Online Petition: Stop deleting Arab atheist and secularist groups and pages!
Several groups of Islamic activists considered this month as “The February Victory” after their malicious actions resulted to the shutting down of the biggest Facebook groups dedicated for Arab atheists and secularists.
Since February 1, at least nine Facebook communities were shut down for “violating” the website’s terms. These include; Arab Atheist Network, Arab Atheist Forum and Network, Radical Atheists without Borders, Arab Atheist Syndicate, Arab Atheist Syndicate – backup, Humanitarian Non-Religious, Human Atheists, Arab Atheist Forum and Network and Mind and Discussion. The combined membership of these groups is about 128,000. Two other Canadian-based atheist groups were also reported to suffer the same faith while seven more Arab groups with 176,000 members are currently being targeted by the activists.
Far right Muslim activists have staged a cyber-jihad targeting atheists and secular Arabs. According to experts, their main goal is to suppress individuals and groups who are being critical to the Islamic religion. By attacking Arab atheists and secularists, these online jihadists believe that they are promoting/protecting Islam. It is important to note that in most Arab countries, it’s a crime to defame and question Islam or by simply becoming an atheist. This is the reason why those who are afraid of being jailed or sentenced to death resort to the use of social media and the internet to express their views.
Usama al-Binni of the Arab Atheist Network explained two ways as to how the cyber-jihadists succeeded in shutting down their communities in Facebook. First, members of these activist groups infiltrate the atheist and secularist Facebook communities through membership. Once they become members, they insert obscene images in a set of seemingly legitimate content. After which, such pages are immediately reported to Facebook moderators that triggered the shut downs. The second way involves the bombardment of complaint to Facebook moderators that such atheist and secularist groups convey profanity, hate messages, and other accusations that are against Facebook rules.
Binni called the complaints as false accusations. He added that their network has more stringent posting guidelines to avoid messages that tend to attack or defame Islam “What we are doing is criticizing religion in a way that is no different than any other intellectual, sober, criticism. We actually have rules that are far more stringent than Facebook's as far as personal attacks, cursing and stuff of that sort, are concerned, and so it seems like the whole thing is happening in a ridiculous way.”
Some of the atheist and secularist networks maintain a backup account in the event of a shut down. But these backups were targeted as well. The only solution thought by the network administrators was to make an appeal to Mark Zuckerberg. Through Change.org, Mohamed Rassoul created a petition addressed to the founder of Facebook urging him to “Stop deleting Arab atheist and secularist groups and pages!”
The online petition which is now signed by around 8075 supporters discussed how the far right Muslim groups targeted their networks using the Facebook report facility. It also detailed how atheists and secularist Arabs are constantly threatened for not believing and criticizing Islam. The petition finally appealed a revision of Facebook’s reporting system to prevent attackers from shutting down legitimate pages in the future. For atheists and secularist, the social media is their only hope of freedom “Social media is the only space we can freely speak through, But with Facebook's policy that signifies reports by the number of reporters, Facebook is allowing Islamists to create groups with the sole purpose of closing our atheist and secular pages, and unfortunately Facebook facebook have being at their side!”
Facebook shuts down Arab atheist and secularist groups following complaints https://t.co/MYMilMwjPW
— Brian Whitaker (@Brian_Whit) February 21, 2016
It seems that Facebook have looked into the appeal. Shortly after the petition gained attention, the abovementioned suspended networks were eventually restored.
Administrators of the affected atheist and secularist networks have identified five of the cyber-jihadist groups; The Islamic Deterrence Organization, The Islamic Army for Targeting Atheists and Crusaders, Fariq al-Tahadi, another duplicate group of the Fariq al-Tahadi and the Team for Closing Pages that Offend Islam.