Information and communication technology causes unprecedented consequences. It knits the networks of people who challenge the establishment, as the printing press of Gutenberg did to the Vatican. Church is no longer the crucible of political power.
But few years back Father Federico Lombardi, the outgoing Pope’s spokesman, has tested the water by warning “of the corrupting influence of mobile phones and the internet on our souls.” He is not alone. Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has recently demanded the shutdown of an underdog operator’s 3G service. He told Tehran Chronicle:
At the current time, I believe these services have more negative sides than their positive features. Also the country and people are not in urgent need of such features, so it’s better if the Iranian government suspends 3G services in country.
Possibly the most bizarre diktat has rocked India’s impoverished state of Bihar. The village-elders have banned woman from using mobile phones, saying the gadgets “pollute the social atmosphere” by encouraging them to elope with lovers.
The penalty is 10,000 rupees (US$ 184) for an unmarried girl “using a mobile phone or wearing jeans and a T-shirt outside her house.” A married woman counts 2,000 rupees fine for using her mobile. Women are, however, “allowed” to use a mobile phone in presence of a male family member. The backlash has been inevitable:
“Girls and women are capable enough to protect themselves,” said activist Suman Lal during a debate on local television. “Technology is meant to be used, not to be banned…The order is nauseating.” Fellow activist Mohammad Islam said it was “disappointing” that the village council ignored the many advantages of mobile phones before placing a ban on them for one reason. “I want every girl to be given a mobile phone so that she could call up family members if she has a problem”, he said.
Meanwhile, recently a series of rapes in Haryana has prompted a debate on the roots of the widespread violence against women in this northern Indian state.
Village chiefs and local politicians variously blamed mobile phones, the ingredients in the increasingly popular fast food of chow mein, and the victims themselves. One suggested lowering the age of marriage as a solution.