Blocked in Pakistan—again!

Yes, WordPress once again blocked one of my posts, this time a Jesus and Mo cartoon, deemed as “blasphemous” by the Pakistani government. WordPress, eager to keep doing business in that censorious and faith-ridden country, gladly complied (see their note below). WordPress is of course an American company, but they’re glad to violate American freedom-of-speech standards when it suits their pocketbook.

Here’s the cartoon deemed blasphemous. How dare anyone question the truth of Muhammad stories?

I have a notion to publish that cartoon by itself once a week or so.

Here’s the note I got from WordPress, which contains the Pakistani complaint:

Carl W. (Automattic)

Jul 13, 2020, 11:48 PM UTC


A Pakistan authority has demanded that we disable the following content on your site:

Unfortunately, we must comply to keep accessible for everyone in the region. As a result, we have disabled this content only for Internet visitors originating from Pakistan. They will instead see a message explaining why the content was blocked.

Visitors from outside of Pakistan are not affected.

You and your readers may be interested in these suggestions for bypassing Internet restrictions.

For your reference, we have included a copy of the complaint. No reply is necessary, but please let us know if you have any questions.

— Begin complaint —

Dear WordPress Team,

It is highlighted that the web pages hosted on your platform contains Blasphemous content. The same have also been declared blasphemous under Pakistan Penal Code section 295, 295A, 295B, 295C and is in clear violation of Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 of Pakistan.

Keeping above in view, It is requested to please support in removing following URL’s from your platform at earliest please.

The below mentioned websites can be found on following URL’s:- […]\x3d522\x26h\x3d522 […]

Looking forward for your prompt response please.

Web Analysis Team
+92 51 9214396

— End complaint —

Name redacted
Community Guardian | | Automattic

There’s not much more to say except to once again mock and revile such a backward land, one that has to protect its citizens from any questioning of Islam. And boos to WordPress, which prizes dollars above speech.  I looked at their “suggestions for bypassing Internet restrictions,” which involve setting up a VPN, but I don’t think that will solve the problem. All Pakistan has to do is request that WordPress block the “blasphemous” material, no matter where it comes from.


  1. GBJames
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:30 am | Permalink


  2. Fayha Suhail
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    OK but why even bother criticizing other people’s believes? Just let them be. Is that so hard? No offence. Just an advice. 🙂

    • Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      I see you are sympathetic to the Pakistani’s censorship. But I’m amazed that you don’t understand the rationale for criticizing bad ideas. It so happens that the Islamic beliefs adhered to in Pakistan are injurious to women, to gays, to free thought, and to many other things. Your ridiculous claim could be extended to saying, “Never argue with anyone about anything, or criticize any idea, however bad.”
      Have you been that brainwashed?

    • GBJames
      Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      I think you just won an Irony Award, Fayha!

    • Posted July 14, 2020 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Same reason why you just bothered to do it, of course. Just let him be.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 15, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      “Just let them be.”

      For starters, if someone decides to no longer conform to Islam, are you yourself no less congenially inclined to “let them be”?

      • Dawn Flood
        Posted July 15, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        I believe that Islam, like all religious faiths and/or traditions, is entirely the product of human invention, nothing more. In short, there is no god. As an atheist, I feel that I have a moral obligation to promote and advance atheism, which, I firmly believe, offers Humanity, my species, the greatest chance and hope of long-term survival. I also believe that atheism also offers all human beings the best opportunity at leading a rich, fulfilling and happy life.

        On Sunday mornings, I love to game, especially, with my older sons, in our imaginary, apocalyptic world where we fight off hordes of zombies, sometimes surviving, sometimes not. Beats crowding into some COVID19 infested room where pray and sing to some nonexistent diety.


  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    “Community Guardian” — there’s an Orwellian title for an official censor if ever a one I heard.

    Congratulations, WordPress.

    • Posted July 14, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Right up there with “Web Analysis Team”.

  4. Peter
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Although books are no longer banned in Canada, it is interesting to note that Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian book The Handmaid’s Tale is still listed as 37th on their list of most challenged books from the 1990s. Challenged books are those for which a complaint has been made to either a school board or a public library. Many of these complaints in Canada are dealt with swiftly and easily.

    In 2013, a patron of the Toronto, Ontario Public Library challenged Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. The patron objected to the depiction of children jumping on top of their father. The patron alleged that this image encouraged real children to use wanton violence against their fathers.

    Each year a Canadian author is awarded the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award. They maintain a list of books and magazines that have been challenged in Canada. An interesting read:

    • Posted July 14, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      In honour of Banned Books Week, the local CFI chapter held an event a few years ago. For part of this, I ran a game similar to the “purity test” idea where you got to talk about the books on the “often requested to be banned” list you had read and enjoyed.

      Anyone else can borrow this game, even without attribution!

  5. Posted July 14, 2020 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    How does WordPress know the complaint really came from Pakistani authorities? I get emails in that tone all the time, and they go straight to the trash.

  6. Posted July 14, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Personally I reckon that if you are causing a regime that still has blasphemy as an active part of its penal code (nb while my own country has not yet officially abolished Blasphemy as an offence it is moribund, not having been invoked for decades) to throw hissy fits you are doing something right.

    • jezgrove
      Posted July 14, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      And you’re also tying up the time of a bureaucrat who would otherwise be harassing someone else for something equally nonsensical.

  7. Dawn Flood
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne,

    In all fairness to WorldPress, they do link to The Tor Project:

    Very easy to use — download the modified Tor Firefox browser, install, and, I would recommend, use the highest security settings (no JavaScript) and Tor Bridges.

    But, yes, Pakistan is infected with a virulent meme, which, over time, needs to go away. In any case, those who live in Pakistan will have no problems whatsoever accessing your “censored” post with just a little effort.


  8. Martin Stubbs
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Being offended in 2020 by a cartoon published in 2015 would seem a rather belated complaint, but I guess if your morality is still stuck in the seventh century it’s a minor quibble.

    As the Jesus & Mo cartoonist pointed out, “That’s the thing about religious satire – it automatically delivers offence in the right dose: the amount of offence you take is exactly the amount you deserve.”

  9. drawingbusiness
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    “It is highlighted that the web pages hosted on your platform contains Blasphemous content”.

    The fact that they capitalise “blasphemous” automatically makes me read it in the style of John Cleese’s high priest at the stoning scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

    • garman
      Posted July 14, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      “Look. I– I’d had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was, ‘That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.'”

  10. jesusandmo
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I got you in trouble again, Jerry.

    Jesus & Mo uses WordPress software, too – but it’s independently hosted. The whole site is of course blocked in Pakistan.

    • Dawn Flood
      Posted July 14, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Have you considered mirroring to a .onion site (Tor hidden site) and publishing that address? As before, your readers in Pakistan should always bridge. Ideally, using Tails on an hardware encrypted thumb drive is a must for situations that could involve death and/or dismemberment.


      • jesusandmo
        Posted July 14, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        I haven’t heard of .onion sites. I’ll look into it, thanks.

        • Dan T.
          Posted July 14, 2020 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          Since the real world these days is a self-parody worthy of The Onion, everybody should be using .onion sites, I guess.

  11. Posted July 14, 2020 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Is there such a thing as an “intellectually failed state”?

    There is now. I just made it up.
    And the winner is….. starts with “P”.

    D.A, NYC

  12. Posted July 15, 2020 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    I looked at their “suggestions for bypassing Internet restrictions,” which involve setting up a VPN, but I don’t think that will solve the problem.

    The VPN isn’t for you, it’s for the people who want to read Jesus and Mo cartoons in Pakistan. I’d be surprised if they aren’t blocking well known VPN servers though.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Jerry Coyne is blocked in Pakistan for publication of blasphemous material, […]

%d bloggers like this: