Soon Pakistan cellphone users will be prohibited from using words like "Jesus Christ," "headlights," and "tampon."
Anjum Nida Rahman, a representative for Telenor Pakistan, told the Associated Press on Friday that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority sent a letter ordering cellphone companies to block text messages containing what it perceives to be obscenities.
The new measure was part of the regulator’s attempt to block spam messages.
The letter was dated Nov. 14 and gave cellphone companies seven days to implement the order.
The list of English words is over 1,000, The Urdu list contains over 550 words.
“PTA spokesman Mohammad Younis told the Guardian that the ban was ‘the result of numerous meetings and consultations with stakeholders’ after his agency received complaints about offensive text messages. According to Younis, the list is also a work-in-progress, and the PTA will continue to add new words and phrases to it,” said the Asia Society Organization’s website.
Many of the words to be blocked were sexually explicit terms or swear words, according to a copy of the list obtained by the Associated Press. For example, the words "fart" and "idiot" will be banned.
“Some Pakistanis have suggested bypassing the ban by replacing words with their number on the PTA's proscribed list,” reported Asia Society. “The inclusion of ‘Jesus Christ’ on the list discriminates against religious minorities, argues one blogger, and the now-forbidden ‘Butt’ is a common surname.
The letter also stated that free speech could be restricted "in the interest of the glory of Islam."
The letter said the order was legal under a 1996 law preventing people from sending information through the telecommunications system that is "false, fabricated, indecent, or obscene."
Under pressure from Islamists, Pakistan also blocked pornographic websites and others deemed anti-Islamic. Last year, it temporarily banned Facebook because of material on the website that seemed offensive to Islam.