Ensaf Haidar he was stunned when a few days ago he received a Twitter email warning him that his tweets could violate Pakistan's blasphemy law. Haidar is not a Pakistani nor lives in that country. The Saudi activist sheltered in Canada has not been the only one to receive the controversial message from the social network. At least two other commentators critical of Islamic extremism have denounced the attempt to restrict their freedom of expression with similar messages. The campaign also coincides with the launch in Google of a app so that Muslims can denounce potential blasphemers.
"Dear Twitter, I am not afraid to express my opinions and you can not silence me under any circumstances. It is clear?", tweeted in response Haidar. The activist is the woman of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger imprisoned since 2012 and sentenced to a thousand lashes for "disrespecting Islam". From then on she took refuge with her children in Canada, from where she fights for the liberation of her husband and freedom of expression.
What has put Haidar in the spotlight is a tweet from last August in which he showed a woman with the full veil and asked: "Retweet if you are against the niqab. " Twitter tells him that this message could violate Pakistani law and suggests that "he may want to ask for legal assistance on the matter." She has also been one of the first give the alert on app Google anti-blasphemy.
In addition to Haidar, the other two affected are the Canadian columnist Anthony Furey, Y Mohammad Tawhidi, an Australian Shiite cleric of Iranian origin. In the case of Furey, the alleged offense are some cartoons of Muhammad that he hung four years ago, according to explained in his column of last Saturday. Tawhidi asked in a tweet to Australian police investigating extremism in mosques after a knife murder in Melbourne last November.
The nexus that unites them is their critical attitude towards religious extremism and the accusation to Twitter of contributing to silence the progressive ideas within Islam. The social network rejects that accusation. "If we receive a valid request from an authorized entity, from time to time it may be necessary to withdraw access to certain content in a specific country," a spokesperson for the company was quoted as saying by France Presse.
Those affected agree that the measure supports the controversial Pakistani blasphemy law that allows any accused of insulting Islam, his prophet or his holy book can be sentenced to death with the simple testimony of a Muslim. Often, recourse to that accusation hides personal disputes and disproportionately affects religious minorities. Also, as seen in the case of the Christian Asia BibiEven after the absolution of the Supreme, his life is in danger. Although there is no evidence that anyone has been executed legally for that reason, at least 70 defendants have died lynched by enraged mobs Since 1990.
Last summer Pakistan threatened to block Twitter if it did not eliminate content that the Government considered "offensive". Between 2012 and 2016, the authorities already prevented access to YouTube because of a short film amateur about Muhammad that sparked protests from extremists. He also banned Facebook for two weeks in 2010 for hosting supposedly blasphemous content.
The app Google to denounce those who insult Islam does not come from Pakistan, however, but from Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. Smart Pakem, which is what the invention is called, was launched last month at the request of the Government of Jakarta to facilitate the reporting of those who have "wrong beliefs" in violation of Islamic law (Sharia). The Indonesian penal code prohibits the blasphemy that he defines as "an act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things". A total of 148 people have been convicted for that reason since 2004, according to the Human Rights Watch account.