Middle East countries continue to censor content deemed offensive to Muslims

Countries in the Middle East continue to block online content deemed offensive to Muslims. The latest example comes from the United Arab Emirates which blocked access this week to the Web site Ahmed and Salim, an Israeli Web site which posted video episodes considered offensive to Arabs and Muslims. One of the episodes shows satirical skit presenting two characters who instead of planting a bomb in an Israeli bus as per their father's instructions, they blew up a UAE-flagged bus full of Arab citizens.

The Web site is run by two artists who each week, "write, direct, voice, animate and edit each episode in order to entertain and offend everyone" according to the Web site.

The UAE has also blocked access to the youtube links where the video clips appeared.

The UAE's Telecom Regulatory Authority ordered the blocking of the Web site and the youtube links just few days after the content appeared online, apparently because, in addition to the perceived offensive content to Islam, one of the characters is dressed in traditional Gulf attire and the UAE flag appears in several scenes.

Except for the adult channels, Youtube remains to be accessible in the UAE.

This blocking is not the the first of its kind in the Middle East. In fact, many countries in the region block access to religiously sensitive material online and sites that present unorthodox perspectives on Islam. In addition, the censors usually order the blocking of religious controversial content every time it appears in the video sharing Web sites. For example, Kuwait's Ministry of Communication ordered the country's ISPs in September 2008 to block access to youtube because of a video clip which showed a man signing verses from the Quran while playing a musical instrument and another video showing caricatures of the Prophet.