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Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

From Islamic Empires to the Taliban

By Shemeem Burney Abbas

Publication Year: 2013

This pioneering study of the evolution of blasphemy laws from the early Islamic empires to the present-day Taliban uncovers the history and questionable motives behind Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and calls for a return to the prophet Muhammad’s peaceful vision of social justice.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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Preface: The Ethnography of a Military State

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pp. xi-xiv

I am a woman scholar of sufism who was charged with blasphemy by state functionaries at a federal university in the capital of Islamabad in 1998 during the Nawaz Sharif government. This was six years after my return with a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.1 ...

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pp. xv-xvi

At SUNY/Purchase College I acknowledge Thomas Schwartz, Elizabeth Langland, Suzanne Kessler, Peter Schwab, Nina Straus, Karen Kramer, Elise Lemire, Christina Williams, Karima Robinson, Nancy Kane, the librarians, and my students. ...

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1. Pakistan'€™s Military State and Civil Society

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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. ...

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2. Muhammad, the Messenger

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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, ...

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3. Blasphemy Laws' Evolution

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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 ...

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4. Colonial Origins, Ambiguities, and Execution of the Blasphemy Laws

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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 sharia 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 ...

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5. Risky Knowledge, Perilous Times: History’s Martyr Mansur Hallaj

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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 ...

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6. Blasphemy Cultures and Islamic Empires

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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 Shia Islam that had Shia sympathies. ...

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Conclusion. The Affiliates: Where To?

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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 Quran or the Prophet’s sunna. ...


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pp. 147-166

1. Fieldwork

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pp. 147-148

2. Text of Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws

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pp. 149-150

3. A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

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pp. 151-152

4. The Hudood Ordinance; Qanun-e Shahadat or the Law of Evidence

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pp. 153-154

5. Fate of a Teacher Accused of Blasphemy to Be Decided Today

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pp. 155-156


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pp. 157-180


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pp. 181-194


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pp. 195-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780292745315
E-ISBN-10: 0292745311
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292745308
Print-ISBN-10: 0292745303

Page Count: 222
Illustrations: 21 b&w photos, 14 illus.
Publication Year: 2013