Saturday, 29 May 2010

Now, a Muslim-only 'Facebook'

Pakistanis outraged with Facebook over "blasphemous" caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed have created a spin-off networking site that they dream can connect the world's 1.6 billion Muslims.

A group of six young IT professionals from Lahore, the cultural and entertainment capital of Pakistan, launched for Muslims to interact online and protest against blasphemy.

The private venture came after a Pakistani court ordered a block on Facebook until May 31, following deep offence over an "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" page considered "blasphemous" and “sacrilegious.”

"Millatfacebook is Pakistan's very own, first social networking site. A site for Muslims by Muslims where sweet people of other religions are also welcome," the website tells people interested in signing up.

Dubbed MFB, after Facebook's moniker FB, its founder says professionals are working around the clock to offer features similar to those pioneered by the wildly popular California-based prototype.

Each member has a "wall" for friends to comment on. The site offers email, photo, video, chat and discussion board facilities.

The Urdu word "Millat" is used by Muslims to refer to their nation. The website claims to have attracted 4,300 members in the last three days -- mostly English-speaking Pakistanis in their 20s.

The number of aficionados may be growing, but the community is a drop in the ocean of the 2.5 million Facebook fans in Pakistan and there have been some scathing early reviews of the start-up.

Neither has Facebook been immediately reachable for comment.

"We want to tell Facebook people 'if they mess with us they have to face the consequences'," said Usman Zaheer, the 24-year-old chief operating officer of the software house that hosts the new site.

"If someone commits blasphemy against our Prophet Mohammed then we will become his competitor and give him immense business loss," he said, dreaming of making "the largest Muslim social networking website.”