Pakistan bans Facebook over Mohammed page

A court in Pakistan has placed a temporary ban on social network Facebook after a page encouraged users to post caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, according to a report by news agency AFP.

Pictures of the Prophet are regarded as blasphemous in Islam, and are strictly prohibited in Pakistan.

Muslims across the world staged angry protests in 2006 after satirical cartoons featuring the Prophet Momammed, originally published in Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten, were republished in a number of European newspapers.

Fury erupted in Pakistan after a Facebook page declared May 20 "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day", and invited users to send in their caricatures.

Protests led to a court ordering the offending page to be blocked yesterday.

Following a further petition from Islamic lawyers, Justice Ejaz Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court today directed the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block access to the whole of Facebook.

The ban will remain in place until May 31, when a more detailed hearing on the case will begin.

A crowd of around 20 demonstrators outside the court in Lahore carried banners condemning Facebook.

Fans of the social network in Pakistan were said to be dismayed. "What if they will ban it permanent? I will move out somewhere else," one user said in a Facebook status update.

No one from Facebook was available to comment on the ban.