Sharia Alert: On the chopping block are sites dealing with “activities that conflict with the country’s Islamic culture.” There’s a lot of room to work with there, and that’s most certainly the idea. “Afghanistan to launch internet crackdown,” by Matthew Green for the Financial Times, April 28:
Afghanistan’s government is introducing new rules to ban internet users from accessing sites promoting pornography, alcohol and gambling or other activities that conflict with the country’s Islamic culture, a senior official said on Wednesday.
The communications ministry is in discussions with internet service providers and telecommunications companies to introduce filtering systems to restrict access to certain sites and aims to start enforcing the ban next month.
“Areas like gambling, promoting alcohol or pornography – these are certainly areas which will be filtered because they are against our values,” a senior official in the country’s communications ministry told the Financial Times.
One major problem here is that, as we have seen in Indonesia, the excuse of fighting “pornography” easily becomes an elastic clause under Sharia for the suppression of legitimate religious and cultural expressions.
The official said a complete list of restricted sites and topics was being drawn up by the culture ministry and he did not yet have full details.
The official said the filtering system was being put in place in response to concerns expressed in parliament. Lawmakers have repeatedly objected to foreign media content they consider unsuitable for Afghan society, in particular movies made in India featuring scenes of men and women singing and dancing together.
The were at least 20 internet service providers active in Afghanistan, the official said.
A second government official confirmed that there was a joint effort underway by the ministry of communications and the ministry of culture to ban access to pornographic sites.
One internet provider wrote in a note to clients that it had been required to start filtering content relating to alcohol, dating sites, drugs, weapons, gambling and pornography from May 1.