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Pakistan Blocks Facebook Over Muhammad Caricatures

'Everybody Draw Muhammad Day' drew many protest pages on Facebook
'Everybody Draw Muhammad Day' drew many protest pages on Facebook

Pakistan has ordered the country's Internet providers to temporarily block the popular social network website Facebook because of a controversial page that encourages users to draw the Prophet Muhammad.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Wednesday complied with a Lahore High Court ruling earlier in the day that said the site should be blocked until May 31. The petition had been filed by a group of Islamic lawyers.

The Facebook page "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" encourages users to draw the Prophet Muhammad on May 20 to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group toward the creators of a U.S. cartoon television show ("South Park").

The group threatened the show's creators for depicting Muhammad in a bear costume in an episode earlier this year.

Most Muslims consider any images made of the prophets to be blasphemous.

On Wednesday, some 2,000 women rallied in the southern city of Karachi demanding a permanent government ban of Facebook.

Pakistan's Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi suggested the government organize a Muslim conference to address the issue.

On the Facebook information page for the contest, organizers say "we are not trying to slander the average Muslim." Organizers say they want to show the extremists who threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions "that we are not afraid of them" and "they can't take away our right to freedom of speech."

Angry protests swept across Muslim countries in 2005 and 2006 after a Danish newspaper printed several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.