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Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws: From Islamic Empires to the Taliban

SHEMEEM BURNEY ABBAS
Copyright Date: 2013
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/745308
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    Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
    Book Description:

    Under the guise of Islamic law, the prophet Muhammad's Islam, and the Qur'an, states such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh are using blasphemy laws to suppress freedom of speech. Yet the Prophet never tried or executed anyone for blasphemy, nor does the Qur'an authorize the practice. Asserting that blasphemy laws are neither Islamic nor Qur'anic, Shemeem Burney Abbas traces the evolution of these laws from the Islamic empires that followed the death of the Prophet Muhammad to the present-day Taliban. Her pathfinding study on the shari'a and gender demonstrates that Pakistan's blasphemy laws are the inventions of a military state that manipulates discourse in the name of Islam to exclude minorities, women, free thinkers, and even children from the rights of citizenship.

    Abbas herself was persecuted under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, so she writes from both personal experience and years of scholarly study. Her analysis exposes the questionable motives behind Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which were resurrected during General Zia-ul-Haq's regime of 1977-1988-motives that encompassed gaining geopolitical control of the region, including Afghanistan, in order to weaken the Soviet Union. Abbas argues that these laws created a state-sponsored "infidel" ideology that now affects global security as militant groups such as the Taliban justify violence against all "infidels" who do not subscribe to their interpretation of Islam. She builds a strong case for the suspension of Pakistan's blasphemy laws and for a return to the Prophet's peaceful vision of social justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74531-5
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE: THE ETHNOGRAPHY OF A MILITARY STATE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 PAKISTAN’S MILITARY STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY
    (pp. 1-28)

    The tragedy of the twin towers gave birth to this monograph. Many lives were lost and loved ones disappeared before I ventured to write accounts of what had been happening in the world outside the United States for almost two decades. In countries where the CIA funded mercenary armies, the agency also colluded with seminary mullas to allow citizens to be held hostage to state laws that truant regimes upheld in the name of Islam. Among such state laws are the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and Hudood ordinances, laws to control women that included reducing the worth of a woman’s...

  6. CHAPTER 2 MUHAMMAD, THE MESSENGER
    (pp. 29-46)

    The political history of islam and the Prophet Muhammad’s life is central to any discussion of blasphemy laws in an Islamic state. An accounting of the Prophet’s biography and the early history of Islam will illuminate Muhammad’s position on blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, and heterodoxy, especially as Muhammad never advocated blasphemy laws or a shariʿa for blasphemy. I argue that Islamic states developed a shariʿa (jurisprudence) using Muhammad’shadith(sayings) and his sunna (life examples) to strengthen their authority as divine representatives and interpreters of the Prophet’s holy text. While authority is necessary to run the state machinery, manipulating the shariʿa...

  7. CHAPTER 3 BLASPHEMY LAWS’ EVOLUTION
    (pp. 47-72)

    This chapter explores the claim that the Islamic state has historically used blasphemy laws for political and social control. A brief background of Islamic law after the Prophet’s death is given to throw light on how the laws evolved. It is important to understand how the use of blasphemy charges evolved in conjunction with the state’s relationship with its subjects and how Islam was used as a binding force to bring people together as well as a force for controlling them. This is consistent with the discussion thatbidʿa(heresy) andkufr(blasphemy) are relative terms that have been used...

  8. CHAPTER 4 COLONIAL ORIGINS, AMBIGUITIES, AND EXECUTION OF THE BLASPHEMY LAWS
    (pp. 73-86)

    This chapter will offer further examples that support the claim that blasphemy laws put in place by some Islamic states as part of the shariʿa are manipulated for political agendas. As detailed earlier, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws under General Zia-ul-Haq emerged as a result of the geopolitics of the region in the 1970s when Pakistan’s military led a CIA-backed incursion into Afghanistan to contain the Soviets. Together with the mujahideen, the Afghan warlords, and funding from Saudi Arabia, an Islamic rhetoric was generated to give momentum to the Afghan adventure. Pakistan’s extremist religious parties such as the Jamaat-e Islami were on...

  9. CHAPTER 5 RISKY KNOWLEDGE, PERILOUS TIMES: HISTORY’S MARTYR MANSUR HALLAJ
    (pp. 87-108)

    A conference paper that i presented at Duke University’s Center for Human Rights in 2004 inspires this chapter. The conference theme was “Beautiful Minds, Risky Times.” As such, this chapter addresses the connection of the Pakistani state with its liberal intellectuals and freethinkers.¹ I will frame the discussion here within the context of Hanafi Islam and its institutions of Sufism, Sufi poetry, and Sufi shrines in South Asia, as this is my area of research and one of the major reasons for a blasphemy charge against me from the administration of the Allama Iqbal Open University in the capital of...

  10. CHAPTER 6 BLASPHEMY CULTURES AND ISLAMIC EMPIRES
    (pp. 109-132)

    The present chapter needs to be understood according to the “Blasphemy Trajectories” chart in figure 6.1. The chart has three vertical sections. On the left side in the chart is “Western Arab/Turkish Islam,” which was largely Sunni with populations of Shiʿa Islam that had Shiʿa sympathies. The center section, “Arab Islam,” is about the dynasties that succeeded Muhammad in the Arab regions. In the “Arab Islam” section, the two significant dynasties are the Ommayads and the ʿAbbasids, in whose empires formidable blasphemy discourse evolved. On the right side of the chart is “Eastern Persian Islam,” which is about the geographical...

  11. CONCLUSION. THE AFFILIATES: WHERE TO?
    (pp. 133-146)

    Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are the outcome of three empires: the Islamic empires that followed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the British Empire in India (1857–1947), and the CIA-led empire in Afghanistan (1978–1989). These laws have nothing to do with the Prophet Muhammad or the Qurʾan or the Prophet’s sunna. These laws are a kufr, a blasphemy, in the name of Islam.

    The writing of this book has been my own emotional, spiritual, and intellectual journey in which I have explored the Prophet Muhammad’s Islam, his times, and his community of followers whom he governed in Medina....

  12. APPENDIX 1. FIELDWORK
    (pp. 147-148)
  13. APPENDIX 2. TEXT OF PAKISTAN’S BLASPHEMY LAWS
    (pp. 149-150)
  14. APPENDIX 3. A STATEMENT BY THE ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
    (pp. 151-152)
  15. APPENDIX 4. THE HUDOOD ORDINANCE; QANUN-E SHAHADAT OR THE LAW OF EVIDENCE
    (pp. 153-154)
  16. APPENDIX 5. FATE OF A TEACHER ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY TO BE DECIDED TODAY
    (pp. 155-156)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 157-180)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 181-194)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 195-204)