Ticked off by Facebook's hosting of a page that had a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed, a group of tech professionals in Lahore have created a rival social net for Muslims, just a week after the social networking site was blocked by the Pakistani authorities. It's called MillatFacebook, and it's founders are fervently anti-Facebook.
The word Millat is an urdu term for nation, referring to the greater Muslim nation, and this is pretty much the entire thrust of the new service--it's a Facebook for Muslims who don't want to use Facebook. There's a hint of openness in the site's welcome: It's "A site for Muslims by Muslims where sweet people of other religions are also welcome" but if you listen to the words of some of its founders, the enterprise seems founded on anger as much as anything else.
On his MillatFacebook page, Omer Zaheer has a blog post entitled, "Millat Facebook... Why?" Parts of his argument are very interesting.
Show Mark Zukerberg (sic) and his poodles that we Muslims have expertise over technology and are no longer dependent on them.
Show to the world and ourselves that we can leave anything for the honour of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) let alone the ridiculous and blasphameous (sic) face book (sic).
Provide an immediate alternate (sic) with a continual effect for those in duress (sic) due to the hypocrytical behavior of Mark the extremist Jew's face book.
Hit face book (sic) where it hurts the most and teach them a lesson.
Usman Zaheer, the COO of the software company hosting the site noted "We want to tell Facebook people 'if they mess with us they have to face the consequences,'" in an interview with AFP. Then adding some venom, he said "If someone commits blasphemy against our Prophet Mohammed then we will become his competitor and give him immense business loss." The stated goal of making the site the largest social network for Muslims backs up these words, and with hundreds of millions of Muslims around the globe there's certainly an audience.
That's assuming all this target audience is of the same state of mind as the six founders of MillatFacebook--which will be utterly divorced from the original Facebook, even while it tries to copy features like the Wall and Friending and so on, so that if you have online colleagues or friends on the other service you'll at least have to be members of both. FastCompany has contacted Facebook for a comment on the situation and will post its response as soon as it gets it.
Although the Pakistani authorities have partially unblocked YouTube which, alongside Facebook and Wikipedia, was one of almost 500 Web sites deemed "blasphemous" by a group which went to the Pakistani High Court and succeeded in getting a ban, Mark Zuckerberg's site is still off-limits. That, however, has something to do with the court order, which has made Facebook verboten until May 31 at the earliest--even the country's Interior Minister was forced onto Twitter after he was shut out of Facebook. Zaheer must be praying that the Facebook ban stays in place--otherwise, come June 1, there will be mass migration back to the originator.