other to get our differences resolved. We can’t simply keep on going like this forever.

Talal is the Editor in Chief at ProPakistani.


  • Bilal Iqbal

    Aap ka kutta #Kutta.. hamara kutta #Tomy… ;)
    … RIP respect of other communities and hate speach policies of FB.

    • Guest

      please we should deactivate our facebook account.(I already deactivated).

      • guest

        Faida ??? Putar tu ne 1 ghantay main hi khol lena hai facebook account

        • guest

          nahi mujey account deactivate karey hoye bhot arsa ho gaya bhai.

          • Bilal Iqbal

            Achi bat hy…lakin bahtr hal yai hy k FB py apni voice raise ki jay..

            • Ali Raza Kazmi

              FB administration knows that now Muslims are more edict to FB so many apologist will raise such voice.

      • Waqas

        No need to deactivate, Just stop clicking their ads and sponsored content. Also pakistani brands and people should stop advertising at facebook. Keep using their resources and free network service but just don’t feed them.

        • MaaZ

          The more effective way is to use AdBlockPlus or uBlock on Facebook specially if someone can’t avoid it and de-activate their account…

      • Ali Raza Kazmi

        i deactivated my facebook account 5 years back when FB refused to remove such filth from FB despite i had more than 1500 friends and social contacts. ALHUMDULILLAH, i am proud before my ALLAH. once all Muslims do so, FB will lick your foots like they do with Jews.

      • Mere bhai aisa nahen hoskta sirf FB account deactivate karnay se kuch nahen hoga, ghar k fan se laikar ac fridge har cheez inhi ki use kartay ho or baat fb par phass jaati hai tum logon ki, agar aisa hai to sab cheezain use karna chordo. Sab yahoodi Saazish Hai…..

  • Rightly said, very well explained.

  • Deactivated my FB account for good today!!

  • Aamir

    well said

  • Najam

    My Dear Writer,

    Internet nowadays is run by group whose sole purpose is to spread hatred and chaos among living individuals, while deception and ignorance are their main tools. It is either a person embraces Satan as his lord then you will be free or if you choose to live a humble life in nobility and positivity, you will always be charged guilty. You raised some very good questions about equal rights, question is, What can we do about it when our own are now drowned in blood of deception.

    Thanks & Regards

  • ShameOnMarkZuckerberg

    #ShameOnMarkZuckerberg #AssholeMarkZuckerberg

  • Aamir Shahzad

    They are duff, blind they can’t understand… ” Summun bukmun umyun fahum laa yargi’oon” -Al-Qu’an

  • Geekpk

    Islam as a religion is a idea which can be criticized but u cant promote Hitler because he killed Jews which were a killed for their ethnicity and that is hate speech and similarly if someone writes that i wanna kill all Muslims then it is also hate speech and Facebook removes these type of posts. So its not selective free speech. Learn the difference.

    • makes_sense

      You don’t have to support killings or hitler. Here people are banned for just protesting against Israel. Is this ethnic? or does this come under hate speech?

      • Geekpk

        No one gets banned on facebook for speaking against Israel. I do that all the time.

      • xim

        Finally, some sense!

  • Javed Khan

    The biggest hypocrites here are us. Before we point fingers at others, have a look at your own selves and be embarrassed at the animals that we are

  • Ahmed Habib

    Not to mention wearing skarf is prohibitted in France, so is this justice and freedom of expression?

  • Molana Ponga

    I condemn killing someone as I condemn satirical posts which make fun of someones religious believes, both are act of terrorism and both should be stopped.

  • Muhammad Aamir

    Facebook allows people to report and even request a ban on pictures/posts that offends or bullies someone, or even if someone duplicates a fake profile of you — yet when a Pakistani man beseeches you to put a ban on content that offends an entire RELIGION of people and makes them feel it is an attack on their beliefs and Prophet, and is creating fake images of their Prophet —you go and make a public status about how “we have to reject a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world.” Mark, how about you notice the hypocrisy in that statement by remembering that it is YOU who is silencing a man for expressing a concern.

    • aamir7

      Sir, DMD page on Facebook was reported by more than 150K ppl (talking about 2010), yet it was not taken off.

      I mean, they could have simply removed it because a huge audience didn’t like it, or got offended.

      This is when countries like Pakistan are left with no choice but to ban content and such legitimate bans become reason for so many illegitimate bans that we see today.

      • Muhammad Aamir

        If they don’t want to show the content to the Muslims only then why they don’t hide the content as per religions – Facebook has a feature where it is asked about your religion – and why only Pakistan is left; there are 53 Muslims countries in the world where it should be the same policy if they want to hide the content. We Muslims don’t do the same act as they’re doing by making cartoons. In the Holy Quran Allah says, “”And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge.”
        I simply want to say hate speech should not be allowed anywhere in the word as any way.

  • drag0nslayer

    Amazing article.. Hats off to writer ..

  • Faisal Kamal

    i think i am now going to off FB. because now there are two reasons. anti islam and anti pakistan statement. and i think i am more patriotic than … khuda maaf kare

  • imran

    FB is main source of hate and animosity among Muslims sects. major target killing in Pakistan of Shia in particular and others in general done by tracing on FB.

  • Eli Ehsan

    Well said brother.. Subhanullah.. now let’s have movement to arrest or kill all the extremist mullahs in our country who barricade any debate that takes place in our society regarding Islamists extremism. let’s burn down places like Jamia Hafsa & jamat-ud-dawa who’re constant war mongers & igniting hatred in society against our fellow countrymen in the name of religion. Shall we?

  • Mustaasam Saleem Ansari

    This is what i replied on his Post.

    If you say “Everyone has Right to share his Views”.
    Then what’s This ??

    Its just to make users “Fool” ??
    That means you don’t do anything with the content, if we even report to Facebook.

  • Atif

    I wanna say that if someone kills a person in France and only one muslim is involved with 10 member of Francis,So, It is game against Muslimism.
    I wanna say, Keep using fB and have a lot of Fun. We dont care what white people expect. and we should not react on their wrong claims.
    Be yourself.
    (Killing is terrorism)
    We are ruining Islam by our hands showing and explaining to Wests that we are not T.
    Just ignore them, they are as****s.
    Got it?

  • Amir

    We can’t get our rights on their platform. The better option is to make alternatives for all of their bigger products like other big countries like China etc. are doing. Make our own social network, make our own Video sites (or just use Tune.pk as it’s very well made), make our own search engines. Let’s compete them in technology.

    • aamir7

      Same tune.pk that advertises its features about playing anything from YouTube?

      They disappointed me.

      • Amir

        Yes, this feature will eventually vanish if we stop depending on YouTube for everything. They (Tune.pk) should also think over this. If YouTube is banned in our country then I think it’s an illegal feature they are providing.

  • Atif

    I cant send Friend Requests to Girls on Facebook… Then how it is freedom of expression?
    If its free then react freely.
    Mark is a child with Website that called “Facebook”.
    How internet works? why not build own internet ?
    hehehehe!

  • I am a Student

    Dear PP Admin,

    [ If the same magazine can fire a cartoonist for anti-Semitic cartoons . . . ]

    Anti-Semite are not a “Religion” bhai saab. They are a “RACE”. And RACE =/= Religion.

    In the dictionary of the civilized world respect to RACE is superior than Religion. A HUMAN can have a default orientation of being from XYZ race, or group or sexual orientation.

    On other hand A human by-default has NO RELIGION. Religion is not related to or a default STATUS of a HUMAN. It is just a personal choice like pepsi, coke, football, cricket are personal choices.

    So how come the two sides became equal ?

    In secular society humans are Sacred and everything else is secondary. So while humans cant be targeted, criticism and objections against all religions are allowed.

    In theocratic society, Religion is sacred and everything else is secondary. So by inverse logic, Religion cant be question while you can kill humans in the name of Religion, just like it happens in Muslim world especially Pakistan.

  • Waqif Khan

    MRIP, charlie Hebdo. (MRIP = may not be rest in peace)

  • See what they replied when I reported. Dear users please report :)
    Lets see if a million would report then what do they tell us…!!!

  • ‪#‎ShameonMarkZuckerberg‬ There are approximately 1.7 billion Muslims in the world right now. If Islam really promotes “terrorism”, trust me you had been dead…. For mark and all other ones who are creating hoax……!

    Islam is a peaceful religion and we respect all religions, please do the same in return…..! Thanks

  • Molana Ponga

    ..

  • Shafique

    Unity is the best way to fight against all odds. If we all unite to boycott Facebook, Mark will sure think twice before saying what he said. I do not have a facebook account and trust me i do not lose anything. I am engineer and a tech savy person working in USA on cutting edge technologies. If i can afford to live without facebook im sure everyone can. Anti-Semitism is banned on facebook because the jews are unite and strong. Let’s get united to boycott each and everyone who discriminates against us.

  • Ææmįr Mōhâmmåd

    well i stopped using facebook the day they started that blasphemous drawing competition !!!

  • Reply

    I think Pakistani government join inside Great Wall firewall. (Chinese filtering) to protect country’s ethics/customs western media flood and paid mafias.

  • Guest

    The post is just complaining and showing half the picture. Many of the Muslim either forget, don’t know or ignore intentionally that they dislike, hate, ridicule or vividly insult other’s religion, core personality and basic tenets. This can easily be observed on Facebook pages and even more pity it is teaching of Islam, therefore ban or amend your holy text first then ask West to respect your religion. It’s not enough to say “religion of peace” again and again, merely a dialogue.

  • Farooq

    Hypocrisy

  • Farooq

    Lets Deactivate our account voluntarily….. I have done since “draw ******* day” controversy…..

  • Babar

    someone described this hyprocracy much better then I ever could .. http://www.vineyardsaker.net/brainwashed-zombies-and-hypocrites/

  • khalid

    Government should block FB.

  • Ali_Amjad

    Very well written. Bravo.