About the Talk: Blasphemy is criminalised in Pakistan, and these laws are disproportionately used to target religious minorities. They are surrounded by an extra-legal system enforced largely through vigilantism and violence. This study aims to understand the phenomenon of blasphemy-related violence in Pakistan using a qualitative research design. In order to better understand such violence, interviews and focus groups were conducted with a sample of police officers, and members of the Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities in Sukkur, Pakistan.
This study finds that Pakistan’s criminal justice system suffers from a legitimacy deficit and mistrust at multiple levels, which contributes to blasphemy-related violence. Citizens support and sympathise with vigilante violence against those accused of blasphemy. Interviewees perceived blasphemy to be morally offensive, and felt that the state was ineffective in punishing blasphemers. Many believed that their Islamic beliefs justified blasphemy-related violence. This occurs in the context of a society suffering from the effects of General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation process. The effects of General Zia’s policies are evident in the state’s struggle with identity, fraught relationship between communities, and an atmosphere of fear and discrimination felt by religious minorities.
About the Author: Menaal Munshey is a PhD candidate in Criminology at the University of Cambridge. She is also a research assistant at the Violence Research Centre, facilitator of Learning Together at HMP Grendon, and senior research coordinator at the Legal Aid Office in Karachi. Previously, she was a researcher with the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research in Tokyo where she conducted research on terrorism, organised crime, and peacekeeping. She previously read law at the University of Warwick, with an Erasmus year at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She has been the recipient of the Sir Albion Richardson scholarship at Gray’s Inn and was called to the Bar in 2014.
About the Discussant: Mariyam Kamil is a D Phil Candidate in Law at Exeter College, Oxford. Her D Phil concerns the constitutional right to privacy in India, and is supervised by Professor Paul Craig. In 2012, Mariyam completed her undergraduate law degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. She then worked as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of India for a year. In 2013, she read for the BCL and subsequently, for an M Phil in Law. She is currently an editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal.
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