Egyptian court orders month-long ban on YouTube

Over the weekend, an Egyptian court approved a month-long ban on YouTube, for refusal to remove controversial anti-Islam film the Innocence of Muslims. In addition to a ban on YouTube, the same court ordered a ban on any other website hosting the film.

It’s unclear when the ban is meant to go into effect — and a Google (the owner of YouTube) spokesperson on Saturday said that they have not “received nothing from the judge or government related to this matter.”

The film’s trailer sparked angry protests and calls for its removal in September last year, for its crude depiction of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Cairo was one of the sites of violent protests outside of its American Embassy. Shortly after the start of 11 September protests against the film, Pakistan reportedly blocked YouTube for refusing to remove the video, with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf declaring that “blasphemous content will not be accepted at any cost.” In addition to Pakistan, Egypt would be joining Bangladesh, Sudan, and Afghanistan in blocking YouTube for hosting clips from the film.

However, Egyptian human rights activist and technology expert Ramy Raoof  dismissed the ban as “impractical”, and explained to Egypt Independent yesterday that it would be very difficult — and expensive — for the Egyptian government to actually implement it. Another anonymous expert told the newspaper that even if the ban is implemented, it would be a “very weak solution” as Egyptians “will still find a way around it”.

Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has yet to respond to the rulings, but activists have pointed out that the government body has shown reluctance to enforce such bans in the past. In 2009 Egypt made a decision to ban pornography that went unenforced. Egyptian prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud ordered the ban to be enforced in early November last year — but Telecommunications Minister Hany Mahmoud said that it would be “technically difficult” to actually block the sites.

Still, even with doubt cast over the feasibility of its implementation, human rights groups have slammed the ruling as a step backwards for internet freedom after the fall of Mubarak two years ago. Bahey Al Din Hassan, the head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights told the Wall Street Journal that the ruling reflects the ever-increasing influence of Egypt’s religious conservatives — as well as a sign of even more restrictions on freedom of expression in the country.

 Sara Yasin is an editorial assistant at Index. She tweets from @missyasin.


The British MPs who want to ban "The Innocence Of Muslims"

Freyja Soelberg | Demotix Protests against The Innocence of Muslims at the US Embassy in London (Demotix)

This one sneaked under the radar before Christmas. On 6 December, UK parliamentarian Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North, tabled an “Early Day Motion” demanding that the British government ban the controversial anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims”. The moved was backed by 14 other MPs — 11 Labour, two Liberal Democrats, and RESPECT’s George Galloway.

Here’s the text of the EDM in full:

That this House notes the anger of Muslim constituents in response to the online video, The Innocence of Muslims; is offended by the vile, Islamophobic slurs it makes about a faith followed by over two billion people worldwide; believes that the film constitutes incitement to hatred on the grounds of race and religion; further believes that the film itself is of appallingly poor quality; and urges the Government tomake provision for its banning.

Note the invocation of our friend Muslim anger; note the absurd generalisation of the feelings of “two billion people worldwide” — none of the 15 signatories is actually Muslim. Note the remark on the “poor quality” of the film, a classic censor’s gambit (“it’s rubbish anyway, so this doesn’t really count as censorship”), but one which also raises the question of whether they’d call for Innocence of Muslims to be banned if it was well made. All rather grim.

The signatories are listed below (source Is your MP part of this censorious set?

Alex Cunningham Stockton North (Labour)
Iain Wright Hartlepool (Labour)
Simon Danczuk Rochdale (Labour)
Ian Lavery Wansbeck (Labour)
Jim Dobbin Heywood and Middleton (Labour)
Andy McDonald Middlesborough, Labour
Ronnie Campbell Blyth Valley (Labour)
Sandra Osborne Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Labour)
Kelvin Hopkins Luton North (Labour)
Alan Meale Mansfield (Labour)
George Galloway Bradford West (Respect)
Andrew George St Ives (Liberal Democrat)
Mike Hancock Portsmouth South (Liberal Democrat)
Roger Godsiff Birmingham, Hall Green (Labour)
Mary Glindon North Tyneside (Labour)

Read more on The Innocence of Muslims:

A new argument for censorship? Padraig Reidy asks if this time is different from previous blasphemy rows

Charlie Hebdo sued by Muslim organisations

French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is being sued by two Muslim organisations for cartoons it published of the Muslim prophet Muhammad in September. The organisations, Algerian Democratic Rally for Peace and Progress and the United Arab Organisation, are demanding EUR 782,500, accusing the publication of inciting violence and racially-motivated hatred against Muslims. The controversial cartoons were published on the heels of the Innocence of Muslims film which also depicted the prophet, sparking protests from Muslims around the world.