Treasure Magazine

Treasure Magazine

Pakistani film explores social media’s role in anger over blasphemy

2 min read
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The screen film is what alienates people and what they say through a screen they probably wouldn’t say to another person in front of them,” Arafat Mazhar

ISLAMABAD: The creator of an animated film on blasphemy in Pakistan is hoping it will prompt discussion on tolerance at a time that rights advocates say hate speech on social media is increasingly triggering violence.

The short film “Swipe” is about a boy obsessed with a hypothetical smartphone app that allows people to vote on whether someone should be killed for blasphemy and offers a glimpse of a stark future of what rights groups say is a worrisome present.

“The screen is what alienates people and what they say through a screen they probably wouldn’t say to another person in front of them,” Arafat Mazhar, the director of the 14-minute animated film, told Reuters.

Blasphemy is a crime in Pakistan and officially carries the death penalty. While no executions for blasphemy have been carried out, enraged mobs sometimes kill people accused of it.

Rights groups say the blasphemy law is often exploited to settle scores and increasingly it is accusations made on social media that have triggered violence.

The film, produced by a studio in the city of Lahore and released last month, shows what could happen if people could see photos of those accused of blasphemy on an app, and then had the option of swiping right to condemn them to death or left to forgive them.

If at least 10,000 people condemn someone, then members of the public go and kill them.

The boy protagonist scans the app checking out the accused, including a man who did not forward a religious message on social media and women accused of wearing too much perfume or being immodestly dressed.

Driven to score “points” on the app and enraged by the accusations, the boy goes on a right-swiping spree and in the frenzy accuses his own father of blasphemy. Courtesy Reuters

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