Sat, May 29, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Pakistan’s Muslim facebook draws praise, criticism


Pakistanis outraged with Facebook over “blasphemous” caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed have created a spin-off networking site that they dream can connect the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

A group of six young IT professionals from Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural and entertainment capital, launched on Tuesday for Muslims to interact online and protest against blasphemy.

The private venture came after a Pakistani court ordered a block on Facebook until May 31, following deep offense over an “Everyone Draw Mohammed Day” page considered “blasphemous” and “sacrilegious.”

“Millatfacebook is Pakistan’s very own, first social networking site. A site for Muslims by Muslims where sweet people of other religions are also welcome,” the Web site tells people interested in signing up.

Dubbed MFB, after Facebook’s moniker FB, its founder says professionals are working around the clock to offer features similar to those pioneered by the wildly popular California-based prototype.

Each member has a “wall” for friends to comment on. The site offers e-mail, photo, video, chat and discussion board facilities.

The Urdu word Millat is used by Muslims to refer to their nation. The Web site claims to have attracted 4,300 members in the last three days — mostly English-speaking Pakistanis in their 20s.

The number of aficionados may be growing, but the community is a drop in the ocean of the 2.5 million Facebook fans in Pakistan.

Once signed up, members are a click away from debate on the bulletin board.

For example, “Enticing Fury” wrote: “The reason is that this forum must be reserved for ALL MUSLIMS OF THE WORLD and not only Pakistan. So using the word MILLAT is very good!

“Well done guys. You have made a great alternative for the whole Muslim ummah [nation]!” the member wrote.

However, the quality of the work-in-progress Web site has preoccupied and dismayed some.

One member wrote: “they need 2 hav more info.”

Another posted a mournful: “need games here as well. I missed cafe world” — referring to the popular Facebook page where members can run their own virtual cafe.

“It was a good idea ... as it can give us a forum to connect, but its reach is too limited,” Mohammad Adeel, a 31-year-old pharmacist, said in Karachi.

Local newspaper the Express Tribune was crushing.

“The quality of user experience is so abysmal that it does not merit the humble title, ‘Facebook clone,’” it wrote online.

“To sum up, MillatFacebook is a bold effort ... but it is unlikely to capture a large audience, judging by the online experience it offers currently,” it said.

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