Now I’m not very religious, but have no real problem with those who are. Obviously, excluding those who want to kill me, blow me up or have me imprisoned – anything like that. However I do think that secular governments seem to work better, at least with regards to democracy simply because most places have many people of differing faiths – I’d argue history supports this view.
It also in my opinion works best with other areas, such as internet access. For example Saudi Arabia, has a very fast and efficient telecoms infrastructure, the speed in some of Riyadh’s 5 star hotels is absolutely incredible, absolutely no buffering over Wifi while watching BBC iPlayer. But unfortunately with this 21 century technology, comes an almost medieval implementation.
I am referring to the way that Saudi Arabia censors the internet, or specifically the ISU who are based at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. For a 21st century techno geek like me, alarm bells started ringing when I read the ISU statement on why they filter the internet –
God Almighty directed humanity in the Nobel Qur’an in the words of His prophet Joseph: “He said: My Lord, prison is more beloved to me than that to which they entice me, and were you not to divert their plot away from me I will be drawn towards them and be of the ignorant. So his Lord answered him and diverted their plot away from him, truly, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower” Yusuf(12):33-34
You can see the filtering statement here.
Now I’ve written a fair few, acceptable use policies in my time, but I confess I rarely reference religious scriptures. It will come as no surprise to find that in general the internet filtering operated by the Saudi Government tend to focus on repressing opposition and promoting their religious beliefs.
The sort of sites that are blocked are things like the Saudi Human Rights organisations, Free Speech Coalition and the Voice of Saudi Women. Lots of journalists are filtered, in fact they once blocked all of blogger because of a couple of blogs were being used to raise awareness of issues within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This is the cheerful message you get if you try and access one of the many thousands of blocked websites. Be especially careful in Saudi Internet cafes were hidden cameras were installed in 2009 and the proprietors are forced to supply names and addresses of customers on demand.
They use a system called Smart Filter to block access to all these websites. It’s nothing very complicated though and most people are able to bypass using proxies, VPNs or specialized software – like this.