Mohammed cartoons lead to Facebook ban

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The Independent Online

Bangladesh has blocked access to Facebook after derisive images of the prophet Mohammed and the country's leaders were published on the social networking website.

The government ordered the temporary ban late on Saturday as caricatures of Mohammed posted on the site "hurt the religious sentiments of the country's Muslim population", Hasan Mahmud Delwar, acting chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, told the AFP news agency.

"Some links in the site also contained obnoxious images of our leaders, including the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," he added.

One man was arrested on Saturday by Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) anti-crime force in connection with the images. According to the RAB, the man used at least six Facebook accounts to publish the pictures and has been charged with "spreading malice".

Thousands of Bangladeshis staged a protest in Dhaka on Friday in support of a ban on Facebook. Anger was directed at the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" campaign hosted on the website on 20 May, which prompted images to be posted. Muslims consider representations of the prophet to be blasphemous. ATM Hemayet Uddin, the protest organiser, described the depictions as "extremely humiliating for Islam".

Around six million people in Bangladesh have access to the internet and one million have Facebook accounts – some of whom were disappointed by the ban. "The government should have stopped the objectionable page rather than blocking the entire site," Farzan Hasan, a Facebook user, said. Access will be reinstated when the controversial images have been removed.

Pakistan also blocked Facebook, along with YouTube, Wikipedia and Flickr when images of Mohammed started to appear online last week.

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