A row has erupted in the Middle East after officials banned a Facebook user in Abu Dhabi for breaking the law after they “insulted” Islam by claiming to be Allah, reports The Daily Telegraph, London.
All internet providers in the United Arab Emirates have been ordered to block the unnamed user behind the site, after he alleged his claims were supported by verses of the Koran.
His actions sparked a wave a protest, with many calling on users to boycott the social networking site unless the site was removed.
After dozens of complaints about the Arabic-language site, titled “God and Prophets”, the country's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority announced this week it would ban the user from holding an internet account.
But that decision was met with more protest from what some viewed as censorship of the internet.
The user claimed they were an atheist and believed in no God but him/herself, reports in the Middle East claimed.
They said that Muslim prophets would be able to connect with users through the site, which contained Koranic verses and also appeared to mock Islam, as well as answering their questions. The site soon had more than 600,000 followers, with many critical of the site.
Mohammad Al Ganem, the authority's General Manager, defended the authority's decision to ban the site, saying it “insulted” Islam.
“TRA received numerous calls and complaints from internet users expressing their anger against unidentified people who created a site on Facebook that is offending to God, prophets, messengers, the Holy Koran and even to all God's books," he told Gulf News.
"The creator of this site which he named ‘God and Prophets' Site', attributes divinity to himself and spreads distorted writing pretending they are verses from the Koran. He also declared writing a new book falsifying himself as a god.”
He added: “He spreads talk that is insulting to the prophets and to their holy stature. This is considered to be a felony according to the federal law." He warned web users to be cautious about what they created or viewed.
"[The] internet is too vast to be controlled daily. There are unethical racists everywhere who do not recognise or honour religions or values,” he said.
“They intentionally spread what destroys the country's symbols and values, and we should not spare any effort to combat them fiercely.”
Olivier Bassile, chief executive of Reporters Without Borders, said censorship of the material was the wrong strategy by Facebook. “It's related to freedom of expression,” he told The Media Line news agency.
“It was only logical that one day Facebook and other social media would face this pressure because the traditional media is already suffering from this pressure.”
“On the internet, you find far more cases of criticism of religion, but this is the price you pay for the freedom of the internet.
He added: “You have to accept the most dirty parts of the internet if you want the beautiful part of the internet and have access to anything you want.
“On the internet you want to promote the international point of view, this is part of the debate.” A Facebook spokesman was unavailable for comment.