Bangladesh and Facebook: Friends Again

Bangladesh has lifted a weeklong ban on the social networking website Facebook imposed for a page urging people to draw images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, an official said Sunday.

Bangladesh become the second South Asian nation after Pakistan to ban the popular site over religious concerns. Pakistan lifted a court-imposed ban last Monday after an information technology official said Facebook officials had apologized for the page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents. (Facebook has denied apologizing or removing the content; it said it was merely blocking access to it to users in certain countries including Pakistan.)

Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favorable ones, as blasphemous.

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission ordered access to Facebook restored around midnight Saturday, and the site was available Sunday, said the commission's chairman, Zia Ahmed.

Facebook had removed the objectionable page, he said. The page could not be accessed in Bangladesh on Sunday.

The ban was imposed because Facebook was carrying caricatures that might hurt the religious sentiments of people in Bangladesh, where about 85 percent of the 150 million people are Muslim, Ahmed said earlier.

The commission said the U.S.-based company also agreed to remove "obnoxious" images of some of the country's political leaders, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia. The commission did not elaborate.

Nearly 1 million people in Bangladesh use Facebook, according to an estimate by the Bangladesh ISP Association.
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